Automotive history

Ad Break: Volvo leaves Audi trailing behind

by Antony Ingram
30 March 2023 2 min read
Ad Break: Volvo leaves Audi trailing behind
Photos: Volvo

Not so long ago your author had a bit of a moan about car brochures, which are rarely useful these days and even less exciting.

If you can find one at all, given much of their content has moved online, you’ll see little in the way of technical details, and the photography isn’t much better. It usually depicts a bored-looking model, probably hoping their next gig involves something more interesting than pretending to wait for an EV to charge. Advertising constipation medicine, perhaps.

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Modern advertisements are similarly toothless. Before searching for the 2023 equivalent of the Volvo ad you see on this page, I mused that it was probably an image of a neutrally-coloured car in a neutrally-coloured room, possibly next to a charging post, with little in the way of accompanying text. I’ll save you any smugness on my part: just type “2023 Volvo print ad” into Google and see what results you get…

Predictably, things were different in the age of the Volvo 740. The cars were boxier for a start, but the advert photographers and copywriters had a lot more fun, too.

Volvo 740 Estate advert

We’ve noted before that it wasn’t unusual, back in the day, for carmakers to have a friendly pop at their rivals, and here’s a perfect example. You get the gist from the photography alone, and don’t even need to see the whole car to determine why you should buy one: this is a Volvo estate, and the important bit’s at the back.

Audi’s bit at the back didn’t hold quite as much as Volvo’s, demonstrated in amusing fashion in the photos. “Maybe there is something to be said for estate cars that are shaped like estate cars”, says the ad. Ouch. Even the teddy bear agrees, apparently – the one in the 740 Estate looks a lot happier to us.

Volvo also manages to get in few short paragraphs about safety – we’d not expect any less – and points out that you’d be paying less for your extra practicality, to really rub salt into the Audi’s sills.

And sure, even this Volvo ad features a neutrally-coloured car on a neutrally-coloured background, just like the modern ones. But it’s a lot more effective at giving us a reason to want one.

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