Volvo

4 Year Old Sophie Drives the Volvo. (professional driver, closed course… Not)

Volvo trucks are back with a new round of YouTube based advertising. This time they have given up celebrity for a 4 year old girl driving a giant dump truck with a remote control. What’s the purpose of an ad? Be memorable in terms of both product and brand, sell the attributes of said product. What does this ad do? Nails it. This is one of the funnest YouTube commercials I have seen in a while. The kid is priceless, as well as some of the adults behind her. I would love to see a making of video on this. I’d love to know how many takes, and whether or not they went through multiple trucks to get this made. Great fun from Volvo. Judging by the almost 400,000 views since it dropped, I’d say this ad is a success.

Shazam a Volvo V40.

As smartphone use continues to grow, there is a growing trend where people actually use their phone while watching TV to look up information about what they are watching. The smartphone app Shazam has known this for sometime allowing users in the US to tag TV  spots for extended online content.

Last month, Shazam in conjunction with Ireland-based Adforce launched Shazam for TV in Ireland which began airing on November 5th. Adforce and Shazam have created a new app for Volvo promoting its new V40 vehicle that is viewable when the TV spot is tagged by Shazam. The smartphone ad offers viewers a deeper form of engagement with the brand experience. When potential customers that tag the advert with Shazam, they will be directed to offers ranging from test drives, to a chance to win an iPad mini, or additional information on the vehicle.

Volvo Ireland is the first brand to engage Shazam directly with a dedicated smartphone experience, but expect this to become a growing trend both in Europe and the US. This is a way of getting customers interacting with the brand and product on a different level, and it adds an added dimension to standard advertising. As the convergence between TV and other connected devices becomes more refined, this kind of advertising will continue to grow and become more sophisticated.

 

The Art of the Car, Kansas City.

I took a couple days off from posting. Sometimes you just need a break from the routine, and as the weekend rolled in that’s where I found myself. Today I ventured out into the abnormally 100 degree heat to take in “The Art of the Car” at the Kansas City art Institute. As myself and ten thousand others melted under the late June sun, I was fortunate enough to see some of the finest rolling stock that ever lived.

There was a time, when cars didn’t look the same. When you could tell one brand from another by the look of the grill, the fender line, the hood ornament. There was a period of automotive glory that seemed to die around 1980 as cars became more and more generic. I go to this car show every year and today ore than any other, I was fixated on automobiles that were pushing 100, or at least 60. As I looked at the wonderful styling, craftsmanship, and attention to detail, I wondered “where did this go with the modern car?” Yes today’s automobiles are safer, more efficient, loaded with creature comforts, require less effort to drive… and for the most part they are boring.

I look at what I saw today, and say they don’t have to be.

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Project Re:Brief From Google.

Once again Google has stepped forward to challenge ordinary thinking with a new project called “Project Re:Brief”. The premise is simple, take four iconic award winning broadcast ads from 3 to 4 decades ago, and make it work in today’s world.

The idea stems from the realization that technology has in many ways overtaken the creative genius that makes, or made good advertising not only good, but timeless. Project Re:Brief is a series of videos that look back at 4 of the world’s greatest ads, and the advertising legends behind them, then re:imagining them to work in the world of advertising now. Watch the trailer below. Google has done a really solid job of creating something that pulls you in, and makes you want to come back to see more.

In 2011, Google partnered with four global brands in an advertising experiment. The goal was simple – how can the ideas that defined the advertising industry in its infancy, inspire a whole new generation of creatives and marketers? We re-imagined and remade their most iconic ad campaigns from the 1960’s and 1970’s with today’s technology, led by the creative legends who made these campaigns.

Design Friday, well sort of…

Mini

The new convertible, longing to be driven.

I’d like to dedicate this post to my friend Kanon Cozad, who is by far the most obsessed automobile enthusiast I know. Kanon’s recent trip to Germany to pick up his new BMW M3 was cut short, before he could truly experience the car on the autobahn. So Kanon this post is for you.

In an article that was written for the Financial Times a couple of months back, a financial writer, in the course of bashing the government bailout of American automotive manufacturers, called out automotive advertising for its unrealistic image of the modern driving experience. The author decried the romantic vision of automobiles. The image of wind in the hair, open road… The kind of vision that was made popular at the height of the American auto industry peak at the end of the late 60’s.

He then described the reality of most  journeys in your car as “mandatory floggings rather than Kerouac-style Odysseys,” consisting of “commutes, school runs and business trips.”

In some ways it’s hard not to agree with him that cars, while better designed and engineered than they ever have been, are often pressed into utilitarian duty. I’ve seen a Lamborghini Murciélago (basically a racing car in street clothes) sitting in the parking lot of a grocery store. And ask yourself how many Land Rovers do you ever see roving off-road? It’s true enough that more than a few commercials for cars look like outtakes from The Fast and the Furious, with cars going at light speed through city streets miraculously free of traffic, or blasting through hair pin turns with the grace of a cheetah on the prowl. All of them baring the fine print statement, “Professional Driver, Closed Course”. But with that said, it’s not quite as grim as this article would lead you to believe.

