Ad of the Day: NAPA Auto Parts Makes Great New-Car Ads … for Very Old Cars

VML revels in category clichés

None of the cars in VML's new campaign for NAPA Auto Parts is your father's Oldsmobile. You will, however, find Granny's clunky Toyota among them.

Three, um, shall we say "lovingly used" vehicles appear in a series of minute-long "Old Car Commercials" breaking today across YouTube, Facebook and other digital channels. NAPA scoured actual online classified ads to find the cars, which really are for sale by their owners. Clearly, these ol' timers have seen better days. Much better days. But with a little care—well, lots of care, actually, along with NAPA parts and knowhow, of course—they can still be highway stars.

Sharp writing pokes fun at new-car commercial clichés. First up is "Grandma's Car," a 1997 Toyota Avalon, which can be yours for $1,200. "Have you dreamed of a life of anonymity?" asks the voiceover. "Virtually disappearing into a landscape of beige? Then this hand-me-down special is for you. Described in a word, that word would be … car."

"Grandma's car had two working headlights at the beginning of the shoot," VML executive creative director Aaron Evanson tells Adweek. "But as soon as the camera started to roll, one of the headlights went out. Then as soon as we wrapped, the headlight came back on again."

Next up, also priced at $1,200, is a 1993 Isuzu pickup—aka, "The Tiny Beater." (Sounds kind of dirty. And the small truck does look soiled and tattered, truth be told.) "Behold, the last of a dying breed," our narrators intones. "Though some might scowl at the minor blemishes, to us they signify durability. And the ability to carry small-to-medium-size payloads. … All. Day. Long."

"The chair from the truck isn't technically for sale, but we're open to offers," Evanson says. "It's currently sitting at my desk."

Bringing up the rear, for $1,500, we have a "The Power Commuter," a once-proud Chevy Cavalier. "In 2002," we're told, "it was an economy car. But like a fine Detroit wine, this vehicle has aged to … budgetary perfection." (And there's probably a fine Detroit whine blaring from that engine!)

"All three spots were shot in what amounted to a glorious, gasoline-and-coffee-fueled 17-hour shoot," says Evanson says. "A bald eagle flew overhead when we started shooting that morning. That's how we knew it was going to be a good day—no joke. America wanted us to make these spots."

Throughout, inspired silliness drives home the brand message: NAPA can help older cars run longer and stronger.

Of course, the parody approach isn't exactly innovative, but these spots are extremely well done. There's not a lemon in the bunch. As for the cars themselves, well, that's a another story.

Client: NAPA Auto Parts
Senior Vice President of Marketing: Gaylord Spencer
Agency: VML
Executive Creative Director:  Aaron Evanson
Group Creative Director: James Holden
Creative Director: Derek Anderson
Writer: Derek Anderson
Art Director: Matt McNary
Art Director: Andrew Crane
Senior Brand Planner: Jeremy Franklin
Senior Channel Manager (Social): Chelsie McCullough
Group Director, Client Engagement: Susan Clements
Supervisor, Client Engagement: Laura Picicci
Producer: Megan Thompson
Business Affairs: Julie Kolton
Director: Reid Bangert
Production Company: North Pass Media
Audio: Evolution Audio
Editor: Matt Blume
Colorist: Taylre Jones
Senior Producer: Melissa Willis 
Media Agency: Spark