Don’t be scared carmakers! Will you try a little rough with your smooth?

It’s time, folks of the car industry, to swallow a bravery pill. Are you willing to confront some of the rougher truths in motoring in your content?

It’s time, folks of the car industry, to swallow a brave pill when it comes to your content. In my last blog I praised Under Armour for not being afraid to show another side of their biggest ambassador. In this case, the vomity, sweaty, hairy and generally unpristine side of swimming legend Michael Phelps. And it seems like tens of millions of people agreed with me.

Having the courage to inject your content with a large dose of realism doesn’t come easily to most brands. But ask yourself – what exactly is it that stops marketers from facing up to the fact that life is not perfection? And more importantly, why don’t more content agencies fight the good fight when it comes to helping shape those stories?

All credit to Dove for remembering that women (and men…) come in all shapes and sizes. I knew it before they did it. You knew it. We all knew it. And yet they still received worldwide praise (and some objections) for pointing out what is, let’s face it, the bleeding obvious.

Yet in the world of automotive content and storytelling – a world which Foxtrot Papa knows very well – there aren’t many Doves or Under Armours. Carmakers have collectively refused to wake up to the worlds of authenticity and hyper-realism. In the ‘autoworld’ you see on television or watch online, cars never crash, people never argue on long journeys, kids don’t wet themselves and we all, apparently, look like slightly stubbled male models when we floor it…

Why? I was once hit in the back of the head whilst driving by projectile vomit from a super-sickly three-year-old stationed three feet behind me. I can’t be the only one. Can I? And yet carmakers have steadfastly steered clear of the daily horrors of motoring to tell us – through ever-growing noses – that all our motorways are empty and every winding road leads to a beach picnic with the beautiful people.

At Foxtrot Papa we need to raise our hand and admit we’ve played a part in that. And for that we issue a little apology. Don’t get me wrong – cars are still great things in our view. We drive for fun. We love – genuinely love – the amazing machines we get to work with. But at the end of the day we need to help our partners communicate with a new kind of consumer: a younger, more savvy, more sceptical audience that can’t be fooled and, crucially, puts a value on honesty that would make old-fashioned purveyors of ‘Adland’ tropes shudder.

I’m not asking carmakers to get caught up in the daily grind of the commute – although if it’s creative enough, why not? I would, though, like them to consider that within their pasts – and, of course, their futures – there are stories, incidents and examples that seem to have been overlooked.

Let me give you an example. In 1959, a Swede by the name of Nils Bohlson, invented something that would literally save millions of lives. It was the three-point seatbelt. And in a moment of true altruism Volvo took the decision to release its patent, immediately allowing every other carmaker to adopt the simple system. It was a truly visionary move – one that helped shape Volvo’s culture for automotive safety. That story makes me feel good about Volvo. Really good. Arguably better than I feel when I see their beautiful but largely unsurprising idents on Sky Atlantic.

Am I alone in that thinking? Would a Volvo that really opened our eyes to their incredible commitment to the safety of its passengers and other road users make a step change in consumer attitude and respect? How would their fortunes change if they made a singular and unrelenting bid to start the safety equivalent of Tesla’s electrification stampede?

A Volvo engineer told me recently about an energy-absorbing technology in their seats that prevents spinal injuries should a car receive a rollover impact. You can hunt out the info if you really search for it but it takes hunting. Why not really shout about it?

I’d like to open the debate to carmaker PRs and marketers and see if there is an appetite for confronting the rougher truths in motoring. Will we ever see the day when a carmaker does the equivalent of a Dove or Persil’s ‘Dirt is Good’ campaign?

I’d like to think so. Let me know if you agree.

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