Who said marketing had to be boring or expensive?

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With death and taxes, publicity is a certainty in this life. No matter what kind of media one is trying to consume – network TV, YouTube videos, songs on Spotify, even some streaming services – ubiquitous retail advertising is almost always present.

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This assurance was even more so in the days before the aforementioned on-demand platforms. Those of us who are on the staff of Conduct who still hold an active Blockbuster subscription will remember the family TV (probably a paneled Zenith, or a floor model if you were fancy) showing national and local commercials during TGIF or supper hour news. Sure, mute buttons were around in the 80s and 90s, but if the remote was all over the room next to that bouncy chair, chances are you had racket pain.

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  1. Motor Mouth: Why car dealerships act so badly

    Motor Mouth: Why car dealerships act so badly

  2. Ads for family cars, minus the family in the car

    Ads for family cars, minus the family in the car

It was those local ads that were often the most entertaining, whether it was from that home improvement spot up the street or the restaurant that served gallons of gravy with every serving of fries. Advertisements for car dealerships were of particular interest to us. Featuring plenty of type-A personalities, most of these outlets had no trouble getting a few of their ranks on camera. The acting chops, on the other hand, often left something to be desired.

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We’ve put together a gallery of these rogue ads, almost all of which have been immortalized on YouTube. This list doesn’t include the many (awesome) car ad parodies that reside online, nor the sales staff that have carved out a unique niche for themselves with online personas – though we’ll give shoutouts to Mopar Brady, here and now. The same goes for the so-called “national advertisements” produced by corporations and distributed widely, of which there are also many hilarious and bizarre examples. We may make a list of these at another time.

Until then, sit back and enjoy these gems of the trade – almost all of which were produced on a shoestring budget.

Vancouver Sea Monster

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Kicking off our list is the impetus for this article – a Vancouver-based fever dream of the 1970s (weren’t they all?). The ad manages to include some sort of foiled sea monster terrorizing a romantic picnic with the rubber protection of a 5 mph bumper. We should all be so lucky to have Basil Plimley in our corner.

Mitsubishi White Bear

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If the finished commercials are the meat and potatoes of the commercial, then the outs are an extra serving of dessert. The White Bear Mitsubishi team spent a lot of time trying to keep their mascot on their feet while trying to drive home the twin points of good fundraising deals and philanthropic hockey sponsorship. We hope the person in this bear costume was wearing goalie pads – or at least a jock.

local character

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Someone not of The Rock can be forgiven for not understanding many of the words that come out of this fictional character’s mouth during this commercial. Suffice it to say, actor Mack Barfoot’s comedic character Clyde Crump was popular enough for this Newfoundland-born author to remember the name entering the everyday lexicon in the 1980s. And, yes, some of our accents are even thicker than this one.

Red boots and red flags

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While this guy might not have x-ray vision or be able to stop an asteroid, he and his shiny red boots can apparently lure you into a car loan. Not mentioned are potentially high interest rates and the risk to kneecaps if payments are not made on time. Fantastic !

Break down stereotypes

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Look, even the most diehard defenders of the auto industry will come to terms with the fact that some dealerships have earned their sleazy reputation. Of course, not all are bad apples, and a Chevy dealership decided to take a look at this tale in high definition. The child flossing in the background (it’s dancing, not dental care) is a particularly nice touch.

The price is right

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Continuing the theme of breaking stereotypes, Mike Scarff Subaru in the Pacific Northwest tackles the idea that some dealership advertisements can be a little – uh – misleading. Using an automotive ad to counter typing automotive ads can be a bit Creation-esque but this professionally produced work does a good job of contrasting wide-necked actors with modern business techniques. The production house has apparently launched other commercials for local dealers, but they’re nowhere near as entertaining.

Welcome to the mental hospital

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And, sometimes, all you need to get attention is some good old-fashioned splurge. Witness what happens when the dealership’s namesake takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to muddying up traditional aspects of automotive commercials like prompts, tired comedic gags and loud announcers. Plus, viewers can experience Garry’s deadly boxing skills in 1080p high definition.

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