Five Qs: Mark Simon on Automotive Advertising Trends


The One Show released the results of the Automobile Advertising of the Year Awards this week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Winners included Honda’s Hands and BMW’s A Window into the Near Future. One of the judges, Mark Simon, who is also chief creative officer at Detroit-based Lowe Campbell Ewald, spoke with DBusiness Daily News via email about the awards and automotive advertising in general.

1. DDN: What separated the winners from the rest of the other entries?

MS: Their ability to move beyond a car driving down a beautiful road and gleaming shots of door handles. The best work engages people and makes them feel something about the brand. The Roam Free spot for Land Rover captures the sheer exhilaration of driving off road without ever showing the vehicle. Some of the winners harnessed great technology to great ideas, like the Hyundai Driveway Decision Maker that used projection mapping, real time 3-D animation, and Google Street View to allow people to take a car for a virtual test drive and pull up in their own driveway.

2. DDN: What advertising trends are specific to the automotive industry?

MS: The most encouraging trend seems to be the desire to take risks. Whether it’s Ron Burgundy touting the .1 cubic feet of space in the glove box of the Dodge Durango or Fiat creating the first Twitter account you can’t follow for the Abarth 500. You’ll never succeed if you don’t take risks.

3. DDN: If an automaker had to pick one advertising medium over another, which would you recommend?

MS: Mobile. Help people experience your brand whenever and wherever they want. The automobile is the original mobile device. The opportunities are endless. 

4. DDN: What’s the worst thing an advertising campaign can do when marketing a vehicle?

MS: The worst thing you can do is to follow this script:

VISUAL: Car on winding mountain road

MUSIC: Propulsive and inspirational

VO: “With (feature), (feature) and (feature), the new (brand/model) will make you feel (cliché goes here).”

It’s like an incredibly expensive Mad Libs.

You need to create work that transcends features and benefits and connects emotionally with your audience.

5. DDN: And what’s the best thing a campaign can do?

MS: The best work for any brand — automotive or otherwise — comes from a deep understanding of exactly what your brand stands for. You can’t be all things to all people. Establish what you stand for in 10 words or less. Apple is about unlocking the creativity in all of us. Kaiser Permanente believes health care isn’t an industry, it’s a cause. The U.S. Navy is about doing whatever it takes, wherever it takes them. Find your North Star and follow it.