By Matthew Stengel
If you didn't know, car marketing is big business. Never mind the fact that the car industry itself has seen better days; companies are still shelling out millions to get their newest rides in front of our eyes. In 2010, the American automotive industry spent around $19 billion on advertisements. Out of that sum comes all the newspaper and online ads, the magazine pull-outs, and, more importantly, the TV spots that attempt to show cars in an idealized situation.
Though most car commercials simply show a well-lit car driving while a voiceover explains why it's a compelling purchase, there have been a couple throughout history that raised the medium to an art. Whether it's Mercedes-Benz touting its strong history, Volkswagen making people laugh and gasp, truck builders pulling ridiculous stunts, or Audi taking shots at any company in its way, there have fortunately been no shortage of memorable car commercials. With the 2011 CLIO Awards taking place this week, we thought it fitting to tip our fitted to the commercials that made us actually want to buy a car. So ride along with us as we countdown the 50 Best Car Commercials of All Time.
#50. Hyundai, "Like Sunday"
Car(s) featured: Hyundai Genesis
With Hyundai's Genesis luxury sedan getting rave reviews and racking up accolades across the board, it was only right for the Korean automaker to celebrate a little. And it did. In the form of this commercial that ran during the Super Bowl. Touting its "Car of the Year" award, it took some thinly veiled shots at various car makers and even poked some fun at itself. You should thank the team behind this ad; you all now know how to properly say Hyundai.
#49. Pontiac, "Motor Trend Car of the Year"
Car(s) featured: Pontiac GTO
Why did Pontiac's GTO take Motor Trend's magazine's top prize? We're guessing it had something to do with its 0-60 time. But GM would like you to believe that it came courtesy of its durability. Whatever works, we guess.
#48. Citroen, "Dancing Robot"
Car(s) featured: Citroen C4
People love transforming cars. Before Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg brought the heavy metal carnage that is Transformers to the big screen, Citroen brought its own version to the small screen with this ad spot. After stretching (we weren't aware robots needed to get limber) their morphing C4 begins to cut up the pavement. The commercial won the French automaker the Commercial of the Year award. Safe to say it won more accolades than Bay's flick.
#47. Audi, "Green Police"
Car(s) featured: Audi A3 TDI
It was a little heavy handed, and a bit too tongue-in-cheek, but Audi's Big Game ad spot did well to celebrate its newest TDI clean diesel offering, the A3 TDI, which won the 2010 Green Car of the Year Award. To paraphrase Hov, Audi wasn't bragging, it was simply the truth.
#46. Ford, "C-123 Braking Demo"
Car(s) featured: Ford F-150
American pick-up truck commercials are usually ridiculous high-cost, fictionalized claims about what the truck can do "in the real world". In this spot for its F-150, Ford decides to do a little research and testing and spit the truth: if, you, the owner so wanted, you could use the F-150 to bring a C-123 plane to a halt. Peep the actual demonstration tag at the bottom of the screen. We don't know much about broadcast law, but we're sure they wouldn't put that on there if it wasn't true.
#45. Dodge, "Seven Inches Longer"
Car(s) featured: Dodge Durango
Playing off men's sexual insecurity is always good for a laugh. Just ask Dodge. With two dudes talking about the length of their new Dodge Durango while another man mistakes the convo for pick-up lines, this commercial is basically one big "Pause." Immature? Completely. Funny? Yes.
#44. Vauxhall, "Hide-and-Seek"
Car(s) featured: Vauxhall Corsa
Remember those sick Nike soccer commercials that had people playing soccer all over the city—streets, parks, subways, office buildings? This is the automotive version of that. GM's British motor company plays off the nimbleness and compact size of its Corse model by suggesting that if you were able to round up enough of 'em, you could actually play a city-wide game of hide-and-seek. How awesome would that be?
#43. Mazda, "A Rotary Goes..."
Car(s) featured: Mazda RX-3
Mazda had a tough task on its hands in the early '70s. Its previous rotary-powered model, the RX-2, having sold moderately well, it needed more people to buy into its unique little machines. To do so, it attempted to sell the public on the fact that rotary engine was far smoother and better than traditional piston-packed engines. It must have worked as RX-3 sold very well during its seven-year run in the U.S.
#42. Volkswagen, "The Force"
Car(s) featured: Volkswagen Passat
Volkswagen loves the kids. This commercial—where a dad makes his kid believe he has "The Force"—doesn't big-up any of the 2012 Passat's features, it's just cute and touching. Sometimes that's all you need.