he Vauxhall Ventora: even everyman cars had a hint of brawn to them.

Progress is Beauty


In terms of marketing, cars are not quite as much of a blank page as soft drinks. They have corporeal presence. They stick around – sometimes for decades. Over the span of their useful lives, they come to occupy the popular consciousness perennially as pop music and vocal affectations of news anchormen. But despite their non-negotiable presence and impermeable reality, the marketing of a brand and the models within its range are forever fluid. What a certain make of car comes to represent in one era will almost certainly be transformed within the lifetime of a single vehicle. When you cross continents, the complexity gets deeper. Witness for example, this ad for the Volvo Amazon from America in the early 1960s.

In its casual misogyny the ad is something that Don Draper and his acolytes on Madison Avenue would have been more than proud of. All that talk of women being automotively challenged whilst domineering their husbands’ finance and aspiring ultimately to the lofty heights of furniture and fur coat aquistion. The thought that that sort of aesthetic could sell Volvos is hard to get your head around. Particularly in light of this recent French TV ad for the C30.

The whole ethos of the campaign is fragrant with a colourful, pre-credit crunch frivolity and inclusiveness. But those days are over. Open any magazine or switch on any TV for the next year or so and the car ads you do see will be reeking of worthiness and screaming about engineering solutions to environmental problems. Look closely. There’s not much frivolity out there. The current trend, rather, is exemplified by the 2009 campaign for Audi A4. Progress is beauty. It’s basically a subtle evolution of the classic strap “Vorsprung Durch Technik”. We couldn’t agree more.