Car adverts and clichés go together like Shoreditch and hipsters. It’s all wide angles, big suspension bridges, epic mountainscapes and winding desert roads, usually with some pumping music and twitchy editing to remind us all how cool and edgy that new 1.2 litre diesel hatchback really is.
As soul-sapping as this tired advertising formula can sometimes be, when you look at what’s happened in the past when car companies have decided to take their ad campaigns ‘off-road’, the results are mostly far, far worse.
Sure, there’s the odd exception – some of Honda’s award-winning efforts come to mind – but the majority of car ads that have dared to be different over the years will only be remembered for being utterly rubbish.
Anyway, enough chit chat, let’s take a look at the 5 worst car adverts ever made (1980s, you’ve got a lot to answer for!)
Austin Metro (1989)
This advert was produced when Austin Rover was owned by British Aerospace (a company better known for selling missiles and fighter jets to dodgy dictatorships than selling small, economical cars to families on modest incomes.) Today, Austin and British Aerospace are both defunct, and Michael Barrymore is now best known for battling alcoholism and hosting a party which ended with a dead man in his swimming pool. Maybe this was the moment it all went wrong.
In 1986, Ford subjected the world to 2 minutes of shameless self-congratulation in this technogasmic orgy of over-confidence where the voiceover boasts sanctimoniously about the company’s game-changing innovations and its heroic war against joyriders, climate change and freezing fog. No one likes a show-off guys.
From smug British geekiness to cheesy American jock-rock, Ford’s history is littered with laughably bad adverts, and this is definitely one of the worst. In a brazen attempt to make Ford the manufacturer of choice for blue-collar, all-American tough guys everywhere, they got country singer Toby Keith to saw some wood, play guitar in some kind of factory, and generally look all rugged and manly whilst growling lyrics like “You can count on me, I’m a working man.” Nauseating.
Plymouth Duster (1985)
Possibly the most self-indulgent car commercial ever made, and it’s for a car that sounds like an obsessive-compulsive clean-freak from a coastal town in the South of England. This is 80s excess epitomised – it’s easy to imagine the entire cast were paid in cocaine and Babycham. The guitar solo is pretty cool though I guess.
Datsun 280ZX (1980)
OK, I admit it, I’ve actually got a bit of a soft spot for this advert. It’s clearly quite tongue-in-cheek, so it probably deserves to go in the “so bad it’s good” pile. It’s got a kind of electro-disco soundtrack going on, an over-the-top, gravelly voiceover, a dude with a perm and an amazing moustache, and plenty of dry ice. If anything, this actually gets better with every viewing.