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Robin can quip with the execution (try reading his article while listening to Yvonne Fair, "It should have been me"), but there's no denying this is an absolutely extraordinary ad. I'm convinced that the auto industry's strategy has for too long been dominated - indeed derailed - by the next sales quarter, by the need to mass produce whatever it can get away with, and the result has now come home to roost - commercial disaster for almost the entire industry.

Getting car rental companies to put EVs into their fleets isn't the point here at all, Joe. Project Better Place has found a much (ahem) better way to guarantee (place?) large fleet-sized orders with Renault - actually super-fleet-sized purchasing commitments for entire countries, starting with Israel and Denmark. These are deals where the emphasis is on as-soon-as-possible. Car rental companies don't specialise in giving customers what they want. They specialise in giving customers what they can get away with. At best the rental firms would ask for 80% diesel Renaults, and 20% EVs. It's a non-starter.

There's a tremendous amount of politics and tension at play behind the scenes here. Renault is suffering today because its sales people won a political battle some years ago with its designers, which dumbed down the product range to the lowest common denominator - cars that offend noone. It's widely recognised that this move failed, so I think Carlos Ghosn and his team have some maneuvering room before the sales guys win round 2. The other factor here is that almost everyone else in the car industry has been wrong-footed by Renault grabbing a strategic technology lead - arguably two or three years lead - because of its partnership with Project Better Place.

Sometimes people have to decide what they stand for. I think this is one of those moments. Personally I don't care about car salesmen. I care about cars. I want them to have a future, something I've been arguing for some time -

I think Renault deserves enormous respect for building a real, tangible strategy that contains political, technological and financial elements that from where I'm standing look like they really can stand up.

I remember Joe Paluska from Project Better Place talking to me two years ago about the need to "condition the market", so it's ready for electric vehicles. This is what Renault is trying to do. It needs to happen. That the firm has committed mega bucks to doing it via TV advertising is a major result for everyone who cares about the future of the car.

And for what it's worth, I like the ad. When I watch it, it makes me stop and smile. And think "Wow! Maybe we're getting somewhere."

p.s. Robin doesn't like Keane. I know because he told me on Twitter. That may be a contributing factor in his analysis, too.

Robin Brown

No argument from me that this is a bold and laudable move, nor that there is a required strategy for alerting the public to it and trying to shift mindsets accordingly. Just that the execution is terrible.

Because I don't think that advert will do anything of the sort. I think it will hit every advertising filter that viewers have hardwired into their heads these days - because it's like lots of adverts that have gone before.

And the fact that it's almost flagging it up with its choice of soundtrack just makes it that much worse.

As it goes, I think most of Renault's ads are awful. The only decent ones have been the Cantona one for the and the one for the Renaultsport R26 Megane.

Whoever is doing Renault's adverts isn't doing them justice, certainly when it comes to something as important as this.


Clearly, the elephant in the room in this piece - as you point out Mark - is that Renault's current range isn't really up to scratch. The clio's been hit with an ugly stick, the Megane looks like a Korean Astra and the Laguna's just generally not a very good car... which is perhaps why their sales have fallen off a cliff.

But as Robin says, I just don't think that this advertising series is particularly good. When you compare it to extremely sophisticated, aluring adverts from the likes of VW and Honda, it doesn't come up to scratch for me. Worse, I genuinely think it patronises people, and that the majority of people will just read it as (for want of a better word), guff. Certainly the response to it on twitter has been overwhelmingly negative.

Better Place is one model, and all credit to Renault for the foresight in partnering with them - but it won't work everywhere or for everyone.

Ultimately though, my point is this: most people right now *think* that they need - and want - to own a car. And right now, most people's perception of the electric car is that it's slow and limited in range. These people might be wrong - but it's the average man in the street's view. My worry for Renault - and others - is that they can build electric cars all they want, but how do they truly win over hearts and minds, how do they convince people that driving/buying an electric car is a good idea?

I worry that if you simply leave it to 'traditional' media advertising, and the general public walking into dealerships, the electric car revolution could peter out before it's even got started. When you consider that a recent survey suggested that 78% of people in the UK could think of "nothing cool" about an electric car, and that knowledgable guys like Darryl Siry have criticised the likes of Nissan for overstating the range claims (in the real world) of the Leaf, I think there's a danger we're all sleep walking our way to thinking people will just jump into electric cars happy as Larry. They won't. They need to hear from their friends about how cool they are, and drive one themselves to feel the benefits. I think Nissan and Hertz's plan is one (albeit fairly small) element in helping to achieve this.

Robin Brown

Yeah, Joe said what I wanted to say, only better.

If ever an automotive product leant itself to something sexy, cool and new - and not just the same stodgy old nonsense - it's electric cars. That Renault ad is like being smothered with an organic hemp pillow.

It doesn't even have to be sexy, cool and new. It could be plain and simple. Ghosn sitting on the bonnet of one of the cars, just chucking out some stats, getting over some simple facts.

To be fair it can't be easy advertising a product you won't have on the market for another two years, but I'm adamant that the TV advert in question is emphatically not the way to do it.

Oh, and I meant the Laguna ad in my comment above.


My view is that you need to create intimate, close-quarter moments in time as compelling as scenes from your favorite movies or rock concerts to support broader campaigns.

There's a reason why we all applauded during the final scene of Star Wars when they were awarded medals. The film's heroes overcame enormous odds to save the universe, and the viewer was part of it.

There's a reason why we'll stand in the freezing cold to scalp a ticket to see Silversun Pickups in London. You can still get within 10 feet of the world's best rock group and feel part of their community.

Similarly, we need to create standing-room-only metro marketing, not mass marketing, opportunities for keeping consumers excited about EVs long before they hit the roads in scale, and be able to share -- and hold -- that excitement with their friends before the cars hit the road.

Sam Burnett

The advert does strike you as being more about the fact that they've got nothing else to advertise about the company, but you'd expect if they were going to push the environmental thing that they would have finished cars to do it with. Surely advertising should be more about a product you can buy than something you can get in a few years? What are they asking us to do?

I could imagine Honda or Toyota being able to get away with an advert like that if they had the Prius and Insight leading to the EV concepts, but it doesn't quite ring for Renault. With mere concepts it just reeks of greenwash.

I think advertising campaigns need to be part of a bigger narrative - you can't go from Papa/Nicole, Shakin' that ass and we live in modern times straight to a lefty green fancy ideals sort of advert.

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