Martin Takes Stock of Disasters

ATLANTA The Martin Agency this week launches three television spots for Carfax, the shop’s first work for the client since the account returned in August without a review.

Each of the spots was produced in 30- and 15-second versions that break this week on cable networks.

The work employs actual footage of disasters (including images from Hurricane Katrina) involving automobiles. In each instance, the spots emphasize that consumers can’t rely on owner descriptions when making used car choices. Instead, they should seek out information from the Carfax database to avoid potentially disastrous outcomes.

In one spot, a car sits stranded in rising floodwaters. Instead of mentioning the flood damage, “typical ad copy” appears on screen, touting the vehicle’s “new upholstery,” no doubt installed after the flood.

Another spot shows a damaged car being loaded onto a wrecker as onscreen text informs us that the vehicle has “fresh paint.” A third commercial shows a car burning on the side of the road as firemen try to extinguish the blaze. The text concludes, “This car is hot.”

All spots end with the line, “Never buy a used car without a Carfax vehicle history report.”

“Done entirely with stock footage of actual floods, wrecks and fires, the end result grabs the viewer’s attention and communicates that there really are these damaged cars out there and that there really are people out there that will try to pass them off as non-damaged,” said Bob Meagher, copywriter on the spots.

Carfax, based in Fairfax, Va., returned its account to the Richmond, Va., Interpublic Group shop two years after moving the business to IPG’s Lowe in New York. Martin worked with the company from 1999 until Lowe claimed the account in 2003.

Campaign spending is undisclosed. Carfax spent $20 million in measured media last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.