LONDON: Automotive marketing remains stuck in the past and has yet to catch up with the technological and social changes taking place around the world, according to an industry figure who argues it can usefully learn from the approach taken by mobile phones.

Writing in the current issue of Admap, James Champ, chief strategy officer at the Stack agency, notes that "every time-honoured pillar of car culture is under attack" – they're increasingly likely to be rented as owned, shared as used individually, seen as a problem as viewed as a symbol of progress.

The ideas of freedom, success and individualism that have long accompanied the advertising of cars no longer carry the same connotations in a market which is witnessing a shift in how consumers think about the product.

"They used to be mechanical devices, but increasingly they are mobile computers," Champ notes. "They used to be things you drove, [but] tomorrow, your car will drive you."

Accordingly, marketers are going to have to reconsider their approach, particularly around finance and ownership. "Some manufacturers are beginning to think of car finance not as a route to ownership, but as a mobility tariff akin to a phone tariff," he observes.

That requires a change in mindset as auto marketers grapple with unfamiliar communication models – part retail, part finance, and much more relationship-focused – which don't necessarily emphasise the product itself.

Champ points to his own work with Peugeot in the UK and its 'Just Add Fuel with Telematics' finance product aimed at younger drivers and their more affluent parents. "It barely featured the car," he says.

One aspect of the future, he suggests, will be about "continuous individualised acquisition and retention, based on accurate usage data" – a step-change for an industry used to three-year purchase cycles.

Another will require marketers to concentrate on the connected ownership experience, especially as driverless vehicles become a reality and the car becomes "an extension of our own social bubbles. A safe space on the road where our private lives can continue, uninterrupted".

The assumptions of more than a century of car marketing are set to be overturned, says Champ; future car ads will look very different to those of today.

Data sourced from Admap