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Advertising and British Car Industry

Stephen Hill | Tuesday July 07, 2009

Categories: Advertising, More on Advertising, Other Topics

Comparing British Leyland in the 1970s and Vauxhall in 2000s.

The British Leyland 18 –22 and the Vauxhall VXR Campaign

In this article I will discuss how the messages and values encoded in advertising for the British car industry have changed over time. The campaigns I will focus on are the 1975 launch of the British Leyland 18-22 (commonly referred to as the Austin Princess) and Vauxhall’s more recent VXR FHM Sports Driver of the Year

Both campaigns are very much of their time. On the one hand, the BL18-22 campaign utilises traditional print and television media. On the other hand, the VXR campaign is an example of synergised multi platform branding. Unsurprisingly the messages and values encoded in each campaign are very different and of course the British Leyland campaign seems very dated. However, textual analysis reveals the newer VXR campaign to be somewhat less sophisticated in the construction of the text than at first it might appear.

British Leyland – 18-22 (1975)

On the surface the advertising campaign for the BL 18-22 seems extremely dated, not simply because it utilised only print and moving image advertising, but because it rehearses some very antiquated ideas about class and aspiration. Arguably the central problem with the marketing campaign is that it fails to understand the product.

Though the car was a British car aimed at a family market, it was actually designed in Italy and introduced a ‘wedge shape’ that was radically different to the model it replaced. Instead of playing up to these two strengths, the BL campaign tried to market the ‘British-ness’ of the car: manufacturing a veneer of brand aspiration with the catch phrase ‘it’s a Leyland like the Jaguar’.

‘Badge Engineering’ and ‘Not The Car For Mr Average’

Another major problem for British Leyland in the 1970s was the confusion created by ‘badge engineering’. Instead of working on a single strong brand, the...


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