Type 'city cars, fun' into Google and you get 210m results. That's because - in the absence of powerful engines, taut handling, luxurious refinement, big interior space and hi-tech gadgets - there's not a huge amount else to trump when you're selling these little cars, other than their price.
Hence, in these three adverts for the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 there's one theme reinfored again and again: fun. Toyota has even gone so far as to suggest you 'go fun yourself', which is a bit much. Peugeot reinforces the idea that you can personalise the 108 to your heart's content.
Citroen, interestingly, has a young man in its advert - a rare departure for these cars that tend to be aimed at women. It's also 'naturally urban' - and to prove it, here's a picture I took of it on the recent launch in Coventry.
What's interesting about these cars is that they are essentially, despite what manufacturers say, the same car so we have a rare opportunity to see how three different brands are represented by three different agencies given the same product to market.
That they have managed to create three fairly separate identities for them - with three clear messages - is pretty clever. That they're decent ads is all the more impressive.
My tip? Avoid the 1.0-litre engine and go for the 1.2. That rules out the Aygo but, frankly, if you like the colours who am I to argue? Let me know which one you like best.
Citroen C1 - Naturally Urban
Harry Potter goes hipster in Breaking Bad car-park.
Peugeot 108 - This Time It's Personal
Androgynous robots stalk through JG Ballard landscapes.
Toyota Aygo - Go Fun Yourself
Futuristic neo-noir directed by MGMT.
There's a bit of a hierarchy when it comes to which celebs get which cars from manufacturers.
Although its never clear just what incentives there are for a 'sleb to be pictured next to a shiny new car, it's clear that there's generally more to it than a quick snap as the celebrity in question picks up his or her latest drive.
Samuel L Jackson got a brand new Maybach 57, which though vulgar is an extremely valuable piece of kit. A couple of years ago, down the road from Dagenham and on the verge of making it into the England cricket team, Essex players Alistair Cook and Ravi Bopara got a Focus ST each. Not bad, but no Maybach.
Take That got a VW Caravelle; Spandau Ballet a Ford S-Max each; while From The Jam had to cram into a Kia Sedona. Bluntly, the more important you are, the better car you get. Many manufacturers appoint brand ambassadors to drive their cars and take part in certain marketing events, in exchange for a shiny new set of wheels.
Seat has - or had - Duncan James, otherwise known as the bloke from Blue who's now on that awful school musical show. He bagged a Leon Cupra from Seat. Here's how we reported the news a couple of years ago:
James goes on to describe the Leon Cupra as ‘very cool’, which he ‘really enjoys driving’ before concluding ‘I love it!’
Jaguar sponsors the England cricket team, which is a nice bit of positioning for both parties. That Waitrose is England's other main sponsor has a nice ring to it too. Lids, Fosters or Chevrolet - dare I say it, would not be such good fits.
Meanwhile Mercedes has - or had - Wayne Rooney, who took delivery of a CL63 AMG. This actually caused a bit of a stink from snobs who worried that the swarthy scouser may not exactly be a direct fit for Merc's brand image. Here's what Peter York reckoned:
"Ordinarily you'd expect Mercedes to choose someone aspirational and classy to advertise its cars, and it's fair to say Wayne Rooney doesn't fit that category."
"It's extremely strange. You have to ask who chose him? Was it someone who has misunderstood his image or was it perhaps a calculated move to ensure people talked about it?
"It's possible it will backfire and put off traditional Mercedes customers - but perhaps their choice of Rooney reflects the fact that the kind of people prepared to spend a fortune on a smart car nowadays are not particularly smart people."
So, manufacturers have to be careful over who they work with. Jordan, for example, is unlikely to be endorsing a Rolls-Royce Ghost any time soon. Nor do we expect to see Brian Sewell hooning around Millbrook in an Evo X, though we'd like to.
Fiat doesn't seem too worried about who it associates itself recently, with a string of celeb endorsements from the likes of Angela Griffin, Elle MacPherson and now Tom Chambers (some bloke out of Waterloo Road and Strictly Come Dancing).
All are photogenic, mainstream and inoffensive. Here's Fiat on the latest tie-up:
Actor and reigning Strictly Come Dancing champion Tom Chambers celebrated his return to television this week by collecting a new Fiat 500C.
The actor has been driving a 500 hatchback – recently voted Best Supermini in What Car? magazine’s Reader Awards 2009 – since last Christmas, but planned to swop into a 500C after the car’s UK launch in July this year. Tom and his wife Clare also own an early Fiat 500.
“As an actor, my work takes me to locations all over the country and it’s really important to have a car that can take me there comfortably, reliably and certainly economically. And it helps that it’s a stylish little number too!"
So, it's not for us to say where Tom may find himself on the auto endorsement scale, and that's not to decry the 500C or Chambers - it's just a recognition that some cars, and some celebs, are grander than others.
And speaking of...OPEN SESAME!