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Advertising Cunning

A look at the strategies car makers adopt to convince you to buy their product..

By Michael Knowling

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This article was first published in 2004.

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The history and lineage of a marque is often used to sell cars. This sort of marketing strategy is often employed when the new model is only so-so - and here's a prime example. Jaguar has a proud history of motor racing and style, as you can see in this line-up - XKs, E Types and Mark IIs are amongst the most collected vehicles on Earth. But - huh - what's that ugly thing on the near end? It's fair to say the square headlight XJ-series of the late '80s rode on the shirttails of previous models, had little innovation and made little impact on the prestige market. It sold poorly and did little more than highlight Jaguar's need for more development. The current Jags, we're assured, have no need to hark back to the glory days of old...

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Here's another sensational ad along similar lines. The new (in 1994) Citroen Xantia is pictured here alongside its Granddaddy - the DS19 of 1955. The DS19 brought technologies such as disc brakes, hydro-pneumatic suspension and a power-operated gearchange, aerodynamic efficiency and creative styling. It's no wonder DS is a classic. But the new Xantia? Well, it doesn't have much to push on its own apart from the technologies of 1955... (The 3.0-litre Xantia Exclusive is a pretty decent drive, though.)

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No need to introduce Mercedes-Benz - the oldest car manufacturer in the world. When you've built up the credibility of M-B you can afford to get a little flamboyant with your advertising techniques. This 2000 ad doesn't even mention any cars in the range, rather it simply reinforces (no pun intended!) the strength and safety that's built into every model. With crumples zones in 1951 and ABS in 1978 you get the feeling they know what they're doing. An ain't that well protected baby elephant cute?

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Current hype is also another effective marketing tool. The introduction of the Mitsubishi Evo 6.5 Lancer was a brave move by Mitsubishi Australia (who are often labelled as cardigan kings) and the motoring press went absolutely wild over it. The Evo 6.5 T.M.E. Lancer is vehicle built for pure speed complemented by tremendous road holding and handling - the ultimate street weapon. At around 75 grand, though, the Evo T.M.E. was no bargain and they took an awful l-o-n-g while to shift from the showroom floors. Note the "Hurry - last few remaining" label across the top of this ad. The same "last few remaining" line could've been used almost a year later...

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In contrast to the Evo, Mitsubishi has had a great time flogging off cooking model Lancers under the pretence that they're somehow kindred souls. "One look at the sporty exterior of the new Mitsubishi Lancer MR coupe and you're left in no doubt as to the car's rally heritage." Says this advertisement. Hmm. Perhaps it should be "One look under the bonnet and the new Mitsubishi Lancer MR Coupe and you're left in no doubt it shares little with its rally-going stable mate." But at least these Lancers actually sold!

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The sheer desperation to promote a car as something it isn't is nothing new - take this early 1978 Ford ad as an example. The XC-series Falcon/Fairmont was no hot performer in base 4.1-litre guise but it's amazing the image that you can push when you whack on some standard alloy wheels, "Touring" suspension and some bonnet scoops! While Holden released its vastly improved HZ Kingswood range (with Radial Tuned Suspension) the big Ford became a relatively numb handling machine. Its live axle rear - especially with the LSD - was as nervous as a deer caught in your headlights and, boy, did it snap oversteer. We know because, well, we used to own one... Mr Jones will need his gloves to keep this devil under control!

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When pioneering technology is on offer from a manufacturer you can expect to hear all about it. And, back in 1984, the public sure heard about the Cordia GSR turbo - it was advertised more than almost any other vehicle! In an age when a performance car was something like a twin-cam Alfa GTV or a rotary Mazda RX-7 (both with old carby technology), the Cordia turbo was a monumental leap forward for the average performance car buyer. This ad introduces Joe and Barb Average to the principle of 'Turboelectronics" - the GSR's ECI fuel injection system and its water-cooled turbocharger. "A super lightweight turbine impeller reduces turbo lag" and "temperature, throttle position, battery voltage and fuel mixture are masterminded by the computer." It all seems obvious now, but if a whole new way of running an engine were introduced tomorrow, chances are you'd want to know all about it!

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Since assaulting the market with various twin-cam engines in 1986, Toyota has been singing the praises of its "02 Advantage". This 1989 advertisement showcases everything from the Camry and Tercel twin-cam wagons to the turbo DOHC Supra and the quad cam Camry.

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The same full-page ad also folds out into this beautiful engine cut-away. The example engine is the quad-cam Camry 2.5-litre, which was technologically a mile ahead of the opposition (the SOHC, 12-valve Nissan Pintara Ti, for example). A swirl-type intake manifold, platinum-tipped spark plugs (for durability), sequential fuel injection with bi-directional injector nozzles, multi valves, a sophisticated combustion chamber design and twin-cam technology is explained. To this day, the 2.5-litre Camry V6 engine is more high-tech than some of the brand new local V6s...

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If Toyota's late '80s line-up is meant to appeal to your mind, this Triumph TR7 ad from the late '70s is focussed at arousing other parts of your anatomy... "Can a 6'6" blonde find true happiness with a 5'2" chartered accountant?" That's the question on this bloke's mind, coz it was unlikely the factory 69kW output was going to do much for him...

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