Wednesday August 16, 2017
‘Lada’ and ‘Glamour’. For many, the two words go together about as well as Take Me Out and ‘Television programmes that do not make you want to put your set on eBay’ but you cannot deny that marketers tried their hardest over the years. One brochure features an elegant young couple, she in mink and him resembling an extra from a 007 film, as their 1300 is poised to whisk them to an evening of romance, elegance and other phrases not automatically associated with Lada ownership. Another 1986 gem for the Canadian market points out the ‘classic European styling’ of the four-door and the station wagon that was ready for a ‘wilderness weekend’.
Then there was this UK-market commercial, one which I vaguely remember causing some merriment in my local cinema. It inferred that all members of the Lada range were so downright rugged that they could be driven through safari parks in the manner of the car chase in Bullitt. This might be attempted with a 4x4 Niva but it was probably unwise to think about any dramatic leaps when at the wheel of a 1200 saloon. Nor does the synthesiser score exactly help enhance the mood. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJSYeqXHm38
To be fair the Lada was far from alone in using dreams of excitement to sell mundane family transport as BL, Ford and Vauxhall often used similar visions of opulence for their lower priced offerings. The problem seemed to be that ever since the first examples were imported into the UK in 1974, even a 1600ES with its vinyl roof and quad headlamps seemed totally immune to all ideas of trendiness. A Lada was and is a proudly utilitarian vehicle, one totally at home in a realm of brown shop coats and visits to carpet warehouses somewhere near Croydon. Treating one to some elaborate late 1970s/early 1980s accessorising was akin to Terry Scott dressing up like a punk rocker in a BBC sitcom – certainly eye-catching but not exactly plausible.
Instead, the most effective forms of sales copy for the marque emphasised that this was the ideal car for shopping trips to Morrisons or ‘daily commuting’ - plus constantly highlighting the levels of standard equipment. The Lada 1500 was promoted as ‘a prestige car at a sensible price’ at a time when many drivers regularly experienced the sheer lack of luxury found in a Ford Escort Popular or Vauxhall Viva E. To such motorists, any car with ‘contoured cloth insert upholstery’ and an ‘electric clock’ was indeed prestigious.
During the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s Lada’s publicity frequently targeted people who had the budget for a low specification Metro or Fiesta yet required more space, as this TV ad wittily if unsubtly points out. Another major customer base was from those who might have otherwise considered buying a used Sierra Mk. I or Talbot Solara but who desired a more recent model. One of the marques’s slogans was ‘now you don’t have to settle for second-hand’ and this Cannon & Ball fronted advert illustrates the many virtues of buying a new Lada. Be warned; Bobby Ball is wearing a costume of quite mind-bending awfulness.
British Lada imports ceased in 1997 although the Fiat 124-dervied models continued in production until 2012. Possibly their finest hour in terms of PR is not from the UK but from Finland, as this masterpiece is virtually guaranteed to make almost anyone rush out and buy a Samara.