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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
For the love of the car adverts
Magazine's review of advertising

Various car slogans
What does yours say about you?
It's no secret that car owners like their prized vehicle to say something about them. And it's not just how flash they might be - one's car can, apparently, signal your whole attitude to life.

Imagine the scene. As you walk down the road, a flashy car glides past. You comment to your companion: "Oooh look how open that person's mind is!"

"Yeah, not bad," your pal replies. "But I saw a guy yesterday who really shifted my expectations. Not only that, but his girlfriend was staying curious."

Life in the strange world of car slogans can be confusing. To move your mind, you'll need a Saab. To open your mind, however, you'd better have a Smart car. Want to shift expectations and you'll have to choose a Nissan. Staying curious will require a Suzuki.

The vehicle you drive has long been seen as a symbol of your wealth, taste, style and - some would say - virility. Now it's becoming a symbol of your state of mind too.

Adman Paul Glyde, who has worked on several car campaigns, says every car is to some extent aspirational in that all drivers want to make a point with what they are driving.

"The classic thing you get in focus groups is people who say they don't care what they drive, so long as it got them from A to B. But in just saying that, they are already demonstrating a taste for cars - just like people who desperately want to be seen as conservative might wear a grey suit."

Mr Average

So Smart cars' promise to "Open your mind" is a crucial part of the appeal to drivers, says Glyde. "Anyone driving a Smart car has got to be used to being looked at and even laughed at. So they have got to think of themselves as being wider thinking than Mr Average."

VW Passat ad
With an advert you're often flattering the person, making them think 'Good I made the right choice there'
Paul Glyde

Daily Telegraph motoring columnist Honest John, a former adman himself, is far from impressed. "How do they come up with this? It's rubbish. It's brain death. Whenever they roll it out, it goes straight over people's heads," he says.

Like them or not, car adverts and their slogans do not appear by accident. The adverts are big budget high-profile set pieces and the slogans are a crucial piece of that, says Glyde, which creative folk will have sweated over long and hard.

But, he says, car adverts aren't actually designed to get people to buy a new car.

"They are designed to keep people buying the type of car they have already got. With an advert you're often flattering the person, making them think 'Good I made the right choice there' .

Committed to brand

"It's about massaging people's egos. Obviously you're also trying to get, for instance, a Ford Focus driver to choose a Vauxhall Corsa instead, but that's a much harder thing to do than persuading someone to stick with a decision they have already made."

People get committed to their car brand, and it's the advertising's job to maintain that commitment.

Toyota ad in which man chases his own stolen car
The Toyota advert- one of the few Honest John doesn't think is rubbish
One other trend which may raise eyebrows in the next few weeks will be the new slogan for VW, the company which has been praised as being the most successful TV advertiser ever.

With sales of its new Golf disappointing, although showing some signs of picking up, the company is dearly in need of some of its old ad magic.

So the company is following the lead of Audi and Seat (both owned by the VW parent) and introducing a slogan in the car's native language.

Audi long ago led the way with Vorsprung durch Technik ("Keeping ahead through technology") implying that people who understood the slogan had the edge on others who just shrugged their shoulders.

Seat followed with Auto Emocion, a play on the words car, self, emotion and motion - (best translation suggestions are welcome to the.magazine@bbc.co.uk). Renault adopted the phrase Createur d'Automobiles, a slogan which even those with very basic French will be confident at making a stab at translating. Renault gets bonus points since "creator" feels much more impressive than mere "manufacturer".

Now VW's tagline is to be Aus Liebe zum Automobil ("For the love of the car"). Although the company in the US will stick with its "Drivers wanted" slogan, the new German line has already appeared in print adverts and should soon make its way on to UK television, as it will in many other countries.

Honest John is not impressed. "That's rubbish. How is that going to help sell cars in the UK?" he says.

The calculation by VW bosses must be that the cachet of being a German piece of work still counts.

Ad Breakdown is compiled by Giles Wilson

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