Vauxhall's electric car ad urges nation to embrace 'new rules Britannia'

Automotive brands are finding their voice in the brave new world of electric cars in this month's Adwatch.

I recently visited the V&A exhibition Cars: Accelerating the Modern World to see in one hour the evolution of cars. From the discovery of speed and the secrets of aerodynamics to their use by sci-fi writers as a way to divine the future and the car as status symbol for the well-off and Lemons for the less well-off.  At the end of the exhibition, we also see a glimpse of the future of cars: automated, airborne, connected and electrified.

It’s into this brave new world of electric that the established automotive brands are currently positioning themselves on the big screen. It’s fascinating to see how they use the opportunity to launch into an emerging category, where they have the infrequent chance to share genuine new news, drive penetration and set their brand for the future.

Rational arguments may stack up and make sense on paper, but potential buyers still need to be moved emotionally and feel the desire to take the plunge and invest. 

We’ve seen BMW offering a bold decision to launch us into the future in its i3 and Audi using celebrity and song in the US to encourage us to let it go and stop hanging on to the past with the e-tron. 

Now we have Vauxhall in a highly confident, bombastic ad that orders drivers to "switch it up" in announcing to Britain the arrival of its Corsa-e. It’s dramatically depicted, designed to evoke feeling and give stature to the launch.

A series of vignettes depicting ticking clocks, a graveyard for petrol pumps complete with mourning oilman, an athletic runner approaching a mountain struck by lightning synchronised cars and a tyre tripping dominoes feel designed to be atomised, spliced, remixed and retargeted in a series of quickly recognisable metaphoric scenes.

The work is immediate and confident, and clearly signals that this is Vauxhall’s foray into electric, managing to tick the boxes of range and drivability. However, while each individual message could work as a short prompt in itself, telling us it’s time to seek a new perspective, forget about the past, drive on your terms with new rules Britannia, it is debatable whether the ad is ever more than the sum of its parts.

Neil Godber is joint head of planning at Wunderman Thompson UK