“No gas, no squeegee?” “No gas, no squeegee.” Those two lines have now become part of the pop culture lexicon, as, in its recent EV commercials, Hyundai captured the new normal of driving electric. Hyundai’s hybrid Santa Fe Plug-In commercial is a symbol of the dilemma in which many auto manufacturers find themselves — how can they remedy limited current model production capacities due to supply chain difficulties? What’s the solution to governments that are forecasting zero emissions goals? What’s to be done about consumers who are becoming more environmentally aware of the carbon footprint? The result is a corporate refocus on EV commercials as key branding methods.
Car brands collectively ran 4 times as many national television ads for EVs in 2021 as they did in either of the previous two years, according to Bloomberg Green. General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., and Volkswagen AG, among others, spent an estimated $248 million on nearly 33,000 spots, up from $83 million spent on 8,000 commercials in 2019, according to data from marketing analytics startup EDO, Inc. Meanwhile, ads for traditional models slid by more than 35,000 airings, with automakers lowering their national TV budgets from an estimated $3.8 billion in 2019 to $3.1 billion in 2021.
Automakers have historically split their national ad budgets between annual sales events, new model launches, and brand burnishing. This year, with gas-powered cars in short supply, brands reexamined the possibilities and used their planned airtime to nudge buyers to think electric.
These EV commercials point to a new and exciting trend for automaker advertising. At General Motors, for example, the EV ad plan has 3 stages, according to chief marketing officer Deborah Wahl: normalize, personalize, and mesmerize. “Everybody In” is the company’s rallying cry, Wahls told Wharton Magazine. The company wanted to set “an optimistic and inclusive tone for our EV future.” Needing a “visual identity to match our vision,” GM EV commercials emerged.
What are the Messages Implied within the New Slew of EV Commercials?
The fun and feisty repartee juxtaposes a stubborn gas attendant with an upbeat and visionary hybrid EV driver. When the hybrid Santa Fe Plug-In driver obeys the attendant’s rule and pumps just $0.86 worth of gas, Hyundai challenges a constant refrain from EV naysayers: range anxiety. Here, instead, the pressing need for the driver is to wash the windshield, not to add gasoline to augment the electric companion engine. It’s a revelation to many viewers and part of a new paradigm to grab and hold onto consumer attention at a time when many automakers find themselves in a corporate identity crisis.
Message: The commercial tells us that hybrid EVs really don’t need as much gas as has been reported for confident driving. Electricity is quite up to the task of propelling an automobile.
Lincoln: The Power of Sanctuary embodies the notion of reducing stress and anxiety — including while at the wheel. The corporate idea was to pivot quickly when the pandemic grabbed hold, offering US motorists an oasis from a dangerous world. Research indicated that calm as a variable helps people to sleep better, reduce stress, build resilience, and relax body and mind. The Lincoln luxury brand supports Ford’s plans to invest $30 billion in electrification by 2025 and grow its connected vehicle services. Detroit News indicates that, with a full lineup of electrified vehicles by 2030, Lincoln expects a majority of its sales globally will be fully electric by 2026.
Message: New architecture and tooling can help consumers to reimagine what personal transportation can be like. Delivering the power of sanctuary in a new way for Lincoln luxury clients is an important element of their EV transitional plan.
The 2022 Hummer, with 1,000 horsepower and up to 350 miles of range, marks the return of the Hummer name after a decade-long absence. It is the most ambitious electric vehicle General Motors has attempted. With a two-network debut complete with LeBron James providing voiceover for the commercial; World Series play-play guy Joe Buck announcing the order bank was now open; and, a reveal reminiscent of a clip from the next Transformers movie, the media event was designed to spark as much consumer attention as possible.
Message: “The real revolutionaries want to change the game forever,” James argues, “Evolving, imagining, seeing the world not as it is but how it could be.” The commercial challenges its loyal audience to rise up and meet the new world of EVs. To do so is “how true braveness is realized.”
Multiple-award winning actress and director Regina King appears in the Cadillac Lyriq television commercials. She is emblematic of beautiful and luxurious women of color and symbolizes the equally alluring and decadent all-electric Cadillac. “The light: it comes from within,” explains the female voiceover. The protagonist stops to observe stock market reports streaming in the ultra-modern corporate environment through which she passes. As the commercial progresses, we can see the massive 33-inch-long LCD touchscreen, GM’s Super Cruise hands-free driving technology, and a remote parking system that can park the vehicle after the driver gets out. Exchanging knowing smiles with colleagues, she strides to her Lyriq, “a symbol of how far” she has come, “a reflection of what’s possible.”
Message: Cadillac acknowledges that 2023 Cadillac LYRIQ Debut Edition reservations are full, but more vehicles will be available to order through Cadillac dealers starting summer, 2022. The all-electric Cadillac Lyriq commercial transcends the usual EV appeal to a middle aged, white male audience and, instead, exclusively features women of color. Don’t the images of prosperity, confidence, breaking the glass ceiling, and luxury make the Lyric very appealing to all of us in underrepresented groups?
The all-electric Mercedes-EQ 2022 EQS commercial, “The Arrival,” is quite whimsical, with a 1950s cadence to the accompanying soundtrack. The EQS floats down from blue skies that are punctuated by big puffy clouds, and the EV lands gently. “You’ve never seen anything like it,” the male voiceover says. “We’ve never made anything like it.” Sure, Mercedes could have capitalized on its dedicated EV platform and its EV optimization. It could’ve exploded the myth that electric cars are more expensive than their gas-powered equivalents. Instead, it captured a truly carefree lifestyle, one that loyal Mercedes owners have not before experienced.
Message: Change and evolution are a part of all industries. Using conscious design to appeal to all the senses, Mercedes is helping its customer base to navigate to EV adoption. The seductive lifestyles that discriminating Mercedes drivers cherish can now also embrace how success opens up the chance to lighten up and savor the moment.
What are your favorite new EV commercials? Why do you suppose that automakers are scrambling to join the media frenzy and broadcast so many new EV commercials? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.
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