Whoever said, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” probably didn’t pay too much attention to the automotive industry.
Many automakers make headlines during the Super Bowl for their outrageous and sometimes hilarious commercials, but there are plenty of marketing campaigns going on year-round. Many of these campaigns are traditional and even boring, while others really go outside the box in an attempt to grab attention.
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And then there are some that are so strange we’re not really sure how they are related to selling cars. Here are the top 10 weirdest automotive marketing campaigns we’ve come across in recent years.
Audi e-tron Escape Room
Located in Barcelona, Spain, the Audi e-tron escape room is a collaboration between the German automaker and marketing agency DDB Spain. Like other escape rooms around the world, small groups of people work together to solve puzzles but Audi’s version is packed with high-tech features like robotic arms, holograms, projection mapping, and advanced mechanics. The point? We’re not really sure — we can’t imagine someone leaving an escape room wanting to go test drive an Audi just because.
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Chevrolet Orlando Play-Doh
To promote the Chevrolet Orlando in Europe, the automaker decided to make a life-size replica out of… Play-Doh. And why Play-Doh? That’s because Chevrolet polled 1,000 U.K. residents to find out the most popular toy of that year and somehow Play-Doh beat out LEGO for the top spot. That replica weighed 1.5 tons and it was showcased in downtown London in 2011.
Dodge Ram Cattle Herd
At the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, Dodge’s Ram division surprised the crowd by enlisting the help of cowboys and cowgirls to herd 120 cattle down Washington Boulevard in Detroit. There was even Dodge-branded beef jerky at the event and the trucks drove the herd down barricaded city streets. We suppose this stunt makes a bit of sense, but people might have been ticked off by the traffic it caused and all the horse and cow droppings that were left behind.
Honda Turns to Pompous Albert
This recent ad campaign from Honda is by far one of the strangest things we’ve ever seen from an automaker. The company introduced an ad campaign featuring “Pompous Albert,” a cat that became famous on social media. Honda was compelled to use Pompous Albert in a marketing campaign, but it seems that they might have been reaching a bit too far with what they came up with.
Jaguar E-Pace Barrel Roll
When introducing a new crossover to the world, many automakers shine a light on stuff like cargo capacity or how comfortably it seats an entire family. But not if you’re Jaguar. If you’re Jaguar, you have your all-new E-Pace crossover do a barrel roll to earn itself a Guinness World Record. Because that’s very relevant to crossover shoppers, right?
Jaguar XJ – Game of Drones
If the E-Pace’s barrel roll isn’t strange enough for you, the recent Jaguar XJ Game of Drones campaign is even weirder. To give an idea of just how roomy the flagship sedan is, Jaguar setup a drone racing arena that had drones navigating through 13 gates sporting the same shape as an XJL rear door.
When they first surfaced, the Kia hamsters were definitely strange. But the Korean automaker has kept with the campaign for so long that there are now giant inflatable hamsters outside certain Kia dealerships. In a way, they have become iconic, but that doesn’t make it not weird. In fact, the latest commercial introducing the turbocharged Kia Soul might be the strangest ad yet.
MINI “Cooper” Cold Front
If we were ranking these marketing campaigns, this one might be the weirdest and most unfortunate we’ve come across. In 2012, MINI sponsored to name a cold front “Cooper,” which turned into a complete disaster. That’s because “Cooper” ended up being tragic, killing at least 100 people in Europe. Parent company BMW apologized for sponsoring the cold front, saying, “you cannot tell what a weather system will do.”
Lincoln and Matthew McConaughey
By now, actor Matthew McConaughey’s association with Lincoln has become viral — it has hit meme status on the Internet, which is as good as it gets. These commercials have captured the attention of other famous actors, with Jim Carrey and Rob Lowe spoofing the ads. We don’t think these cheesy commercials are very effective, but they got so weird that nearly everyone has heard of them now.
Smart Car Bicycle Lock
What’s a creative and clever way to show that your subcompact is ideal for urban driving? Maybe have it squeeze through tight places or parallel park between two cars in a very small spot. Or you could get real big bicycle locks and lock the car to a pole. That sounds like a smart idea.
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