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Women In The Driving Seat

In a world where women account for half the driving population, and are key decision makers in most new car purchases, automotive advertising is still largely dominated by stereotypical, male oriented brand communication manifestations that ignore much of today’s gender related mores and societal actualities.

Women have in the main, been relegated to the back seat of automotive target market focus. Car manufacturers and marketers have been very slow in proportioning their brand promotion expenditures democratically to address contemporary, sociographic, and gender discrimination imbalances.

Driving Aspirations

However, as evidenced by the featured commercials, there are encouraging signs that car brands are beginning to actively redress the lack of aspirational insights past advertising communication has had for women.

The huge interest shown by female viewers in Charlize Theron’s role in ‘The Italian Job’ as a cool, confident and highly skilled driver of a red Mini-Cooper, does seem to have helped quicken the pace of car brands featuring women in the driving seat of their commercials.

Furthermore, public and social media interest in upcoming racing drivers like young Jamie Chadwick, are bound to accelerate relevant, and motivating representations of women in scenarios promoting automotive brands.

1. Charlize Theron, The Italian Job Metro Escapade

The 2003 Paramount Pictures, American remake of the 1969 British film ‘The Italian Job’, is a gold heist, action thriller directed by F. Gary Gray starring Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron and Jason Statham,

Filmed on location in Venice and Los Angeles, the Los Angeles chase sequences are widely regarded by movie buffs as being amongst the top 10 feature film car chases of the 21st Century.

2. Jamie Chadwick, Formula One’s Female Hope

Tipped as a potential F1 star of the future, the 2019, inaugural W Series Drivers’ Championship, was won by 19-year-old Jamie Chadwick from Bath in England who, in another noteworthy achievement, joined the Williams Grand Prix Engineering Team as a Development Driver in the same year.

The W Series is an all-female, single-seater racing championship featuring twenty drivers. The contest series of six European races, was launched in 2018 as a response to the lack of female drivers progressing to the highest levels of motorsport, particularly Formula 1; no woman has raced in a Formula One Grand Prix since the 1970’s.

3. Jamie Chadwick, The Alternative Chinese Grand Prix

With the 2020 Chinese Grand Prix being postponed, Williams Racing decided to put their Academy drivers Jamie Chadwick, Roy Nissany, Dan Ticktum, and Jack Aitken, to the test with an ‘Alternative Formula One, Chinese Grand Prix Challenge’.

The highly competitive and engaging social camaraderie generated by the Williams Esports activation offset some of the disappointment felt by all with the postponement of the Chinese Grand Prix.

4. Audi E-Tron Sportback, Let It Go

Advertising Agency: 72andSunny, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The 2020 ‘Let It Go’ Audi Super Bowl commercial, directed by François Rousselet, features ‘Game of Thrones’ actress and climate change activist, Maisie Williams, in the driving seat of an E-Tron Sportback, singing ‘Let It Go’ from the soundtrack of the hugely popular movie from the Walt Disney Studios titled ‘Frozen’.

Recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London, Maisie’s new version of ‘Let It Go’ serves as a perfect, Audi anthem, for underscoring their corporate drive for a more sustainable future by ‘letting go’ of fossil fuel dependencies, and moving towards the introduction of 30, new electric powered Audi models by 2025.

5. Toyota Highlander, Heroes

Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles

Film Director: Trent Opalach

Toyota’s action-packed 2020 Super Bowl commercial stars Canadian model and actress Cobie Smulders, as a superhero-mom driving a Highlander to rescue victims of various movie-genre dramas.

The filmic story ends with an amusing twist and plays out against a soundtrack of “Love is the Reason” by Jerry Burnham and Raun Burnham.

6. Audi Drive-Progress, Daughter

Advertising Agency: Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco, USA

Directed by Aoife McArdle, the 2017 Audi Super Bowl commercial about a Dad and his go-cart racing daughter, very boldly took on the topical and highly controversial issue of pay equality.

In a ‘voice-over’ by Peter Jessop, the father’s forthright questions about whether his daughter will automatically be valued as less than every man she meets, were widely praised, and in almost equal measure, also criticised.

