Commercials Sell Plugging In a Car, With Mixed Results
Most analysts point to limited range and a relatively high price tag as the most important obstacles to consumer adoption of electric cars. Many EV drivers happily trade those shortcomings in exchange for brisk acceleration, cool technology, and especially the ability to avoid trips to the gas station. For them, convenience and saving time is key—a few seconds of plugging in at home easily beats a special trip to the pumps. And yet, instead of focusing on banal but very real EV advantages, ad departments of major car companies use outlandish scenarios to convey the benefits of plugging in.
Of course, successful ads need to capture your attention, often with an outrageous premise. But should they do so at the price of making electric cars seem bizarre or simply confusing viewers with irrelevant content? Judge for yourself, by checking out these four EV ad campaigns.
1Sexual Innuendo Approach: Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid
This slightly Orwellian and simultaneously provocative campaign is apparently intended for Japanese audiences—although it’s translated (somewhat poorly) into English. The goal is to get users to download a “Plug-in Championship” app—which makes plugging your phone a game. Insert the plug at exactly the right time to get rockets or alarm clocks to explode on the screen, or a bearded man to spit into the air or Santa to do a back flip. There’s no other reference to the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, except a logo credit.
2Anti-Emissions Approach: Nissan “Gas Powered Everything” Ad
One of the most popular and clever EV ads in the past year is Nissan’s own Orwellian depiction of a world in which everything is powered by gas. In essence, Nissan went negative—portraying all gas cars as pollution machines, rather than extolling the virtues of cheap and easy electric recharging. (Many observers have commented on the cheap shot of using the Chevy Volt in a cameo appearance.)
3Futuristic Approach: New Global Nissan Television Ad
Nissan’s latest ad is running right now. It asks this series of questions: What if you could drive with zero emissions, and never have to step for petrol again? What if you could top up your car on your lunch break? What if your everyday car was an electric car? And what if one day it could power your house?
In this depiction, charging is high-tech. But with vehicle-to-grid at least several years away, and a lunch-break top-ups using the LEAF’s 3.3-kW charger only capable of adding about 10 miles of range in an hour, it’s hard to see how this approach will close the deal on more EV sales.
4No-Need Approach: Chevy Volt Customer Testimonial Ad
General Motors, in its series of customer testimonial ads, has taken the most direct approach to conveying the benefits of charging over pumping. Kory Levoy, a Volt owner, explains why a plug-in hybrid alleviates range anxiety. “To be able to drive 300 or 400 miles and not have to worry about finding an electrical outlet, was probably the one thing that sold me on the car,” he explained. “My daily drive is about 25 miles one way to the office. I get to the office. I plug it in, in a standard 110-volt outlet. And that give me more than enough power and battery in order for me to complete the commute without ever using the gasoline engine.” Of course, plugging in a pure EV is just as easy with a 220-volt outlet, and replenishes range at a much faster pace.
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