Automotive marketing campaigns have come a long way from winding roads and glamorous locations.

With today’s discerning consumers increasingly interested in technology and innovation, automotive brands need to do more than put a celebrity behind the wheel in order to impress.

With this in mind, here are six automotive campaigns from the past few years that have stood out.

Mazda’s ‘Sound of Tomorrow’

Many automotive brands tend to fall into the ‘luxury’ sector, and as a result, often target a wealthier or older demographic. Mazda – which is one of the more affordable sports car brands out there – wanted to target a younger audience in 2016.

To do so, it partnered with Tomorrowland, one of the world’s largest music festivals. The campaign involved the brand building a giant record player and using the Mazda Mx-5 as the needle, to recreate the song “Reality” by Lost Frequencies. Alongside this, Mazda launched an online competition asking fans to try to recognise the song, with the winner receiving tickets to Tomorrowland.

Creating a way to showcase the car’s impressive agility as well as reach young festival goers, it made for a unique and engaging campaign.

Lexus’ ‘Drive by Intuition’

It’s a running joke that robots will eventually take over our lives (and jobs), but Lexus put this theory to the test in 2018 with its revolutionary campaign – Drive by Intuition. It saw Lexus create the first ever ad solely written by an AI, based on the analysis of 15 years’ worth of Cannes Lion-winning campaigns.

There’s certainly nothing ground-breaking about the AI’s narrative. It tells the story of an engineer putting the finishing touches to the Lexus ES, before watching it pass a tense but eventually successful crash test (saved by its emergency braking system). The fact that the ad is directed by Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald, however, ensures that it is well paced and visually compelling.

What makes this campaign most impressive is the fact that the AI was able to inject human emotion into the mix, astutely showing the emotional investment of the car’s engineer. This element – which is often used in the ‘man vs. machine debate’ – proves that while AI might not be able to understand emotion, it can still replicate it by tapping into objective data.

All in all, it made for an inspiring and impressive campaign, and one that showcases technology to great effect.

Nissan’s #DoItForUs

Nissan is one brand that occasionally chooses to showcase personality rather than its core product. In 2016, it brought humour into the mix with #DoItForUS – a parody campaign to promote its sponsorship of the Olympic Games in Rio.

The campaign involved a hidden camera-style ad, whereby famous athletes were asked to promote Nissan in a number of ridiculous and inappropriate ways. The campaign succeeded in creating brand awareness, generating conversation on social media before and during the Games.

According to Red Bee – the agency behind the campaign – #DoItForUs resulted in a 5% increase in positive brand opinion, as well as a 10% increase in purchase consideration.

BMW’s ‘Drive the Future Today’

An arguably more formulaic auto campaign – and yet BMW’s ‘Drive the Future Today’ ad was one of YouTube’s top video ads of October 2016.

Showcasing the futuristic BMW i8 Roadster, which is one of the brand’s electric vehicles, the ad positions the car in relation to a changing society, where ‘progress’ is about ‘letting go of the past’.

A sleek and succinct nod to BMW’s brand focus on innovation and new technology, it successfully engaged an online audience.

Manning Gottlieb OMD and Nissan launch team up with The Dark Knight

Imagine you’re a car manufacturer. How do you make your latest model really thrilling?

How about turning it into a Batmobile?

Nissan took the unusual approach of superhero-fying the JUKE back in 2012 after tying the car into the release of The Dark Knight Rises.

To begin with this was a fairly straightforward brand/media collaboration, but thanks to the campaign’s online hub, over 230,000 users got involved, prompting Nissan to shift things up a notch and produce an actual Batmobilised version of the JUKE for sale:

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It’s a great example of taking a regular campaign to the next level, with judicious use of excellent digital creative (and a few Bat-themed prizes) to test the water for a much larger initiative.

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SapientNitro and Chrysler show a little European sophistication

International markets can be a challenge, especially if you’re launching a quintessentially ‘European’ product for the US market, so kudos to Fiat for embracing their Euro heritage when launching the Abarth in 2013, mixing up content with offline events for fans to get buzz building:

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Fiat rolled out teaser content to influential auto bloggers initially, and upped the ante with an entirely new site chock full of somewhat risqué image and video content.

While the content may feel a bit dated now (topless women to sell cars), over 35,000 people signed up for purchase info:

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