Limited…Yet Not Automobile advertising
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Limited…Yet Not Automobile advertising

By Eric Butterman on Jan 20, 2015

National ads don’t come cheap—so it might stand to reason you would save it for the product which would interest the masses. Tell that to car companies. They have little problem trying to advertise to what would be a limited amount of buyers—Jean-Claude Van Damme doing the splits in the name of Volvo trucks just one testament.

But when you think beyond volume of buying and look to branding, this strategy can make a good deal of sense, says Greg Braun, executive creative director for INNOCEAN USA, which handles Hyundai. It’s had that effect for models such as luxury car Equus, he assesses. “Some of the technologies we’re able to promote in that elite Equus will trickle down into some of the more mainstream vehicles,” he says. “It’s a great way to have us promote state of the art technology, handling or design.”

One they used it for was technology allowing for a Hyundai to automatically brake to avoid hitting another object in front of it. In a Genesis commercial that recently won in the 2015 Automobile Advertising of the Year Awards, it’s a young man who sees a pretty girl and takes his eyes off the road. But now, according to Braun, that technology is in the hands of the Hyundai Sonata owner, a much larger group.

Nevertheless, the niche car ad can forgo being a preview and simply be the commercial version of the convertible in the window, says Howie Cohen, chief creative officer for Phelps. “If it’s interesting and catches everyone’s eye then it can be that halo for the company,” says Cohen, who has worked on advertising for Chrysler and Volkswagen during his career. “Few people may be able to own that particular car—but it gets you in the door to look at and maybe buy what else that brand has.”

A commercial on a national scale can tempt a creative to play broad with the message with so many eyes on it. Still, Cohen says, niche or not, it has to remember its intended audience and their interests.

But that doesn’t mean the humor itself can’t go broad. Just ask the Mercedes-Benz Vito with its memorable spot on what the love of two vehicles can bring—the Dirty Dancing theme supplying the soundtrack.

After all, just because it’s niche, doesn’t mean you have to put clever in the corner.

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