We’re celebrating 20 years of Nexus this month, so we thought we’d share with you our favourite car adverts from the last two decades. From the funny to the impressive to the slightly weird, car manufacturers have upped their game significantly within the last 20 years to almost cinematic production value.
Honda – The Cog 
One of the most famous car ads of all time, Honda’s The Cog reportedly took four months of prep, 605 takes and only the briefest bit of CGI. Aesthetically pleasing, clever and an impressive feat, the ad was a roaring success, drawing critical acclaim from the advertising industry as well as the wider press who loved it too.
Vauxhall Zafira & Meriva – Little Dads 
A classic series of ads as far as we’re concerned, they were launched in a declining market, and helped boost sales of the Zafira and Meriva. It plays on the hilarious, precocious moments that children have when they seem more like adults. They were highly comical, one of the boys was even dubbed the next Peter Kay!
Citroen C4 – Robot Dance 
Choreographed by Justin Timberlake’s choreographer and supposedly motion-captured on JT himself, this transformer style robot dance is fun to watch. It won a Bronze Film Lion at Cannes International Advertising Festival but was criticised for not really being memorable for the model or make.
Volkswagen Golf GTI – Singin’ in the Rain 
A remix of Singing in the Rain, this advert brings Gene Kelly into the 21st century, with astonishing dance moves that you’d never expect. While previous adverts play on the themes of reliability, this advert proves that Volkswagen is creative and innovative. See also: Ford Puma Steve McQueen.
Skoda Fabia – Cake 
From the “Favourite Things” soundtrack (apparently Julie Andrews herself gave permission for the song to be used), to the Battenberg interior, this advert really is a lovely thing. Designed to boost Skoda’s not-particularly-favourable image, the campaign boosted the brand’s reputation considerably. And the cake? It spent so long under studio lights that it had to be binned, but the chocolate speedometer and marzipan were reportedly kept for posterity.
Volkswagen – The Force 
A memorable and creative ad, this Star Wars themed advert has no dialogue or voiceover, just a small boy dressed as Darth Vader trying to use “The Force” on various household items to the Imperial March. Despite not being able to see his face, you can sense his frustration as it inevitably doesn’t work – and then the joy and surprise when, with the help of the car, it does!
Mercedes – Magic Body Control 
Voted best car ad of the year in 2014 by Auto Express readers, this brilliant ad from Mercedes uses chickens to explain complex technology, “magic body control”. Steve Fowler, the editor-in-chief of Auto Express, said: “It’s able to entertain and get a message across in an innovative and creative way. And most importantly for any ad, it’s hugely memorable.”
This ad even sparked a retaliation from Jaguar, where a jaguar kills a chicken (not on screen), ending with “we prefer cat-like reflexes”.
Jaguar F-Type Coupe – Rendesvous 
Combining Hollywood glamour (and budgets) with British villainy, this advert feels like a big movie. With Ben Kingsley, Mark Strong and Tom Hiddleston starring, and Tom Hooper directing (Les Miserables, The King’s Speech), this ad definitely has a Bond feel to it.
Audi RS 3 – Birth 
This clever, but arguably quite strange, advert involves a RS 3 being “born” from the back of an R8. It has a very sci-fi feel, along with dramatic music and intense-looking robots.
Audi – The Comeback 
What’s not to love about this ad? It’s a sad dinosaur who finds happiness in a car! It’s funny, poignant and impressive – giving a dinosaur expression is no mean feat. Inspired by memes and popular culture, it’s a departure from their usual tech-focused ads.
What are your favourite car ads from the last 20 years? Have we missed any?