Delightfully outrageous!

Most noteworthy automotive marketing campaigns of 2016

The Philippine team before the start of the Subaru Palm Challenge finals in Singapore.

The Philippine team before the start of the Subaru Palm Challenge finals in Singapore.

Not long ago, when you talked about automotive promotional campaigns and marketing thrusts to those outside of the industry, their eyes would sort of glaze up, and you can feel their interest in the conversation fade inevitably like the warmth of soup shoved in a freezer.

But now when nearly everyone is virtually tethered to his or her smartphone 24/7 and pretty much exposed to the smartest or most outrageous (not to mention the most ridiculous) ad campaigns, a considerable number of consumers have become a lot harder to please and aren’t as easily amused, that thinking out of the box has become the norm to get a chance at reeling them in.

In a country where traditional advertising is still alive though gasping for air, every brand has to “adapt or die.”

So, here according to my little book, are the most notable automotive marketing thrusts and campaigns for 2016.

Small car, big shot


Who hasn’t heard of the Toyota Vios Cup? The undisputed number one automotive brand in the Philippines that’s garnered their nth triple-crown victory for vehicle sales, has definitely brought back local motorsports to the mainstream.

The amazing thing about it is, unlike high stakes motorsports that utilize race cars that we can only have or just drive in our wildest dreams, it’s the mild-mannered Toyota Vios that takes center stage in a bona fide wheel-to-wheel one-make circuit race series.

Yes, this is the same real world sub-compact sedan that could be the Uber, Grab, or cabbie for the day.

This popular and reliable car found in most Filipino family’s garages is transformed into a potent race animal for track newbies, celebrity car enthusiasts, and seasoned pros participating in the Toyota Vios Cup race series.

And what does it effectively convey? Well, it declares that the humble Vios is capable of extreme performance and is able to survive those grueling races with flying colors.

As a brand, this simply affirms that Toyota simply rocks!

Hand it over


Since when did becoming the biggest bum in the world guarantee you an all-expense-paid trip to Singapore with pocket money, and a shot at taking home a brand new (AWD, boxer-engined) car?

Cool, right?

Well, here’s the catch: you’ll have to “bum” for over 80 hours straight, with your hand stuck on one spot the whole time.

The red bug is also Santa on wheels.

The red bug is also Santa on wheels.

You’ll have to overcome a few pretty distracting obstacles, not to mention the fickle but mostly punishing Singapore outdoor weather.

This is, of course, the Subaru Palm Challenge. It goes through regional legs (like ours in Manila), and has been so for the past 10 years.

It then culminates in the main finals in Singapore where the Philippines’ 10 local finalists get to compete with the best (bums) of Asia Pacific.

There are up to 400 of them in total, where literally the last man or woman standing gets to take home a brand new Subaru.

The marketing event’s claim to fame is its main rule: keeping your palm glued on a designated spot on a Subaru car, and just like the other dozen or more competitors beside you, try to outlast each other rain or shine, for hours and hours on end, without even a finger slipping a millimeter outside a traced area.

Usually held in the open grounds of a busy shopping mall, onlookers find it hard to look away.

Contestants from all walks of life take a stab at it. The challenge is initially a test of will, but becomes more of a torturous physical undertaking after the 12th hour.

People simply wither out, faint, hallucinate, give up, break into tantrums, cry, or even surprise, just like this petite unassuming lady who outlasted former President Aquino’s Honor Guards.

The humble Toyota Vios dons racing stripes.

The humble Toyota Vios dons racing stripes.

The point of all that? Well aside from some solid extended branding, as it’s held in at least three major cities in the country (Manila, Pampanga, Cebu, even Davao), it also shows what people would go through for a chance to get a Subie as a freebie.

Santa has been bugged


The timing couldn’t have been better, especially now with extremely bleak and discouraging news proliferating social media and every other news outlet everyday.

Some light has to shine on the good and the uplifting. And it seems that German automaker Volkswagen has been blessed with the right car, the right guy, and the right opportunity to do just that.

The VW Beetle already has a cheerful vibe to begin with, but in striking candy red and retrofitted with a giant Santa hat, it’s impossible to not spot it on the road.

The Christmas Bug did several gift-giving runs to the less fortunate, unwanted, hopeless and needy, and turned little frowns right side up.

As for the brand behind all that Red cheer, the silhouette alone of the Beetle with a giant Santa’s hat is a combination of two of the most recognizable shapes ever.

A simple idea, wonderful returns—such a winning combination!

Expecting the unexpected


There are a few more notables, but I don’t have enough space to write all about them.

These ideas and efforts of car manufacturers improve motorists’ safety on the road, promote the conservation of our environment, and reach out to those who need it the most.

These are all totally noteworthy and deserve our utmost praise and support.

They may be nothing new, but they never get old either. Keep on, we say.

What’ll they think of next, you may ask. For sure, fierce competition drives people to be more creative and hardworking.

It won’t take long before the non-traditional becomes commonplace, and the outlandish and borderline strange pales to just ordinary.

As the market becomes increasingly informed about almost any information available on demand, it’s also become more sophisticated and ever demanding.

Now with consumers having a much shorter attention span, expect boundaries to be breached, and envelopes pushed to the limit—for the better, we hope.

Just admit it. Automobiles have become exceedingly better: performance, looks and technology.

The proverbial “lemon” car is almost non-existent. And now that there is so much of the good stuff that each car brand can brag about and distract your attention, expect next year’s campaigns to be more colorful. Radical, perhaps.

It’ll be painful for the creatively anemic, and the rabid idea makers will have many field days. Whichever the case, it’ll be an interesting ride. Merry motoring, and a blessed Christmas to you all.

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