November 14th 2016

What Self-Driving Cars Could Mean for Auto Advertising.

Posted by Will Shadbolt

With advances in technology and Google’s driverless vehicles, it looks like mass-produced self-driving cars could be right around the corner. Ford and BMW plan to release a completely autonomous car by 2021. Tesla, meanwhile, will start equipping its vehicles with hardware that when switched on will activate fully autonomous driving. These features, however, won’t be accessible to drivers until testing has been completed. The company aims to hold a demonstration before the end of 2017.

While this raises all kinds of questions about production, safety and more, it could also have unexpected consequences: how does an advertiser market a self-driving car? What factors are there to consider?

Mazda says that, “Driving Matters.” Advertisers love to show vehicles in the rugged outdoors. But are these still relevant if people aren’t the ones behind the wheel? One possibility is that marketers will shift away from emphasizing the joy and freedom a vehicle provides and focus on how a self-driving car would allow people to work on their commutes or more easily talk with their family while traveling. Elderly and disabled people who cannot currently drive would also become potential customers. In addition, the machinery could open doors for selling vehicle fleets to companies like Lyft and Uber.

Still, marketers need to also consider that not all consumers are excited about self-driving cars. A survey done in September by Kelley Blue Book found that 30% of Americans say they would never purchase a completely driverless vehicle, while 19% would purchase one only if there was no other option. Trust is also a large issue. Though some are optimistic about gradual public acceptance, others speculate that it could just take one bad accident to erode confidence in the technology.

On the manufacturing end, one option for getting around this is putting a switch into the vehicle so drivers can choose when and when not to drive. Another is to add in different levels of autonomous driving. Some vehicles currently available already have features that don’t rely on drivers, like cruise control or correcting lane drift. Focusing on these could help marketers walk a tightrope between appealing to both those who want to be chauffeured and those who want to feel the exhilaration of driving, while alienating neither.

So, while it is unclear exactly what the future holds for driverless cars, it seems likely that they will become available for commercial use but won’t take over the market. People enjoy driving too much to give it up completely. As a result, marketers will probably not have completely to rewrite the book on automotive advertising. Although some taglines may have to be rewritten and some campaigns will inevitably focus mainly on the ease and comfort of a driverless car, advertisers won’t have to rethink the tried and true. And, no matter what direction the future of the automotive industry goes in, Giovatto Advertising will be ready. With over 27 years of experience in automotive advertising, we’ve seen trends come and go and are prepared for anything, even driverless cars. We know how to create ads that last and get your business the attention it deserves and promise results within three months, so don’t wait! Contact us today. 

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