Should ad messages be literal?

Every day we’re faced with the marketing challenge of how to execute a message. Do you represent it literally? Use an analogy? Feature your target market? Approach it from left field?

Here are three ads from different countries and different car manufacturers. All three are focused on the sound experience in your car.  

Now first let me ask – do you care? Have you ever bought a car because of how it sounded? Comfortable seats, a sexy dashboard – maybe, but buy it for its quiet? Hummm.

Anyway, if 3 global brands say it’s the right message, who am I to question, so back to the execution.

Have a look at all three, which would you say is the most relevant? How about intriguing, memorable or entertaining?

Which would you remember and talk to your friends about? When you told the story would you remember the car’s brand?

Of course, the audience you’re talking to, the budget, the media and the competition all influence how you package a message.

But the Holy Grail we’re often asked to achieve – get this message across to everyone, everywhere and make it stick…. Can any ad achieve that?

Maybe that’s why we’re still searching for it.





Renault – Bose Melody Gardot, Publicis Conseil, Paris 2011 

Lexus CT – Quiet Revolution, CHI & Partners, London 2011

Volkswagen Golf – Silent Band, Ogilvy Cape Town 2011


  1. I definitely prefer the Renault ad, though I wish they’d worked more on the visual transition from the club to the car.

    I would talk about the VW marching band ad only to say, what the heck? I must be dense, I don’t understand why I can hear some outdoor noises, but not the others. It’s just wrong in my opinion. I get that they are saying hear only what you want to hear, but since the sources of the various noises are all in the same place, it’s simply too big of a leap. They missed the mark in my opinion.

    Oh, and yes. I just might buy a car for how it sounds, or doesn’t sound in this case. 🙂

    Fun post!

  2. I have to say, I agree with Kathy on this one.

    The VW ad to me seems to be missing the mark, as the purpose of a marching band is to create the very sound that is missing in this ad – it’s not a side effect. Watching it, it felt like something wasn’t right with it, which isn’t something you want associated with your product!!

    I thought the Lexus ad was going to be clever – when I saw the person drumming with their hand on the wheel I thought the line was going to be about having only the noise that you choose in the car….the removal of all sound completely again is a bit jarring as most people listen to music or the radio when they’re driving along.

    I think that the Renault ad is by far the best as it showcases how the negative noises while driving can affect the sounds that you choose for yourself. My only criticism of this is that it’s not about the sound of the car, its about the elimination of external sounds… the only possible downside being the possible suggestion that it would reduce the impact of all external sounds – car horns? Sirens?…

  3. Kathy and Claire, thank you both for a good review and analysis of these ads. You’ve both pointed out the inconsistency with the noise you can or can’t hear – guess if you are going to put you money on sound you should make sure what you leave in (or out) rings true. Thanks for the insight.

  4. Agree with everyone on the VW ad. And maybe its just a different tv market, but 60 seconds was far too long to tease out the idea. Funny thing with the Lexus ad, is that they could have just run the second half – ie. seeing the car but having NO audio – and made the same point about their product in a stand-out way: the drumming didn’t actually make the point at all. So by default Renault win, because at least you got the connection between concept and product attribute. But for me this would still need to be one of a larger campaign to make me think about buying a car, as they’re still pinning everything on a rational benefit, rather than selling me an emotional connection.

    1. Hi Robin, thanks for the comments and some excellent points. I think you are spot on about them needing to be part of a bigger campaign. Its hard to make the emotional connection with the absence of something, really good observation that there needs to be an emotional pull to make the message stick.

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