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Mercedes, DVAG continue sponsoring Michael Schumacher [UPDATE]

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Marketing/Advertising, Mercedes Benz, Earnings/Financials

Monaco F1 GP Auto Racing

Up until his tragic accident that left him in a coma, Michael Schumacher was still one of the highest-paid Formula One drivers in the world... even though he was no longer actively competing. That came down to the numerous lucrative personal sponsorship arrangements that the seven-time world champion retained even after retirement. But while some of his sponsors have been canceling their arrangements with Michael as he fights to recover, Mercedes is reportedly committed to standing by its former driver and brand ambassador.

Speaking with German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche said "We have given no thoughts to changing something in his contract," wishing the retired F1 driver the best of luck in his recovery.

By way of contrast, bottled water brand Rosbacher reportedly canceled its sponsorship contract with Schumacher in June.

UPDATE: When reached for comment, German investment company Deutsche Vermögensberatung AG, whose logo has long adorned Schumacher's hat, told Autoblog that "At the moment, the health of Michael Schumacher is ranked first.... We back Michael Schumacher and his family and wish them all the imaginable energy they need for the next months."

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Toyota Sienna Swagger Wagon rides again with Busta Rhymes

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, Marketing/Advertising, Videos, Toyota

Let's face it: there are few things less "gangsta" than a minivan (which goes a long way towards explaining why crossovers have been gradually taking their place as the family-hauler of choice across America, but we digress). The point here is not lost on Toyota, which has embraced the uncool image of the minivan with the Swagger Wagon campaign.

We first saw the suburban-goes-urban campaign pop up with the introduction of the new Sienna back in 2010. And now that the Sienna's been updated for 2015, the campaign is back again, featuring none other than Trevor Tahiem Smith, Jr. himself... better known to most as Busta Rhymes. The decidedly white-bread video spot that follows may make you cringe, but you've got to admit that it's well done, even if it doesn't have the charm and freshness of the original.

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Mercedes to continue sponsoring Michael Schumacher

08/05/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Marketing/Advertising, Mercedes Benz

Monaco F1 GP Auto Racing

Up until his tragic accident that left him in a coma, Michael Schumacher was still one of the highest-paid Formula One drivers in the world... even though he was no longer actively competing. That came down to the numerous lucrative personal sponsorship arrangements that the seven-time world champion retained even after retirement. But while some of his sponsors have been canceling their arrangements with Michael as he fights to recover, Mercedes is reportedly committed to standing by its former driver and brand ambassador.

Speaking with German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche said "We have given no thoughts to changing something in his contract," wishing the retired F1 driver the best of luck in his recovery.

By way of contrast, bottled water brand Rosbacher reportedly canceled its sponsorship contract with Schumacher in June. German investment company Deutsche Vermögensberatung AG, whose logo has long adorned Schumacher's hat, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it will continue to sponsor the ailing driver.

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Bret Michaels Poisons Nissan's commercial trucking ops

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Minivans/MPVs, Marketing/Advertising, Videos, Commercial Trucks, Nissan, Celebrities

Bret Michaels for Nissan Commercial

Mötley Crüe isn't the only 1980s hair-metal band getting into the world of auto promotion. Poison frontman and reality show star Bret Michaels is following their lead and doing some advertising of his own. Where the Crüe have been all over the airwaves in recent years with a Super Bowl ad for Kia and music licensing with Dodge, Michaels has taken a very different route by becoming the pitchman for Nissan Commercial Vehicles.

The videos run the gamut to advertise predominantly the NV line of full-size vans, but the NV200 shows up a few times too. The star of this new campaign is Michaels' full-length music video (above) for the song Tough Love. It's basically a parody of all of those '80s rock ballads where the bands would slow the tempo down a little and reveal their softer side. Michaels rocks out at the Nissan proving grounds in Stanfield, AZ, while showing off the evaluation process and strutting around like a proper rock frontman. There are also a bunch of shorter videos (below) with the singer highlighting each part of the vans' torture testing. Although, the dialogue in these come off a bit more stilted. With these '80s metal bands getting into advertising, can it be long before Warrant is shilling for Fiat or Ratt for Mazda?

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GM thinks Colorado and Canyon midsize trucks will lure crossover buyers

07/30/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Trucks/Pickups, Marketing/Advertising, Chevrolet, GM, GMC

The invitation to come out and sample product at the General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford, MI is rarely dull, and after spending this morning driving preproduction versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon all we can say is... under strict embargo. Sorry, America, we were as excited as many of you are to learn more about GM's new midsize truck range and take note of how they go down the road, but it's going to be September before we're allowed to share that with all of you. Here's to sweet suspense.

While we might not be able to talk about refinement or handling yet, we did find some of the product positioning and marketing statements from GMC and Chevy officials on hand at the program to be pretty interesting.

