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MINI adverts: the campaigns that built the brand

Memorable, innovative, heart-warming and funny, we review MINI’s best ad campaigns down the years.

MINI promotional campaigns have been among the best in the automotive industry down the years. 

Here we take a look back at how the brand and its advertising has evolved, from the Mini's launch launch right up to the latest ad for the new MINI 5dr.

• Classic Mini vs modern MINI: which is the better car?

1959 Incredible Austin Seven Original launch

The launch of the original Austin Mini, then called the Seven, was heralded by a promotion that highlighted how practical it was and how it could be all the car you’d ever need. The promo shot featured three men and four women with a heap of suitcases and clothes ready for a weekend away. 

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The idea was that you could fit them all in the “incredible” Seven, and the accompanying sales brochure emphasised that the Mini was the car that the whole world had been waiting for. This initial promo set the standard for future marketing campaigns.

2001 MINI Adventure

The new millennium saw the rebirth of MINI, and with the new looks and new model range came an advertising campaign that was more cinematic masterpiece than average commercial. It’s fair to say the car had fallen off the map a little in the preceding years, so it was little wonder that the campaign focused on the personality of the new model, rather than the typical driver, by putting the MINI at the centre of adventures. 

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The main film was a 50-second piece entitled “Martians” that showed London being invaded by aliens attacking iconic buildings, like the Millennium Dome. The new MINI was shown riding in to save the day by luring a Martian into a cattle grid trap, the ad finishing with the slogan “It’s a MINI adventure”. 

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This campaign sought to position the car as a British hero and also featured two other shorter films, with the slogan quickly becoming a catchphrase in wider UK life.

2008 Viking Invasion

With so many cars hitting the market each year, standing out from the crowd is a big battle. For MINI in 2008, the answer was a horde of Vikings invading a crowded beach in a fleet of MINIs, promising to “ban boredom”. The ad showed the MINI-driving Vikings disembarking from a longboat and invading a beach filled with bored sunbathers. 

2009 MINI Cabrio

Two great British loves, the MINI and the drop-top, were brought together to promote the MINI Cabrio. However, it was in Germany that one of the best ad campaigns was launched, although it would’ve been right at home in the UK, too, with its focus on inclement weather. 

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The “Always Open” campaign was one of the most self-aware you’re likely to see, as the series of posters highlighted some of the various problems with driving a convertible, while simultaneously brushing them off. 

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Three of the posters pictured people affected by poor conditions – one with a frozen face, another with leaves entangled in their hair, and another with make-up running down their face, having been caught in the rain. Other slogans included the comical “Mosquito bites? Just acupuncture for free” and “Rain is just a four-letter word”.

MINI supported the ad with a multimedia campaign, too, with Web ads, posters and an interactive mini-game backing up the TV ads. They all showed the MINI wasn’t just another car and highlighted its fun and quirky nature – anything but boring.

2011 All the Wrong Places

The MINI Coupé and MINI Roadster were the stars of the “All the Wrong Places” TV advertising mini-series, which was launched in 2011 as part of the “Another Day, Another Adventure” campaign. 

It featured a series of five films showing the two cars being driven in adventurous settings. One ad transported viewers to the Brazilian carnival in Rio, another included a breathtaking car chase through Hong Kong, while another took on the remote, spectacular winter landscape of Iceland. 

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It harked back to the “MINI Adventure” series of ads from a decade earlier and highlighted again how much fun you could have in a MINI, plus how the Coupé was the perfect companion for every adventure. Fans even got the chance to feature inthe series and experience an adventure in the latest Roadster – the first open-top two-seater MINI.

2013 Not Normal

MINI’s “Not Normal” campaign was all about displaying the special bond between driver and car. The adverts focused on the fact that there’s nothing that drives or looks quite like a MINI – pointing out that even the dashboard is different. 

The ad explained that “normal isn’t great” and asked “who wants to be average?” Images included a shot of a MINI having performed some donuts outside a donut shop, with the tagline “A car with a sense of irony is not normal.”

MINI’s unique adverts had been under attack in recent years with other manufacturers following the ‘small car, big personality’ model, and the “Not Normal” campaign cashed in on MINI fans’ passion to get back ahead, using social media to ask them to post their favourite MINI photos to create more of a buzz.

2013 New MINI inspected by the dog

Launched last November, which happened to coincide with the 107th birthday of original Mini designer Sir Alec Issigonis, the new MINI hatchback was promoted witha whole new advertising campaign. The TV commercial was filmed on the streets of LA and featured Spike, a British bulldog, meeting the new MINI for the first time. 

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The pooch sauntered up to the orange Cooper S, giving it the once over – even sniffing the exhausts. He then climbed aboard and enjoyed a ride in the top-spec car, barking at a stop sign with his head out of the window. 

In another version of the “New MINI. New Original” advert, Spike was called upon to defend MINI against the advances of an enormous Great Dane dog. The bulldog has been a long-running feature of MINI’s ad campaigns, and also shows up in lots of the company’s huge range of MINI merchandise, from branded cushions to keyrings.

2014 MINI 5-door

Introduced after more than 50 years of MINI production, the first five-door model came with a brand new TV advert, playing on the idea that it was the same car but also completely new. 

The ad started with a man leaving the house early for work, still half asleep. However, he forgot his MINI’s additional doors and ended up jumping in the back. Error rectified, he headed over to pick up his dog – our old favourite British bulldog, Spike. However, Spike refused to get in when the rear doors were opened for him, only hopping in when the front doors were opened instead. 

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The advert continued with the MINI being driven through town, showing off all the new tech on-board, before the MINI was parked outside a café. Two women got in, and then two men got out of what appeared to be the same doors, confusing a seated observer who had not seen the new MINI layout before. The ad ended with the tagline “It’s new for us too.”

 

The Magic of MINI

The Magic of MINI: special feature

• The future of MINI: head man Jochen Goller reveals all• Classic Mini vs modern MINI: which is the better car?• How many MINIs? The MINI range reviewed• Eight design innovations that made the MINI• MINI's greatest concept cars• Paddy Hopkirk and the Mini that won the Monte Carlo Rally• Can the new MINI 5-door really be used as a family car?• MINI Countryman ALL4 Racing Dakar Rally ride review• MINI UK factory: how we make the MINI• MINI adverts: the campaigns that built the brand• Win a MINI for a year

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