TV ad Darth Vader Volkswagen

Car companies are among the UK’s biggest advertisers. Some splash more cash than major household brands such as Coca-Cola, Barclays Bank, John Lewis, Apple and Twentieth Century Fox.

So it’s no surprise car TV ads stick in our memories for years.

We’ve rounded up 10 of the most memorable car TV ads, and salute the advertising creatives who brought them to our screens.

1. Steve McQueen (Ford Puma)

When Ford wanted to make a big statement about its smallest sporty coupe - the Puma launched in the late 1990s - one bright spark had the idea to draft in the king of cool; Steve McQueen. The only snag was an obvious one… McQueen had been dead for nearly 17 years. Fortunately, CGI saved the day and original footage of McQueen, from the cult movie Bullitt, was seamlessly mixed with shots of the new car. The result got people talking about the king of cool rising from the dead.

2. Been anywhere interesting lately? (Land Rover)

When you need to ram home the go-anywhere credentials of your 4x4 without force-feeding viewers obvious footage of a car driving off-road, what do you do? In the case of Land Rover, it shot a wonderfully simple scene at a typical dry cleaners to showcase the all-conquering ability of its Discovery 4.

3. Doesn’t hang about (Austin Montego)

There’s more comedy value in this period ad from 1987 than first meets the eye. For starters, the marketing suits have insisted that the best features of the Austin Montego are highlighted. So its winding sunroof, electronic stereo system and five-speed gearbox are all shoehorned into the ad – quaint gizmos in today’s digital age. But it’s the performance of the stunt driver, Russ Swift, which caught the nation’s attention and helped put the latest model from ailing Austin firmly in the public consciousness.

4. Cake (Skoda)

Brits have always loved a cuppa and a piece of cake, so Skoda was onto a winner with this advert. Dreamed up to show how the new Fabia supermini was ‘full of lovely stuff’, it featured a soundtrack from Julie Andrews and plenty of sugar and spice and all things nice.

5. Changes (Volkswagen Golf GTI)

David Bailie was the big-name fashion photographer who launched the catwalk career of Paula Hamilton, then propelled her to household fame with this advert, for Volkswagen’s Golf. The ad, from the late 80s, marked the point that the advertising business woke up to equal rights.

6. The Unprofessionals (Nissan Almera GTI)

A terrific parody of ITV’s hugely popular The Professionals series, this Nissan advert was funny from start to finish. It poked fun at the shambolic stunts, cheesy chat-up lines and character flaws that popularised the original 70s and 80s show.

7. The Force (Volkswagen Passat)

You know you have a hit on your hands when an advert breaks down borders and travels around the world. VW’s The Force did exactly that, notching up more than 64 million views on VW USA’s YouTube channel alone. The advert taps into the phenomenally successful Star Wars films, and appeals to little kids and big kids alike.

8. Cog (Honda)

“Isn’t it nice, when thing just ‘work’?” asks the narrator at the end of Honda’s Cog advert. To make the two-minute film work, however, took years of planning and nearly six months of filming – testing the patience of all involved on the Wieden+Kennedy creative project. Antoine Bardou-Jacquet, the director, features elsewhere in this list. He directed Shell’s evocative Circuit ad spot.

9. Little Dads (Vauxhall Zafira and Meriva)

In ad land, it takes a brave client to step out of their comfort zone, but that’s what Vauxhall did with its Little Dads campaign, which ran from 2005. It flipped parenthood on its head, showing boys as the responsible father figures of the family. The result had parents shuffling uncomfortably with laughter.

10. Circuit (Shell)

Okay, so the 2007 Circuit ad isn’t strictly for a carmaker. However, it celebrated the 60-year partnership between Shell and Ferrari in Formula One, and you could almost smell the host exhausts, burnt fuel and tortured tyres of the classic F1 Ferraris. Antoine Bardou-Jacquet directed it, and described the shoot as “incredible” and a “monster film”. Rob Hall, the lucky driver of all five cars summed it up best: “Not many people can say they’ve driven a Ferrari Formula One car down Nathan Road in Kowloon or through Times Square in New York.”