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Creativity and automotive

How do automotive brands put creativity to work? 

Leading auto brands share insights, examples and creative wisdom on the Cannes Lions stage

created on Monday 6 Mar 2017

Our recent analysis of the creative performance of car brands might have highlighted a worrying trend for automotive advertising when it comes to creating award-winning campaigns. But the fact remains that over the years car manufacturers have excelled at crafting compelling work that engages with customers and delivers measurable results. So we’ve been talking to some of the sector’s leading marketers to understand exactly what goes into the campaigns that work.

1. Embrace technology

"If you can uncomplicated things, if you are making life easy to understand for the consumer, that makes a lot of difference."
Ashish Sahni, Tata Motors

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Speaking earlier this month, Ashish Sahni, Head of Digital Marketing (Passenger Vehicle Business Unit) at Tata Motors, highlighted just how important understanding the relationship between technology and consumers is for car companies looking to cut through today.
In this instance, Fiat showed the sector the way with its ‘Fiat Live Store' campaign, created by AgênciaClick Isobar. The project leveraged custom technology to put consumers right into a virtual showroom where they could explore the products with a virtual sales person. The results were impressive in the real world too, as the digital experience results in a 19.3% increase on test drives at Fiat dealers in Brazil.
The campaign was entered into Lions Innovation, eventually winning an Innovation Lion in 2014. During the judging process, the project’s creators explained exactly why the work was so ahead of its time.

2. Blur the boundaries

"We need to align our communication towards the different profiles of consumers per country while being consistent for the brand"
Johannes Seibert, BMW MENA

BMW MENA’s Managing Director, Johannes Seibert, summed up one of the essential difficulties many car manufactures now face if they want to build global campaigns. They increasingly need ideas that work in traditional channels for their older customers in Europe and the USA and simultaneously leverage new spaces to reach young target markets like MENA and Asia.

Another German car manufacturer did exactly this in 2012. In that year, Mercedes-Benz teamed up with German agency Jung von Matt to create ‘The Invisible Drive;’ a product launch for the B-Class model that highlighted the vehicle's green credentials by literally making it disappear.
While the campaign racked up an impressive 10 million YouTube views and went on to win a Gold in Direct and Silver Lions in both PR and Promo & Activation at Cannes Lions, its biggest success was in one of the most oldest entry sections: Outdoor. That year, the Outdoor Jury President, Lo Sheung Yan explained that the jury had awarded it a Grand Prix precisely because of the way it took a traditional medium and updated it.

3. Tell great stories

"The better we get at our storytelling and the more it engages our customers, that’s our biggest recognition."
Paul Edwards, General Motors

It’s certainly not a new idea, storytelling remains vital for automotive brands. It’s something that GM were talking about in 2013. In fact, the automotive industry has one of the prime examples of brand storytelling in its back catalogue; an idea so revolutionary that the Cannes Lions’ juries didn’t know how to award it. The difficulty in deciding how to honour BMW’s legendary “The Hire” mini series was one of the key reasons the Festival introduced the Titanium Lions a year later to “celebrate game-changers … that mark a new direction for the industry and moves it forward”.

The hire

The campaign remains a touch stone when it comes to brands telling stories. And hearing BMW’s Jim McDowell describe how the campaign came about at Lions Entertainment in 2016 remains one of the best lessons in how automotive manufacturers can get it absolutely right.

And finally, a story of perfect collaboration

Great work only happens when a brand and its agencies come together and work in harmony. So it’s fitting that one of automotive’s most recent success stories is also a story of amazing collaboration. Volvo Trucks and Forsman & Bodenfors dominated Cannes Lions in 2014, winning two Grands Prix (and a subsequent one in 2015 for Creative Effectiveness) as well as multiple Golds and Silvers, for a the ‘Live Test Series’ a campaign that brilliantly combined technology, boundary-blurring placements and great storytelling to create something truly memorable. All to the strains of an Enya song.

A year later, the team behind the campaign reunited on stage at the Festival to explain exactly how they worked together to craft the campaign. The talk remains one of the highest rated in Cannes Lions’ history and it’s available to watch in full below.

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