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Livin’ Life in the Fast Lane with LA's Agencies

Trends and Insight 916 Add to collection

Deutsch, David&Goliath, MullenLowe LA, Zambezi, Team One and RPA on advertising for cars in the City of Angels

Livin’ Life in the Fast Lane with LA's Agencies

The entertainment capital of the World, Los Angeles is as well known for its creative industry as it is for sun, sand and surfing. As it turns out, Angelenos’ love for Muscle Beach also extends to muscle cars. LA is a city where you can find just about every make and model of car there is, and as such many agencies in the City of Angels have a car brand or two on their client roster. Deutsch and Volkswagen, Team One and Lexus, 180LA and Mitsubishi to name just a few. 

Hoping to find out more about LA’s automotive advertising landscape (and maybe get some tips for when he finally gets behind the wheel), LBB’s Liam Smith caught up with Margaret Keene, ECD at MullenLowe LA; Gustavo Sarkis, ECD at David&Goliath; Heath Pochucha, SVP, Group Creative Director at Deutsch; Ben Tom George, Creative Director at Zambezi; Craig Crawford, Group Creative Director at Team One; Jason Sperling, SVP/Chief, Creative Development at RPA, and Lori Martin, Creative Director, INNOCEAN.


LBB> Los Angeles is world-famous for its car culture. Do you think this has helped you understand the 'LA Driver' and how to advertise for car brands?

Margaret Keene> Totally. The ‘LA Driver’ is a unique beast. We love cars, but are constantly frustrated as drivers because we never have the space to open them up. One of the great things about living in Los Angeles is that you can see literally every car on the planet and every kind of driver. Just a simple drive down the PCH can be pretty inspiring.

Gustavo Sarkis> It definitely has. LA is a car-centric city. In Southern California, cars are an extension of people’s personalities. What you drive says a lot about who you are. Cars are mixed up with the LA culture, from surfing to art to Hollywood. It’s under every surfboard in the El Porto parking lot and in some of the most iconic movie moments, like La La Land’s opening scene. They represent independence, empowerment, freedom, self-esteem, pride and that’s why it’s such a fertile territory for advertising.

Heath Pochucha> Yes, LA is one of the few cities where you can witness just about every conceivable make and model on the road on a daily basis. As a marketer, you’re in the enviable position where you can observe how different owners act and you can actually see patterns of behaviour and personality take shape. It’s wildly beneficial when the time comes to determine how to advertise to them with a resonant message on their turf.

Ben Tom George> Visiting the new Peterson Automotive Museum opened my eyes to LA’s rich car history and culture, but I’ve seen it all living and driving in this city for 14 years. Commuting from the South Bay to Downtown to The West Side and back again has shown me all the frustrations and pleasures of a city built for the car. The best way to understand Angelino drivers is to sit, swear, and honk with them for hours every day.

Craig Crawford> Absolutely. Since Los Angeles is the pinnacle of car culture in America, I am surrounded by all of it. The new. The old. The classic. And, the crazy. That backdrop helps define how I think about cars. And how people use them—which is really where the insight matters for advertising.

Some people love cars and driving. Others are practically indifferent and use them like an appliance. That is a wide spectrum. And apparently, they all live in LA. I know, because they are all on the 405 right now.

Jason Sperling> Los Angelenos love their cars. And being surrounded by so many car owners – enthusiasts, tuners, people that drive new BMWs but live in small apartments, and commuters, so many nose-picking commuters – definitely helps you speak from a place of truth. You see the realities of driving, every single day, and in the midst of developing campaigns.

Lori Martin> Yes, in the sense that cars are a way for people to connect. There are universal truths around cars and driving that make the advertising interesting. They are an extension of our style, and a reflection of our lifestyle. Sporty, practical, hardworking, sexy. And even for the people who view cars as appliances, they still want to feel good about the chunk of change they’re putting down on a car. They want to make wise choices.


LBB> What's the most exciting thing about automotive advertising at the moment?  

MK> Autonomous driving and smart cars are our future, but driving is one of the last great thrills. I think advertising is realising that we can have both messages, but the latter is more fun.

GS> A new generation outside of the American and European circle of brands is starting to go head to head with some of the most traditionally well-established ones and this will make the advertising scenario more competitive and exciting. Not to mention the race for setting the trends in technology: plug-in electrics, high-performance plug-in electrics, self-driving high-performance plug-in electrics and so forth.

HP> The future of the automotive itself is the most exciting thing about automotive advertising. The category has always been replete with new models but the category is innovating like never before with the reality of electrics and autonomous driving. Innovations in product can and should inspire innovations in advertising.