Very few of people ever get to drive cars at much more than fifty percent of their potential, unless take your car to a racetrack for a track day (which a considerable number of car enthusiasts actually do, and with good reason). Now, if you have a car that handles well and are willing to look for the closest challenging back roads, your car that mostly serves as your personal shuttle service can become a nimble-footed runner again.

Finding those roads may be easy. If you are like me, you live in a place like the central Midwest where curvy back roads follow the contours of the landscape, hugging the outline of a river or other natural occurrence. On the other hand, if you live in grid-intensive place like Florida it might be tougher to do.

But real fun on the open road is not a completely unattainable dream. I know first hand that there’s still sport driving available on public roads. How do I know? Because I have been the proud owner of a Mini Cooper S for almost 6 years, and with the recent purchase of a Cooper S convertible, I can say that this is on of the most enjoyable cars I’ve owned since I bought an MGB in the early eighties, and with the help of a gear head friend in Lawrence built it to run. Both Cooper S’, the Supercharged and now the Turbo are fast, with tight suspension for amazingly flat cornering, this English retro revival courtesy of BMW has me thinking about the classic years of sports cars, when all you had to do was drive to a race track, tape the headlights, put a number on your doors, and make a play for the winners cup.

That those dreams can be revived by a modern car with ABS, airbags, computers, sensors, air conditioning, Etc., may be in part due to the fact that the MINI itself revives a legendary car from decades past. The original MINI was designed in the mid-fifties by Sir Alec Issigonis, a Greek whose family had English citizenship. The MINI, Like the VW Beetle, and the Fiat Cinquecento, the MINI was a gasoline-stingy answer to the post war shortages in the 50’s in Europe. With its front-wheel drive and four-corner wheel placement, the original MINI feels almost weirdly roomy considering it’s minuscule size.  The new MINI that BMW has revived, is almost two feet longer than the original, and it is a design that does exactly what “retro” should do: It improves on the past while still evoking it. In other words, the MINI is at once modern, and in mood nostalgic.

Despite the tendency of the fashion industry’s ability to be successful by recycling styles every 20 years or so with slight changes, retro  can be tricky for car makers. On the list of successes, besides the MINI, there is the new Fiat Cinquecento, Ford’s Mustang “Bullit” model (styled after the Mustang Steve McQueen drove in the legendary movie with the same name), and, the new Dodge Challenger which, truly grabs the original vibe of that car. Companies like Jaguar had a good run with its reissued version of its famous E Type, and the XK series, but Indian company Tata motors that bought Jaguar from Ford early this year, is going with the decidedly not-retro variation, playing to an olde more established consumer. I’m still not sure  about the new Chevy Camaro I have yet to  drive one yet, and the chopped roof kind of bugs me . Frankly I am a bit surprised that Chevrolet has never tried to recall to one of the most popular collector cars GM produced in its long history, the mid- to late fifties Chevy Bel Air. A pure classic with its  two-tone paint and fins, designed by the legendary Harley Earl and his magical team. This would surely have been as welcome as the Thunderbird was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s from Ford.

Though successful in terms of sales, a retro car that was designed by J Mays and Freeman Thomas illustrates what problems can occur when looking forward and back at the same time. The car that brought J Mays initial fame, and eventually landed him the top design position at Ford, was the Volkswagen New Beetle. It’s been a huge success for VW, and when first sighted back in 1998 the car was hard not to like. I test drove one of the first of these new beetles to arrive in Kansas City, and if I’d walked down the street with naked and carrying sacks of money I couldn’t have attracted more  attention. The car, was essentially a VW Golf with a different body, but the stand out shape was its arched roof. The new Beetle was reminiscent of the Art Deco-influenced pre-and-post-war Volkswagens, but unlike the Beetle of old this was a modern front engine car, and within the first year of introduction VW had a performance Turbo Beetle.

Then there are the faux retro cars, whose designs  evoke the past without referring to, or being based directly on an actual motor vehicle from the past. The most popular of these is the Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, which was designed by Bryan Nesbitt. The PT recalls, a line of Plymouth trucks from the thirties. The styling is meant to make us think about burly men in fedoras smoking cigars and looking like gangsters. The PT  has sold surprisingly well since its introduction in 2000, proving that funky design doesn’t turn everyone off. One particularly egregious version even re-introduced a woody like version with wood grained vinyl siding. We now know, however, the PT, like was  not able to save Chrysler and a stake from Fiat will hopefully to do that.

The point to all of this is that, while the author of the financial time article was partially correct, there are still a number of affordable, well styled cars out there that provide a fun driving experience, provided that the driver is willing to seek it out. I am the former owner of New Beetle and a number of classic cars in the past. I am drawn to the fun design stylings of the new MINI, and  the modern driving experience that comes with 21st century engineering. Like many smaller sport coupes today, The MINI is so well thought out. It falls in the same class as the Volvo C30, VW’s GTI, Subaru’s WRX and so many others. I really hope that this signals a new age of automobiles driven forward by the merging of solid industrial design, engineering, and more over the fun of driving. Yes Driving your car should be fun. The overall experience should fill you with a complete sense of satisfaction. Satisfaction that comes not only from the act, but from the design of the vehicle you are sitting in.