Guest commentary: Leave legacy stereotypes in auto ads in the past

Guest commentary: Leave legacy stereotypes in auto ads in the past

Mainstream car culture has been a part of the American adventure since the post-World War II era. A shift in manufacturing from war-related products to consumer goods, the rise of the suburbs and national highway systems, and the start of the Space Age all led to exponential growth in the number of vehicles on the road and the iconic pastel and chrome bodies that came to define an era.

That flashy car persona has endured the test of time. Even a quick glance at the modern automotive ad makes it apparent that consumers aren’t simply being sold a vehicle to take them from point A to B, but are being brought along for the ride on an aspirational journey and lifestyle experience.

While exciting and colorful, legacy auto ads are known to perpetuate long-standing stereotypes that have touched most industries over the last century. An analysis of the most popular visuals selected by Getty Images’ automotive customers reveals that men are 8 percent more likely to be depicted than women, and when a heterosexual nuclear family unit is shown, the man is driving 92 percent of the time — despite the fact that American women are slightly more likely than men to be licensed drivers.

The analysis also reveals gaps beyond gender. Less than 1 percent of all visuals selected by auto customers show LGBTQ+ families or individuals driving, road-tripping or tailgating. And while the number of visuals showing Black people have doubled since 2019, just 4 percent show Latinx or Asian people, despite the Latinx community making up 18 percent of the U.S. population and the Asian community making up 7 percent. Fewer than 1 percent of visuals show people with disabilities driving.

The rise of the mainstream electric vehicle — one of the most significant paradigm shifts in the automotive space — is an opportunity for the industry to take a fresh look at how it’s connecting with audiences in a way that resonates with what consumers want now. Today’s consumers are looking for a visual landscape that upends common myths and stereotyping around cars and car culture.

There is still work to be done in this space.

For Super Bowl events in recent years, EV advertisements incorporated classic signifiers of American car culture, seemingly wanting to continue to reassure consumers that EVs and white masculinity go together — such as BMW’s “Zeus & Hera” spot and Kia’s “Binky Dad” — but they don’t reflect real consumer sentiment around barriers to EV adoption. Consumer data from Axios shows that the biggest barrier to acquiring an EV isn’t concern that the vehicles aren’t masculine enough — it’s the difficulty of finding conveniently located EV chargers.

Moving beyond type and casting more diversely, such as what we saw in Ram’s “Premature Electrification” and Jeep’s “Electric Boogie” Super Bowl spots this year, today’s marketing efforts are still limited by stereotype and novelty. In the case of the Ram campaign, the sexual innuendo points back to masculinity, while the Jeep ad, depicting friends lost in a jungle and charging their EV atop a mountain, is really out of reach for the average consumer.

American car ads have long relied on constructing the ultimate fantasy, but because EVs themselves remain somewhat of a novelty, it would make more sense to target them to the consumers who are actually interested in them.

2022 saw a threefold increase over 2019 in the use of EV-related visuals by Getty Images’ auto customers. In that same vein, searches for “electric vehicle” rose by 28 percent overall from 2021 to 2022, while searches for “electric vehicle charging” and similar terms increased by 50 percent, indicating that the next wave of EV imagery will focus even more on the practicality of keeping vehicles going. These are all promising trends, but sustained change is still needed from auto brands.

A look at the data measuring potential interest in EV ownership reveals that the picture is becoming increasingly diverse. Consumer Reports found that 52 percent of Asian Americans, 43 percent of Latinx Americans, 38 percent of Black Americans and 33 percent of white Americans would strongly consider purchasing or leasing an EV as their next vehicle. According to YouGov, almost half of Americans are interested in buying an EV or hybrid vehicle, and of those, 40 percent are ages 18 to 34. Younger, climate-conscious generations are the most likely to say they would consider an EV or hybrid.

As automakers embrace these new realities in a quickly changing and increasingly competitive landscape, this is the opportunity to reimagine a visual strategy that resonates with and reflects the values of the next generation of mainstream EV adopters. Authentic and inclusive visual storytelling — free from stereotypes and outdated tropes — not only helps brands connect with their audiences beyond humorous clips, but creates a lasting relationship and an affinity with an ever-knowledgeable and passionate consumer interested in doing business with the companies that represent their own realistic lifestyle.

Zaļā Josta - Reklāma
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