Of course, we all know that the literal competitive set for Canyon and Colorado is comprised of two comparatively ancient Japanese midsize trucks: the Toyota Tacoma (which currently owns this segment) and the Nissan Frontier. The Frontier's bones are as old as the 2005 model year, with 2009 marking the last time the truck was updated. The Taco was also launched in 2005, though it did see a freshening for 2012. The point remains that, in every facet from powertrain to dash plastics, the GM midsize truck twins are going to look positively space age by comparison when they hit the market for MY 2015.

Interestingly though, The General isn't simply shooting for its aged, small-truck competitors when it comes to the planned conquest of customers. The automaker believes that both Chevy and GMC products will offer an interesting alternative to small-crossover shoppers as well. In fact, the engineering and marketing teams were possessed of this notion enough to bring along a Ford Escape as one of the competitive drives for our test day in Milford.

GM believes that both Chevy and GMC products will offer an interesting proposition to small-CUV shoppers.

Certainly, images of the Canyon and Colorado interiors that we've seen indicate that these two trucks will have cabins worthy of suburban tastemakers; full of the available comfort and convenience amenities that CUV shoppers are so keen on. Just as in their fullsize brothers, we expect these smaller trucks to be comfy places in which to pass your daily commute. We'd argue that the exterior styling of the trucks is a fit with the CUV ethos, as well.

Looking deeper, we can also see that the new trucks will probably offer reasonable tradeoffs in terms of utility, performance, mileage, space and price. Just comparing base models, the Chevy Canyon's 2.5-liter four-cylinder, rated at 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque, is slightly stronger than the average output of four-bangers from Ford, Honda and Toyota small crossovers. Now, the Canyon is likely to be somewhat thirstier than the 26 combined miles per gallon that those three offer, but it'll do so will the decided boost in tow/haul utility is the most obvious pickup strong suit.

And, of course, while we don't yet have pricing, sticking around the low $20k starting MSRPs of the best-selling small crossovers seems quite doable. Bare bones Tacoma and Frontier trucks start at $18,125 and $20,510, respectively, leaving a good gap to appropriately price the content-plus new trucks, and still stay in-budget for a typical CUV shopper.

Those tradeoffs won't work for a lot of CUV buyers, but the argument on paper is quite a bit more compelling than we would have initially thought. GM apparently believes it, as it's jumping with two feet into a segment that most automakers have abandoned or at least let wither on the vine. What say you? Would a more livable, frugal pickup make sense to you as a cross-shop with a smaller crossover? Let us know in Comments.

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Toyota's Psy-style Waku-Doki ad inherits Japan's bizarre ad crown

07/29/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Etc., Japan, Marketing/Advertising, Videos, Toyota

Screencap from Toyota's Japanese

A new Japanese Toyota ad featuring crisply suited businessmen driving into the jungle only to segue into a Psy-style music-video dance-off with a gorilla and natives is the latest car commercial to go viral. Jungle Wakudoki is the newest installment in a grand tradition of bizarre ads from the island nation that are by turns hilarious, head-scratching and occasionally even frightening.

Let's face it: My people are weird.

I'm half-Japanese and take suitable pride in my Asian roots, but even I can't figure out what's been slipped into the water coolers of the country's ad agencies much of the time - or the nation at large, for that matter. From Japan's ubiquitous obsession with all things adorable (kawaii) to its offbeat sense of humor and its bizarrely perverse and violent tentacle porn, it's clear there's a lot going on in the culture, and only some of it bubbles up to the surface in its marketing efforts. Much of the strangest and most amazing ads are for non-transportation products (e.g. laundry soap, snacks, energy drinks), but the automotive space has its fair share. This latest Toyota ad had me trawling YouTube for a common theme, trying to make sense of why these spots are the way they are. Scroll down to watch the Toyota ad in question as well as a bunch of other examples of Japan's most bizarre car-related ads and see if you can't find the thread that runs between them. Is it just that something's being lost in translation? Have your say in Comments.

Continue reading Toyota's Psy-style Waku-Doki ad inherits Japan's bizarre ad crown

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Trio of cheesy classic VW buses stolen, recovered

07/20/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Time Warp, Minivans/MPVs, Etc., Government/Legal, Marketing/Advertising, Volkswagen

Cheese Vans Stolen

Three customized Volkswagen Buses (pictured above) made to look like blocks of Tillamook cheddar cheese are safe again after being stolen on July 12, and two men are in police custody for the alleged theft.

The cheesy cadre of VWs, their custom trailer and a Ford F-350 to haul them were on a promotional tour when they were stolen from a hotel parking lot in Manteca, Oregon. Police began searching for them, and the group of bright orange Volkswagens wasn't too hard to sniff out. The three vans with an estimated value of $100,000 each were recovered undamaged on July 14 from a storage center in California about 50 miles away from where they were taken, according to Oregon Live. It reports that one of the men arrested rented a space there.