BTG> They say everything in advertising has been done before. In car advertising, everything’s been done at least four times. Work at the intersection of innovation and brand behaviour is the most exciting space for me. It’s not overanalysed or overtested like broadcast, it’s actually seen unlike more traditional “digital,” and it works across multiple mediums.

The LandCruiser Emergency Network was a perfect fit for the brand and model.

Ford Spain’s crib strikes a difficult balance between emotional and innovative.

But the most brilliant car activation in the past few years was actually for a beer brand:

CC> Ideas that are provocative and behavioural, not simply messaging. Automotive brands all share the same challenge: differentiation. Because, honestly, the difference between one car and another can be fairly minor. So, we can no longer just talk the talk. We have to walk the walk. And prove your brand by living our brand. Fortunately, we often have the resources to do that at a very high level. So, that’s exciting.

JS> Not sure whether it’s scary or thrilling, but the introduction of self-driving cars, smart cars and the increase in ride-sharing is pushing the industry in all sorts of new directions. Beyond that, what makes auto marketing exciting for me is what makes marketing in general exciting – evolving consumers, changing media landscapes and the need to break through, connect and be more adept.

LM> With mobile and social, there are so many unexplored opportunities to reach people in new ways. I love experimenting with Snapchat, Instagram Stories and Facebook and find different ways to build out campaigns. And I admire the brands I see doing the same. It’s a great time to experiment and play with what’s out there.


LBB> What are some stellar examples of car advertising in your opinion? 

MK> Honda’s “Paper” campaign is one of my favourites: 

  

And to be completely self-serving, our new Acura TLX work is the most artful launch I’ve ever been a part of.

GS> Here’s one of my all-time favourites.  It’s a commercial from 1964 that would still be a great ad if aired today. “Have you ever wondered how the man who drives the snowplow, drives to the snowplow?”

HP> VW's Bubble Boy, Saturn's Sheet Metal and Hummer's Little Monster.


BTG> Humdrum commuter car advertising is tough, but this Seat astrological work stands out.


The brief is tired, probably “this car lets me be Mii,” but the depth of the partnership and the unique executions give it life and personality that the car probably lacks. 

Speaking of fashion meets car advertising. Remember this genius?

In traditional broadcast, I love this safety spot from DDB Paris. It’s a unique way to showcase a feature that’s been hawked by nearly every OEM.

VW & Deutsch get bonus points for working tasteful lovemaking into a US commercial.

And this Audi ad combines my two favourite things, fast cars and dinosaurs, beautifully.

Lately, many brands are overreaching into spaces and conversations they shouldn’t be (even male-run Audi, for example). Consumers can smell inauthentic pandering a mile away. I don’t buy that a car brand can bring my country together or fix the wage gap, unless that belief is a cornerstone of the company’s culture. SNL ripped us to shreds, rightly so.

CC> One of my favourite car ads ever was “Grrr” produced by Honda UK. In my opinion, this is not a commercial. It’s a brave, provocative challenge to anyone who watched it to reach a new conclusion about diesel. It is also the power of creativity to start a new conversation. Simple. Brilliant. Wish I had done it.

JS> I love great work that also happens to be a great expression of the brand. The Subaru campaign built around elderly dogs (“Dream Weekend” spot + #MakeaDogsDay social campaign) was a great expression of their love idea. VW had such a good thing going and had built such an incredible brand over the years that was so rudely interrupted by scandal, but I always love their simple, human work and that includes their latest release for the VW Atlas (“Luv Bug”). And I definitely love the imaginative Power of Dreams work Honda is doing out of the UK (“The Other Side” film and the “Keep Up” advert). A high bar for us in the States, but we like that challenge. :)


LM> I love seeing brands take big risks and pay attention to all the places their buyers are. Lexus built a car in real time on Facebook Live which could have gone terribly wrong. But it was great and got a lot of engagement. And, of course Hyundai shot and edited their Super Bowl spot live during the game, and used VR technology to make a one-of-a-kind viewing experience for troops overseas. Once it aired, viewers took to social to share their love and praise for what they did.


LBB> Do you find the act of driving helps you unwind and get your creative gears going?  

MK> Yeah. I actually don’t mind if there’s traffic. The ennui opens up my mind.

GS> Absolutely. Driving to work is probably the only moment when I really get some alone time to think, unwind and relax. Driving down the shore on the way to work, listening to music really puts me in the zone. Some people might find it easier to come up with good ideas in the shower. I prefer driving.

HP> Most definitely. I enjoy the morning and evening commutes where it’s just me in the car. In fact, I find I do some of my best thinking during these times. The shower and the toilet always make the grey matter relax enough to let the really good ideas out. I’d add driving to that list.

BTG> Driving is for NPR, podcasts, and rockin’ out. I get more ideas in park. It’s those calm moments between rush hours where the magic happens.

