Badverts - the top ten worst car adverts
It´s all very well lauding the best car adverts that the industry has to offer, but for every Honda Cog
a horribly-misjudged clunker like Citroen´s Happy Days.
Pomposity, brandspeak and sheer honest crapness are all celebrated here in a rundown of the worst car
adverts ever to grace the screens, while a couple that never made it to the screen or were subsequently banned
also feature. Do you think the way to sell a car is to feature said car decapitating a cat? No, neither did Ford.
Also watch with horror the sheer ineptitude of the 1980s car advert - 120 seconds of unrelenting tedium that
prove that nostalgia is almost always misplaced.
We´ve lined up another anonymous top-flight ad exec to critique the worst that car ads have to offer. Enjoy,
if you can, and feel free to suggest your own.
A ludicrously overblown dialogue between two men talking in David Brent-esque business-speak is
not how Mercedes viewed this advert for the new C-Class panning out.
Unfortunately for the German manufacturer that´s exactly the impression that this faintly so-bad-it´s-good
ad leaves in the mouth, despite the best effort of the Boards of Canada and some snazzy but obligatory shape-
To top it off there´s a vaguely homo-erotic flavour to the macho speak. "I´ll see your idea and raise it!"
gurgles one. "That´s the challenge, let´s do it!" rejoins the other.
All of which probably sounds fairly hollow to all the Reps sitting in their leased C-Classes on the M4 corridor.
• Watch the Mercedes C-Class advert
Vauxhall Zafira - Men Children
You can see what Vauxhall were thinking: get two pudgy Northern kids, get them to talk like grown-ups,
invoke lovable mini-Peter Kays.
Grannies everywhere will find them adorable and they´ll appeal directly to our
And it probably does. But in the meantime it´s turned these two harmless young hotpot-eating lads into
disturbingly precocious and highly-annoying man-children.
A sequel where the two Vauxhall kids discuss their marriage problems, job frustrations and sexual disfunction
is, hopefully, not on a screen near you anytime soon.
• Watch the Vauxhall Zafira advert
Mazda MX-5 - Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!
There are few who doubt the sheer driveability of the Mazda MX-5, and anyone who writes them off as a
hairdresser´s car simply hasn´t driven one.
So when you´re advertising the MX-5 you probably want some lovely shots of the miniature cabrio power-
sliding around the desert with its siblings in a symphony of dust storms and vapour trails.
So far, so good.
Why not then ruin the effect by having the worst song ever to accompany a car advert, consisting of a man
singing "Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!" over and over again.
Add in a bizarre preface where a passing public school boy whispers "Zoom! Zoom!" at the screen and you´ve
succeeded in smothering any message the ad was intended to have, as people all of the country seek out
something on which to physically vent their anger.
• Watch the Mazda MX-5 advert
In a field of adverts known for their awfulness it takes an especially debilitating effort to triumph.
Sheilas Wheels, basically a deliberate exercises in pure annoyance, it´s hard to think of any worse advert that´s
ever graced the screens.
Throw in some dubious and insulting Aussie stereotypes (this advert reportedly annoys them more than losing
to the Poms at rugby, which they do a lot), a cameo from the bloke from Neighbours and jingles that burrow into
your mind like a memorable car alarm and you have a hideously cynical assault-on-the-senses campaign.
Stock, Aitken and Waterman recently had the temerity to release a single with the three Sheilas from the
adverts. Surprisingly, and pleasingly, the single release proved that there is some justice in the world when it
failed to dent the Top 200.
• Watch the Sheila's Wheels advert
Reminding us that it´s not just modern car adverts that are awful, this astonishingly tedious and
ad seems designed to show Ford to be the most boring company in the world.
Looking partly like an episode of Bergerac and partly like a Conservative Party political broadcast, the advert
lauds Ford´s technological advances, which seem laughably primitive now, and seems solely aimed at people who
are astonishingly well off as it pictures people emerging from country houses, Edwardian terraces and fancy
As self-satisfied smugfests go, this one is close to the top. You´ll want to go and kick a Fiesta after watching
• Watch the80's Ford advert
• Watch the Kia cee'd advert
Rover Metro - Joan Collins
Anyone searching for answer as to the demise of the British car industry need look no further than this
painfully middle-class Rover Metro advert, which sees an ageing Joan Collins supposedly driving the
aformentioned crap car around some cliff-tops and pulling some funny faces while she thinks about being in
At a time when Rover should have been doing its level best to paint itself as a modern company, or at least a
company that wasn´t rooted in the 50s, what on Earth made them think that showing a posh snob driving their
product around, and appearing to be on the verge of dissing it, was a good idea?
There´s nothing remotely offensive in this, and the pay-off is quite amusing, but watching it now everything
becomes so painfully clear.
Citroen C3 Happy Days
Appalling mash-up of CGI from Happy Days which seems to bear no relation whatsoever to the product -
Citroen C3 city car.
The CGI itself is terrible, giving the Happy Days characters a slightly unnerving unreality, and the actual
product - the C3 - is lost in a haze of expensive but jarring SFX and confused messages.
A voiceover was later added, proclaiming the C3 to be "Great value-amundo," a phrase utterly bereft of
meaning or connection with Happy Days, in which none of the characters spouted any such dialogue.
Presumably designed simply to annoy people, it´s possible to pinpoint this very moment as the point where
car adverts jumped the shark.
Ron Howard refused permission for his image to be used. Good for him.
• Watch the Citroen C3 Happy Days advert
The Prisoner - Renault 21
An advert that´s hard to fault in nearly every single way - apart from the terrible car the ad´s actually
The Renault 21 was a notorious duffer and - astonishingly - even looks rubbish in this advert, filmised gloss
Taking some not inconsiderable cues from classic sixties TV show The Prisoner, the notion that you could only
escape Number 1´s fiendish clutches - bouncy Rovers and all - by driving one of these sheds is almost insulting.
Adverts have to be extremely careful in invoking fondly-remembered TV shows. Ford painted Steve McQueen
into a Ford Puma years ago in an advert that was well received.
This effort serves only to sully the original in the minds of fans, and it probably didn´t sell many cars either.
Watch the Renault 21 Prisoner advert
Bit tricky, this one. Put it on a Carrott´s Commercial Breakdown-style clip show and it would get gales of
However, stick it in TV as a genuine attempt to sell a car and you´re apparently advertising a vehicle
that deliberately kills animals, which is perhaps not great PR.
Unsurprisingly this ad never made it to the screens and Ford went to great efforts to distance themselves
the adverts, while ad agency Ogilvy protested that the adverts were simply the work of a janitor who must have
made the ads in his spare time, or something.
• Watch the Banned Ford Streetka advert
Toyota was hit with a one-two punch by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) when this advert and
ad for the Lexus RX400h were rapped for being misleading.
The ASA ruled that none of the cars with 1.5-litre engines that Toyota compare the Prius with ´emitted one
CO2 than the Prius in response to Toyota´s claim that the Prius emissions were superior to ´an equivalent
family vehicle with a diesel engine´.
Still, that´s nothing compared to how toe-curlingly twee the advert is, with its claims of a ´bluer sky´ and
´brighter today´, if only you´ll buy a car that pollutes less than other cars.
• Watch the Toyota Prius advert
Over to you
Got any better suggestions? Actually believe that Sheila´s Wheels ad is good, in some painfully post-modern
way? Or do you quite like the iffy humour of the Ford Streetka ads?
Let us know below. You won´t win anything, but you´ll get something that annoys you off your chest.