Unfortunately, the trailer and pickup used to haul the classic VWs weren't so lucky. Prior to finding the vans, police discovered the other vehicles burned out. It appears the alleged thieves tried to turn them into grilled cheese...

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Subaru WRX STI gets all gymkhana slidey in new European ad

07/19/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Sports/GTs, Euro, Marketing/Advertising, Videos, Subaru

Subaru WRX STI ad

A good partner makes sacrifices for a significant other. They aren't always fun, but sometimes chores have to be done. Subaru's European ad for its new WRX STI clearly understands that dynamic, as it shows what to what lengths a guy is willing to go in order to get his lady some bread in time for breakfast. Of course, running errands in a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive sports sedan down picturesque roads is hardly drudgery.

The wordless ad for the WRX STI says everything you could ever want to know about the winged blue Subaru. It expertly mixes some fantastic gravel rally footage with just a bit of inspiration from Ken Block's Gymkhana videos, as well. The automaker makes the right choice of actually letting the audience hear the growly exhaust and squealing tires over the music, too.

If this was your daily route to the bakery, you'd probably be prepared for a round of the World Rally Championship within a couple of months. Scroll down to watch the Subaru ad about a very polite WRX STI owner making sure breakfast is on the table.

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Indie rockers Local Natives perform from back of Nissan Rogue

07/17/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Marketing/Advertising, Videos, Crossovers/CUVs, Nissan

Nissan Rogue Local Natives Breakers video

Most bands go through a fairly simple trajectory of vehicles to make it to shows. When they form, it's all about just getting to the gig and anything works. As they build a following and start touring a little regionally, they upgrade to a van to fit all of the members and equipment. Finally, if they taste big time success, they move to the tour bus. However, indie band Local Natives is taking an interesting detour from that path in a new promotion from Nissan called Off the Stage for the Rogue.

The members show up to the middle of nowhere in a pair of the CUVs, and in a few minutes the vehicles are set up to be the group's sound system and its stage. This promo also acts as a video for the song Breakers, which is a bit of a slow jam, but the scenery is absolutely beautiful. Scroll down to watch the Local Natives turn the Rogue into a place to perform practically anywhere.

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Australian Jeep marketing stunt goes awry [w/video]

07/16/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Marketing/Advertising, Videos, Crossovers/CUVs, Jeep, Australia, Off-Road

Jeep Cherokee

Jeep fans in Australia are none too happy with the off-road brand following a contest that saw ten new Cherokees sold for just $10,000 Australian (about $9,400), roughly a quarter of the vehicle's price Down Under.

The contest, called the "World's Most Remote Dealership," gave Aussies the chance to snag an ultra-affordable Cherokee Longitude (analogous to the US-spec Latitude trim), provided they could get to a secret dealership in the remote wilderness of western New South Wales, near the border with the state of South Australia.

In order to get the exact location of the dealership, though, potential customers needed to download an app, which would release a phone number 9:00 AM AEST on Thursday (7:00 PM EDT, Wednesday night). The first ten people who could call in and prove they could afford to finance $10,000 and get to the remote dealership, were given the location of the remote dealership.

The only problem is that the phone number to call in was leaked out on an Internet forum the night before. That's left some contest participants crying foul, despite the fact that the lines themselves didn't open until 9:00 AM AEST, according to CarAdvice, who spoke to Jeep Australia's director of corporate affairs, Karla Leach.

Over 49,000 people downloaded the app and the call center responsible for the contest recorded 30,000 phone calls, with winners coming from all six Australian states. Aside from the leaked number, congestion on the phone lines was an issue, as well.

Many Australians voiced their frustration on the company's Facebook page.

"Absolute farce, number wouldn't even connect let alone ring," one commenter wrote. "Truly a waste of my time ?Jeep Australia. How could you go through with the promo knowing full well the number had been leaked? Makes me feel a sense of animosity towards the Jeep brand," wrote another. There was also talk from some commenters of a class-action lawsuit.

Jeep, though, seems to think that some of the sour grapes are simply due to those who didn't win.

"We are overwhelmed with the amazing participation in the Jeep 'The World's Most Remote Dealership' promotion. There were over 30,000 calls made this morning for the chance to buy just 10 vehicles. So we can understand that some people are disappointed that were not successful," Leach told CarAdvice.

What do you think? Is Jeep at fault for the number being leaked? Does it even matter, since the lines didn't open until a pre-determined time? Scroll down and have a look at the event's commercial, and then have your say in Comments.

Continue reading Australian Jeep marketing stunt goes awry [w/video]

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