Loren Angelo, VP of marketing at Audi of America explained the progressive rationale behind the much debated commercial:

“Pay equality is a big message for a big stage. As a business built on bold innovation, progress is at the heart of what we do. We’re a brand that’s ahead of the curve and looking toward the future of the next generation of buyers”.

“Audi is well aware that almost half of Super Bowl viewers are women, and women are decision makers, and buyers of cars themselves, so why not support them?”

7. Nissan Rogue, Battle Tested

Advertising Agency: TBWA Chiat Day, Los Angeles, California, USA

This epic Nissan Rogue commercial saw Sebastian Strasser taking home a Cannes Gold Lion for Cinamatograhy, and a Cannes Gold Lion for Direction.

The self-assurance of a cool headed woman driver, navigating her way through the chaotic onslaught of a simulated Star Wars battle, is highly cinematic and entertaining.

8. Toyota Kluger, Desire

Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Sydney, Australia

Toyota’s Kluger, also known as the Highlander, is a mid-size crossover SUV. Directed by Tim Bullock, the commercial is based on the consumer insight that women SUV drivers often outnumber that of men.

The story at first seems like an automotive cliché of an attractive woman driving an attention getting new SUV model. The mould-breaking twist in the story however, very effectively communicates the Kluger’s selling line of memorable appeal; “Built for families. Designed for attention.”

9. Audi, Ever After

Advertising Agency: Proximity, Barcelona, Spain

Animation Studio: post23, Barcelona, Spain

French born, Audi Factory Team Driver, Michèle Mouton at the age of 30 became the first woman to win a World Rally Championship.

She recalled that because she was the youngest contestant, the only woman taking part, and it was her first participation in the World Rally Championship, nobody expected her to win.

Audi Spain paid tribute to her in 2017 with a live action and animated short film by Film Director Fernando Trullois and Animation Director Jordi García.

The insightful message of the commercial is about the influence of gender stereotypes in the choices parents make in selecting Christmas gifts for their daughters.

The story features an action doll inspired heroine in a fairy tale with a twist. Michèle described it as the story of her life. The short film appeared on Audi Spain’s YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter Instagram, Movistar and in over 90 Spanish cinemas.

10. BMW: Aurora Straus, Power Has Come A Long Way

Advertising Agency: Serviceplan, New York, USA

At the age of 19, musician and current Ivy-League Student Aurora Straus from Cold Spring, New York, made headlines as the first female in North America to become a professional sports car diver while still in her teens.

The ‘Power Has Come A Long Way’ commercial, by Cinematographer Rachel Morrison and directed by Rachel McDonald, produced last year to celebrate International Women’s Day.

The short story centers on Aurora’s acceptance to Harvard, her #GirlsWithDrive initiative, and balancing her studies and sports car racing activities.

On the online portal of ‘The Harvard Gazette’, Aurora described what driving for the BMW and BimmerWorld Racing team means for her:

“Part of the joy is in the competition. Most pro drivers are within a tenth of second from each other, so I’m constantly learning about pushing those limits and sometimes passing them. Can I break late or can I take this turn a little e faster? You can never stop improving, and that’s dynamic.”

11. BMW: Aurora Straus Has Drive

The video by Editor, Director and Cinematographer, Ned Brown, and Photographer and Video Producer Justin Saglio of Harvard University, reveals the multiple challenges Aurora has embraced in her inspiring ‘drive’ to succeed in the predominantly male world of sports car racing.

“Two percent of racing is getting behind the wheel. Ninety-eight percent is raising money with sponsors, testing the car, signing with a team,” she said. “It’s all time-consuming. It’s thousands of hours of work for a race that at any point could go badly. In racing, you don’t have the privilege to try things twice. You have one option and the stakes are extremely high. If you do badly, you’ve wasted tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Aurora’s ‘Girls With Drive’ non–profit, interactive website and personal appearances, focuses on helping girls and young women get involved in male-dominated industries that includes the business side of the automotive industry.