03.15.2012 - by Richard Kelly
If You Can’t Plug Your Car In…

Chevy’s advertising for the Volt has confounded many. Whether they’re playing to people’s fears, or using apologetic marketing, as in the “More Car Than Electric” campaign, fans of plug-ins have never quite been sure if GM is just tone-deaf, or if they’ve re-hired the same marketing department that produced the infamous “creepy” EV1 ads

Sometimes the commercial messaging isn’t so nefarious, but it just comes across as half-hearted. A couple of weeks ago, I heard a spot on NPR that highlighted only one of the car’s virtues, the impressive number of airbags (I think it was eight). No mention at all of the Volt being a plug-in.

Jeff U’Ren, who previously co-wrote and co-produced Plug In America’s PSA spots, was eagerly awaiting Chevy’s YouTube Volt Owners’ testimonials. When he saw them, however, he was underwhelmed. Why? Jeff says, “They never mentioned the damn plug.”

So Jeff was inspired to record his own testimonial.

When Plug In America saw Jeff’s video, we all thought it was a winner.

I asked a few colleagues about what needs to change in plug-in car messaging. Colby Trudeau liked the “day in the life” aspect of Jeff’s video, saying “plug-in advertising needs to show how EVs work for real people in the real world. Plugging your car in shouldn’t be depicted as a fantasy, but something that is a reality for many people today.”

Alexandra Paul says “What is great about Jeff’s video is that he shows how day-to-day a plug-in car is entirely practical – wonderful, actually! One thing missing from current Leaf and Volt advertising is that down to earth daily snapshot of how your average driver lives with an EV.”

Jeff says these are the important points to touch on when talking about plug-ins.

  1. Plug-ins are fun. Show people having fun in the car. Show it driving!
  2. We don’t call them plug-ins for nothing. Show the plug. Show it working! Say why it’s so great that it has a plug.

We need more plug-in car commercials that show people having a blast. Driving by gas stations and laughing.

It’s been almost 6 years since “Who Killed the Electric Car?” where David Freeman, an energy adviser in the Carter administration, complained “We never saw a TV ad with an electric car scampering up a hill with a good-looking man or woman draped across it. That’s how they sell cars.”

How much longer do we have to wait, Madison Avenue?

In the meantime, our press department is sending Jeff’s video to every journalist we know. Please do the same. Share the video and get the word out.

What would you like to see in plug-in advertising? Leave a comment below.

5 comments on “If You Can’t Plug Your Car In…”
  1. Brian says:

    ‘Jeff U’Ren, who previously co-wrote and co-produced Plug In America’s PSA spots, was eagerly awaiting Chevy’s YouTube Volt Owners’ testimonials. When he saw them, however, he was underwhelmed. Why? Jeff says, “They never mentioned the damn plug.”‘

    I happen to be good friends with one of those who gave a testimonial. In their defense, he was specifically told not to talk about these things (plugging in, not using gas, even the thrill of instant torque!). It really is a shame. These thrilled owners couldn’t talk about the real reasons the Volt is the most loved car ever!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very effective and very nice ad. I loved it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Stop waiting for the establishment to do something and do what this plug-in owner did. Take that YouTube ad, make many more like it, and buy air time with it. Get people asking questions, get people curious, and have intelligent people on hand to ANSWER those questions. This is the 21st century, for goodness’ sake – do you really expect 20th century advertising executives with 20th century mentalities to effectively deliver the right message?

  4. Anonymous says:

    In America, cars mean one thing more than anything else to many young people. So how about an ad showing young people sneaking unnoticed into a quiet place to “make out”? Kinda rules out the Volt with that back seat. Maybe the Leaf or the Think with the seats all the way down? (I actually got the idea from a Norwegian YouTube video about the Think.)

    1. Anonymous says:

      LOL! I love my Think, and that full-glass back hatch! I can just imagine it steaming up as the camera slowly pans away….

      Love the ad…When I sing the praises of my EV, I try to stress the cost savings, since the neocons in my area (Indiana) don’t care about the environment, and tell me how much my electricity is hurting the environment and how I’m going to ‘crash the grid’….but even they are feeling the $4 gas prices.

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