5 of the best automotive campaigns that won in 2021, featuring Harley-Davidson and Ford

As part of our Best of 2021 series, our journalists have been picking out their favorite award-winning work of the year.

Throughout the festive season, we’ll be looking back through the winners from our 2021 global awards program, which includes The Drum Awards for Marketing, The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries, The Drum Awards for B2B and more.

Here, we round up some of the best campaigns to win in The Drum Awards’ automotive and transportation categories, from Toyota and LadBible’s star-studded virtual road trip activation to Ford’s ‘Emoji Jacket’ and more.

Toyota ‘Fantasy Road Trip’ by LadBible Group

Toyota tapped popular entertainment-focused publisher LadBible to help make the Toyota Yaris cool again. In an effort to get consumers to stop thinking of the Yaris as a 16-year-old’s dinky first car and start seeing it as a sleek, high-tech and energy-efficient vehicle for Millennial and gen Z drivers, LadBible found a way to reintroduce the car while addressing young consumers’ hunger for travel (in its proprietary research, LadBible found that 66% of its audience said they would ‘definitely or maybe’ book a vacation when Covid restrictions loosen).

With limited options for real travel during the pandemic, LadBible created the first-ever car treadmill, placed the NG Yaris on top and wrapped the whole thing with 13-foot high walls of LCD screens. Then, it invited celebrities on immersive virtual reality road trips to prove that the Yaris is the ideal car for bringing consumers’ dream road trips to life. The campaign won the automotive and transport category at The Drum Awards for Social Media.

Pfaff Harley-Davidson ‘Tough Turban’ by Zulu Alpha Kilo

For a long time, Sikh motorcyclists in Canada were required to wear helmets or hard hats while riding – a rule that impedes on their ability to wear the turban traditional in Sikh culture. Thanks to a relatively new legal exemption, Sikhs are now free to ride while wearing turbans instead of helmets – but many still feel the desire to protect themselves.

That’s why Pfaff Harley-Davidson teamed with Toronto-based creatives at Zulu Alpha Kilo to design the Tough Turban, which looks, feels and fits like a normal Sikh turban but is made of impact-resistant materials. It employs Dyneema, a material commonly used to create bulletproof clothing and gear, as well as a special kind of foam that hardens on impact and disperses energy away from the area of impact.

In promoting the Tough Turban, Pfaff Harley-Davidson sends the message that it aims to respect, accommodate and offer critical safety protections for motorcyclists of different beliefs and needs. The campaign won the automotive and transport category at The Drum Awards for Digital Industries.

AutoTrader ‘Eau de New Car’ by in-house team

Created by AutoTrader’s in-house team, ‘Eau de New Car’ is a tongue-in-cheek spot that aims to equate that new car smell with the trappings of success and clout.

In the spot – which won the automotive and transport category at The Drum Awards for Search – ex-Top Gear host Rory Reid rolls up in a $265,000 Bentley and is swarmed by paparazzi. Pictured adjusting his cuff links and spritzing himself with a sleek-bottled aftershave, Reid delivers a slam poetry-like monologue about reaching success – and why he equates the fresh leathery scent of a new car with achievement.

By promoting its limited-edition Eau de New Car cologne – which retailed at £175 for a 50ml bottle – AutoTrader emphasizes the new car-feel (and scent) delivered with every new or preowned car purchase made on its platform.

Ford Europe ‘Emoji Jacket’ by the WPP Ford team

As part of its efforts to promote sustainability and clean air in cities everywhere, Ford has for some years now encouraged bicycling and bike-sharing. But it knows that on-the-road communication between cyclists and drivers can be tricky and even dangerous. That’s why it set out to create a new, playful way to improve safety on the road.

It worked hand-in-hand with WPP’s dedicated Ford team and designers at Designworks to create the Emoji Jacket, a sleek jacket outfitted with an LED mesh panel that displays emojis to signal to drivers and other cyclists if they’re making a turn or even if they’re upset.

Using a wireless remote mounted on the bike’s handlebars, wearers can activate one of six emojis, including a smiling face, a sad face, a left-pointing arrow, a right-pointing arrow and a hazard signal.

And as far as PR stunts go, it worked: the jacket generated 648 earned media stories across the world and its debut was covered by the BBC, MSN and a few other major media outlets. It also won the automotive and transport category at The Drum Awards for PR.

Mini UK ‘Mini Electric’ by The Brooklyn Brothers

BMW-owned automotive brand Mini tasked London-based ad agency The Brooklyn Brothers with promoting the Mini Electric, the manufacturer’s first-ever electric vehicle, which rolled out last year.

“The world feels brighter, more fun, more optimistic even” when driving a Mini Electric, the Brooklyn Brothers told The Drum in July. “So we took a different tack. We didn’t just launch a car. We launched a feeling.“

Winner of the automotive and transport category at The Drum Awards for Marketing, the team developed a multichannel campaign that, through TV spots, out-of-home, paid digital, social media, influencer promotion, retailer assets and more, conveyed a feeling of energy, excitement and warmth, with unique messages tailored to consumers at different stages in the sales funnel.

Head to The Drum Awards website to find out more about all of our competitions, including categories, deadlines, judges and how to enter.