The 12 most memorable TV car adverts ever created

Car companies spend big money on advertising, so it makes sense that certain adverts stick in our minds. The best ones feature cake, cogs, chickens, ballerinas, Darth Vader, dancing robots, Steve McQueen and a fictional French family.

There have been some fantastic and strange car adverts throughout the years. So we’ve rounded up 12 of the most memorable and entertaining car ads of all time.

1. Honda Accord – Cog

Honda’s stunning Cog advert makes every list of great car ads and has won a record number of awards. It starts simply a cog rolling into another cog, setting off a chain reaction where a series of car parts knock, bump and fall into each other, passing the movement along for two full minutes until a new generation Accord rolls gently off a platform.

The Cog’s production is epic, having taken months to plan and test, and two painstaking days to film the sequence. If an object was even a fraction of an inch out of place, the motion stopped and had to be restarted. 

2. ŠKODA Fabia – Cake

Before the Bake Off came along, ŠKODA were making cakes cool by building a life-size car out of sweet treats. Their 2007 Cake advert shows a team of professional bakers making and assembling a cake Fabia to the tune of ‘My Favourite Things’ sung by Julie Andrews, from the Sound of Music.

They stick sponges together with icing and add details like jelly lights, rice Krispie door panels and biscuit engine cogs. The whole thing is then covered in orange fondant as the team stand around their creation. The charming advert did plenty to change misconceptions about the ŠKODA brand and celebrate the craft behind the car. 

3. Audi RS 3 - Birth

This memorable, if somewhat strange, advert shows the Audi RS 3 being born. And by that we mean actually emerging from the rear end of another car.

The clip shows a black Audi R8 with its body panels opening up as the engine revs painfully. Slowly, a red RS 3 emerges from the end.

The advert tends to divide people into those who think it’s weird, and those who think it’s a clever re-imagining of how cars are made. But there is no denying that it’s memorable.

4. Saab 900 – Nothing on Earth Comes Close

This iconic 1985 advert for the Saab 900 Turbo was directed by Tony Scott. Its success and distinctive style convinced the producers to hire him to direct Top Gun, which became one of the highest grossing films in the 1980s and made a household name of leading man Tom Cruise.

The slick advert uses parallel cuts between footage of the car and a fighter jet to show their similarities. And many of the elements here also appear in Top Gun, including the slow-motion walking and aviation theme.

5. Ford Puma – Steve McQueen 

When Ford launched their sporty coupé Puma in 1997, they needed an iconic figure to promote it. Steve McQueen was the obvious choice, but the big flaw in that plan was that he had died years before.

Undeterred, Ford took footage of him driving in his cult film Bullitt and mixed it with shots of the new Puma, creating the illusion that he was taking the new car out for a spin.

6. Renault Clio – Papa and Nicole 

This memorable series of car adverts follows the escapades of Nicole and her papa and their complicated love lives. Each advert featured the characters addressing each other with the simple dialogue “Nicole!”, “Papa!”

Renault’s Papa and Nicole adverts ran for seven years throughout the 1990s and garnered huge public interest in their story and who Nicole was to marry. In 1998, an estimated 23 million people watched the finale spoof of The Graduate, as Nicole abandoned Vic Reeves at the altar to run off with Bob Mortimer in his new Clio.

7. Volkswagen Golf – Changes

​This classic 1987 car advert features model Paula Hamilton, directed by David Bailey, the fashion photographer who discovered her. The film shows her, made up to resemble Princess Diana, leaving her husband by posting her wedding ring back through the door.

As she walks, she throws away all her luxuries, from the pearl necklace to the fur coat. But she keeps the keys to the Volkswagen Golf, as the voiceover muses: “If only everything in life was as reliable as a Volkswagen”.

8. Lexus IS - Poise

This sleek Lexus ad shows simplicity at its finest. The beautiful footage depicts English National Ballet’s prima ballerina Tamara Rojo as she pirouettes and leaps around, interspersed with shots of the IS.

But the big difference is the soundtrack. There’s no classical music here – the punchy baseline comes from Stephen Kozmeniuk’s track Step Up.

9. Volkswagen Passat – The Force

The Force is loved by big kids and little kids alike as it taps into the Star Wars films. A small child dressed as Darth Vader attempts to use ‘the force’ to move various objects around the family home without success, including a bored-looking pet dog.

Then his father parks the new VW Passat in the driveway, and mini Darth Vader heads out to try his powers. To his surprise, the engine roars to life under the power of his hands… tot really – Dad is turning it on with the key from the kitchen. But the warmth and humour, as well as the iconic film score in the background, have made this one of VW’s most iconic adverts. 

10. Honda – Hands

This genius car advert starts with a pair of hands and a single nut. “Let’s see what curiosity can do” says the voiceover. Then the hands twist and turn, changing the nut into an engine, the engine into a motorbike.

From there the video runs through Honda’s incredible history of engineering, with the nut morphing into bikes, boats, planes, lawnmowers, rally cars and robots. And not forgetting the stunning Honda Civic and Jazz cars, of course.

11. Mercedes-Benz – Chicken

Mercedes-Benz’s slightly strange advert uses two features that we think should be in every advert: chickens and Diana Ross. The advert demonstrates the brand’s Magic Body Control features, which make driving their cars more comfortable.

It begins with two hands in white gloves holding a chicken aloft. Then the hands begin to move the chicken’s body around in all directions, while its head remains perfectly still. Interestingly, there’s no CGI here – chickens really do hold their heads still like that. 

12. Citroen C4 – Transformers robot dancing car

This fun car advert from 2005 shows the Citroen C4 breaking out dance moves in an empty car park. The car is ‘alive with technology’ as it turns into a Transformers-style robot and begins dancing around.

The clever CGI and catchy song (Jacques Your Body by Les Rythmes Digitales) make it a memorable advert.

Which advert is your favourite? Have we missed any brilliant ads off our list? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!