CC> Daily driving in LA is blood sport. But, I have consciously arranged my commute to take me past the ocean, which I do every day. It’s a personal touchstone to remind myself to work hard and be grateful for everything I have. So I guess, in a roundabout way, it does keep my gears going.

JS> Ironically, I love being in the car. It’s like a stress cocoon where I can shut out outside issues for a short time. I’ve had a ton of creative breakthroughs in cars. (I’ve also gone completely hoarse from karaokeing songs that were a few octaves too high, curse you “Jessie’s Girl.”) In the car my mind wanders, without parameters or expectation, and that’s led to some great thoughts.

LM> Before cell phones that was the case. Now it’s like you have to remind yourself that when you’re driving you have to focus on the road, and that it’s okay to be disconnected. I try to give myself permission to make the ride home a little reprieve from the chaos of the day.


LBB> How do you see self-driving cars changing the automotive - and advertising - industry?  

MK> It’s not all going to change overnight. When I listen to my 11-year-old wax on about sports cars, I think we’d better not give up on driving stories too soon. It’ll be interesting to see how everybody solves that.  

GS> It will change so much on so many levels. Since there will be no more risks to it, self-driving cars and mobile phones will be more connected than ever. I think it will open a new era for social media and apps. Your car’s infotainment screen might be a new source of digital content and cause a shift in the way people consume advertising.

HP> See my answer to question two. In sum, I see it as a new opportunity to rethink something in a completely new way. Change is good. It’s exciting. It makes the world spin.

BTG> I’m excited for the true convergence of cars and computers. I imagine interconnected, self-driving vehicles becoming the next social gathering place, a mobile living room where friends, family, and co-workers connect, and advertisers try to worm their way in.

I also secretly hope it never takes off, because nothing beats cruising up Hwy 1 with the top down.

CC> I love driving, and often fast. So, I am looking forward to a day when people who are less inspired by driving are all safely ensconced in their little people movers somewhere in the right-hand lanes. That way, people like me can have the roads back.

JS> Hmmm. Well, if we’re living in a world of self-driving cars, I don’t think we’ll be selling cars based on performance anymore. It will probably be about comfort and amenities, not unlike airline ads. However, I’m curious to see if human-driven cars will still exist alongside them, and if there will still be demand for those, like vinyl vs. MP3s, and if that means we’ll be doing separate marketing for each. Or if cars will be self-driving when you’re commuting, and human-driven when you want to get away and enjoy the open road. Do I think self-driving cars will upend car advertising? Only if people no longer want to own their own cars anymore. So probably not. Although I don’t think radio will be so lucky.

LM> It’s going to become a whole lot more important to understand what people will do with their time in cars. There will be a land grab for that time. Social and mobile will be even more important than they already are.


LBB> Any tips for anyone hoping to drive in LA?  

MK> Don’t text and drive, ever. It’s tough, but we all need to do it.

GS> Drive up the Palos Verdes Hills to the Point Vicente Lighthouse – beautiful roads with amazing ocean views from the cliffs.  

HP> Buy a car with a very comfortable seat. You may be sitting in it for a while.

BTG> The best time to drive is after 2AM and before 5AM. Good luck out there.

CC> Take no prisoners.

JS> Watch out for me. I have eight points on my record and as my wife will attest, I’m not the best driver. Also, don’t get out of your car in traffic and sing the way they did in La La Land. You’ll get punched in the face for that.

LM> Avoid the 10. Always.


LBB> What are your go-to tunes for when you’re on the road? 

MK> 93.5 KDAY with a little NPR sprinkled in, until my kids get in the car, and then it’s all Top 40.

GS> Beatles, The Clash, Ramones on my way in. Brazilian bossa nova when I’m coming back home.

HP> One thing I love doing with road trips is discovering the radio stations of the areas I’m travelling through. They give you a deeper view into the landscape and the people who call that place home.  

BTG> Lately, I can’t stop playing Johnnie Frierson’s Have You Been Good To Yourself and Azealia Banks’ 212 (late to the bandwagon). Spotify Discover Weekly is my gateway drug to new stuff, but I’ll never get tired of H&O’s You Make My Dreams Come True.

JS> I have a 3,000-song Spotify playlist that’s growing everyday. But give me a warm L.A. sunset and an open road, and there’s nothing I’d rather listen to than “California Stars” by Wilco.

LM> I love a good sing-it-at-the-top-of-your-lungs jam from Heart, Fleetwood Mac or Journey. There’s something nostalgic about the '70s era of music that goes with driving. Certain songs make me want to roll the window down and cruise. Even if it’s only at 5MPH.
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Categories: Automotive, Cars

LBB Editorial, Mon, 22 May 2017 14:32:17 GMT