Six automotive ads to stir the blood

Image of canoodling couple in car
Karen had started to regret that large doner with extra chilli and garlic sauce she'd had for lunch
"‘Sex sells’ is an established cliche for a reason, and the automotive world often abides with gusto"
  • | by Daniel Bevis

Cars are filthy, erotic things.

This is an immutable truth that’s been hammered into our subconscious since the dawn of the combustion engine.

These shapely machines symbolise love, sex, attraction, and friskiness.

This hasn’t escaped the attention of the advertisers, either.

‘Sex sells’ is an established cliche for a reason, and the automotive world often abides with gusto.

Come with us, then, as we take you on a whistle-stop tour of some of the sauciest car ads ever…

1. Renault Clio – 'Papa & Nicole'

Obviously the romantic interest here isn’t between Papa and Nicole. Eww.

No, this catchy interchange that was with us throughout the 1990s in fact showed a peppy 20-something girl sneaking off from her (clearly quite well-off) dad to go and knock about with her fancy man.

Meanwhile, Papa was away cavorting with his own bit of skirt across town. Ah, the carefree dalliances of rural French life.

The implication was that the first-generation Clio was a passport to romance (have you ever driven one? They’re really not), but it was the gentle cheekiness that captured Britain’s hearts.

Like the smoothest jazz, it’s the notes that aren’t being played that ring out loudest. Or, in this case, lewdest.

Were Papa and Nicole really just tip-toeing off for coffee and conversation…? Or were they coming back with their shirts on backwards?

The series culminated in a finale ad with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer in 1998 that was watched by 23 million viewers.

The look in Bob’s and Nicole’s eyes pretty much demands that you imagine the ensuing honeymoon scene. Steamy.

2. Mercedes-Benz E-Class 4Matic – 'Not in This Weather'

Product lust is a cornerstone of effective advertising – look at M&S’s ‘food-porn’, for example, or Apple’s chic showcasing of their latest electronics, lasciviously laid out on pure white backdrops.

But in ‘Not in This Weather’, Mercedes-Benz replaced traditional product lust with, well, regular lust. Unashamed, in-your-face lust.

It’s an unusual positioning for a car as premium as the E-Class: “It has four wheel-drive, so you can freely cheat on your spouse when it snows. Don’t worry, they’re probably cheating on you anyway,” the ad seems to say.

But still – phwoar, oo-er, etc. Raunchy stuff.

3. VW Tiguan – 'Prom Night'

From the dad in this advert's point of view, there’s more than enough steam emanating from this fledgling romance, thank you very much.

Ther father here is keen to demonstrate just how much control he has by playing the nervous young couple like a pair of sophisticated marionettes.

Does he subsequently follow the teens into the prom and go postal, like Liam Neeson might? Yeah, probably. Enough of that filth, you little scallywags.

4. Renault Clio – 'Va Va Voom with Dita Von Teese'

Blimey. This is a bit different to the Papa/Nicole interface, isn’t it?

The 21st century redux of Clio advertising saw Renault roping in Marilyn Manson’s ex-wife, noted burlesque performer Dita Von Teese, to inexplicably strip and cavort inside a sort of padded cell while a bunch of peeping Toms peer through the windows.

Not into shapely ladies? Fear not, uber-heart-throb Thierry Henry keeps popping up too. But he’s fully clothed, because that’s the way advertising works.

5. Volvo V60 – 'How to Make a Sexy Car Ad'

“People want sexy car adverts? OK, let’s analyse that scientifically…”

That’s how we imagine the conversation at Volvo HQ went down.

And behold! A step-by-step guide to the nuts and bolts of how to sell cars by aiming the crosshairs at the groin, presented like an Ikea instruction manual.

Oh look, you’re now aroused by a Volvo estate.

6. Volvo – 'We’re Just as Excited as You'

 Image of risque car advert

OK, we take it all back.

Volvo were on to something with that approach. Just check out this ad they ran during the 2003 Sydney LGBT Mardi Gras. It’s making us rub our trousers like Vic Reeves.

It’s not all about sticky intertwining and mutual fumbling in dark corners, however. Sometimes, in the cold light of day, those frantic exchanges of gametes don’t seem like such a savoury notion after all, and this is something that Volkswagen has showcased twice.

Firstly with this ad, starring Paula Hamilton, from 1987.

And secondly, this one soundtracked by the effervescently irritating Bluebells, in which our protagonist finds herself in a profoundly unsexy Mk3 Golf.

See, life isn’t just shapely curves and overt sexuality. Sometimes you’re going to be horribly disappointed.

Still, the connections have been hardwired into our brains now, and ever it shall be so. You think cars are sexy, admit it. You can thank Don Draper for that.

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