Advert of the week : MG Rover corporate video

Keith Adams

MG Rover contributing to the export drive
MG Rover contributing to the export drive

It’s 2004, and MG Rover sales are nosediving. The company’s image was being pulled through the mud following the Phoenix 4’s self-inflicted pension crisis, and buyers have lost confidence. The company needed to get bums on seats and decided to engage in a little rabble-rousing.

This advert was the answer – to tell the TV viewers that buying MG Rover was actually an act of national duty, because it was pumping so much money back into UK PLC’s economy. A seemingly noble message – but too little, too late, and not nearly focused enough in a marketing sense.

Still, it either will bring a tear to the eye… or leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

Keith Adams


  1. It was barrel scraping really. The ending was “Buy an MG-Rover, not because there good, but because they help with our balance of payments.”

    They weren’t selling on their merits, so out of desperation they tried appealing to the nations sense of patriotism. Just a shame the vast majority of the nation doesn’t seem to have any these days.

  2. If they stuck Audi, VW and BMW badges on them they would have flown out of the showrooms.

    Or maybe the ads should have featured Jezza Clarkson saying “these German cars have got so much awesome powerrrrrrr init you guys”, or similar street talk that the likes of the typical Golf GTI/M3 ludite uses to communicate.

    If BMW put their badges on them from 1994 for the UK market, demand would have out stripped supply.

  3. Quite sad really, I found that.

    John Nettles on the voice over? At the end there’s something missing. “At MG Rover we don’t just make great cars… ” That should be a finish the voice-over competition!

  4. It might have had more impoact if it had contained a clip of Harold Musgrove uttering the words ‘Now we’re motoring’

  5. we bought a 1995 BMW 318 earlier this year for NZ$5500. we drove a used BMW c2002 mini ($13000) ford fiesta 2007 $11000 and a 1998 rover 216 5 door CVT $5000. we would have bought the rover 216 except it had been sold and the saleman still let us take it for a drive. it was the most comfortable and the most room, had 5 DIAGONAL seatbelts 5 doors, it had the quietest cabin and best visibility, and was a actually a very reasonable car it even moved along quite nicely. the others, well the BMW 318ti is a great car, but it has only 3 doors, and the interior is cheap, and its not as nice-a-place to be as the Rover 216. the ford fiesta we ruled out simply becasue the cabinet was very noisey and the interior very very junky I thought and vent system bits were broken among other things. The BMW mini would have been our pick of course except it had only 4 seat belts (the cost wasnt really an issue we would have bought the mini if it had 5 seatbelts). The BMW318 in the end was the best all round but it only has 4 diagonal belts and 1 lapbelt, with rear wheel drive it handles as good as the XJ40 maybe better, but without the comforts. if the rover had been available for sale we probably have bought it. if the rover had been RWD then I think rover would have sold lots and lots of them. if the MG6 was AWD i think it would sell better. alex

  6. I dont think any badge could have salvaged the 45! I guess the only impact of this video would have to hasten the demise of MG Rover by a day or so. Another drain on the companies balance sheet at precisely the wrong time.

  7. so to follow on fromt that, I think the rover 25 etc was probably one of the most seemingly luxurious small cars around, and I think that is a still a hole in the market there which JLR could fill with the Rover brand for a small range of luxury smaller cars. alex

  8. “I think that is a still a hole in the market there which JLR could fill with the Rover brand for a small range of luxury smaller cars”

    Or they could just make small Jags. Forget the Rover name, it’s never going to come back.

  9. Its the shame that Phoenix 4 seem to loose thier way with the companys finiance, perhaps they may found a partner earlier on, or after a take over we may still have MGR still running today. Regards Mark

  10. “We make a contribution to the Treasury…” What??? Did they really say that and manage to keep a straight face? A more accurate script would have been:

    “From the seventies to the present day, we have hoovered up taxpayers’ cash at every available opportunity.

    “We haven’t turned a profit for years, being more concerned with the colour of our store coats.

    “We managed to lose four hundred million pounds in 2000 and were bought out for just… a tenner.

    “We cost BMW an estimated fifteen billion DeutscheMarks.

    “Even when we were beyond saving in 2005, the taxpayer bunged us another six and a half million Pounds to save the skins of local Labour MPs. Our management waltzed off with forty two million Pounds.

    “At MG Rover, we don’t make cars; we’re beyond hope – and beyond parody.”

  11. I agree with Timbo, with B*W badges, and Clarkson telling the proles what they should like, the Rover 75 would’ve been flying out of the showroom.

    As it is, Rover didn’t give the journalists and TV presenters as many jollys, freebies, goody bags as the Germans, hence the savage reviews (vs. 5 stars for mediocore Tuetonic sleighs).

    In 2004 the 75 was still a great car.

  12. Any evidence for that Will M?
    I test drove a TF for a week for journalistic purposes back in 2004.
    No problem with the press office. In fact, they were very nice and understanding.
    Indeed, I managed to crash it slightly and then someone smashed a brick through the passenger side window to try to steal the (Kenwood, I think) stereo, which I didn’t leave in the glove box, like most people. He left empty handed.
    Press office couldn’t have been more helpful.

    The reason Rovers got bad reviews wasn’t down to lack of freebies or a poor press office, in my view.
    It was down to the product and journalists giving their honest view about it.

    The 75 got lots of good reviews. There was an issue with its pipe-and-slippers styling, which a lot of journalists highlighted. But the ride and quality was generally praised.
    The 45 was frumpy and old-fashioned and the journalists said so. But they were amazed and delighted at its performance as the ZS.

    As for the City Rover . . . well, the moment I sat in one at Rover’s last motor show, I could see how desperate the company had got. So did other journalists. More importantly, so did the public.

  13. I vaguely remember this TV advert and have just replayed it several times… actually I do like it and the music soundtrack. I might be at odds with some other contributors here but I admired the “patriotic” approach it put across. Nice flowing images of the cars (my all time favorites, the ZT-T and R75 with square grille).

    OK, we all know it was going badly wrong then, but I still dont regret buying Rover products and this advert made me feel proud that I had done so. In fact I bought my ZS after MGRover had closed. If they hadn’t folded I’m sure I would have bought another. Where’s the hankerchief!

  14. 15. buttyboy

    No evidence beyond wild speculation 🙂

    But there has to be a reason why the motoring press is utterly obsessed by every single thing coming out of Germany.

  15. I remember seeing that advert at the time and thinking that they must be desperate. Unfortunately for the British car industry I was right.

  16. Magnus – that is precisely the kind of blinkered, Clarkson echoing attitude that leaves us without an indigenous motor industry. On the other hand, if you look at much of the dross Peugoet, Citroen and Renault have doled out over the years and the undentable share of the French car market they have always enjoyed, it supports Keith’s view that this was self inflicted – and not just by the attitudes of individuals like your good self, either. When was the last time you saw a French Police car not made in France? And yet even when MG Rover was healthy, I rarely saw a UK Rover police car.

    I suppose we must have learned something from it, at least. Cue the placement of the Thameslink contract with Siemens rather than Bombardier. Seemingly, we learn nothing at all.

  17. For the record A Rover 75 Police liveried car appeared in the BBC series “55 Degrees North” a few years ago. That was a fictitious telly programme of course. Actually the car did look good!

  18. Here in the USA, we’ve been peppered by adverts along a similar vein, mainly for Chevrolet, and mainly for trucks. -Lots of red, white & blue, plenty of flag-waving, an abundance of “Good ol’ boy” activities, and -usually toward the end of the commercial- A golden sunrise over a waving grain field. -The girl next door, apple pies, the local church, and the occasional steely look of affirmation toward the camera from a square-jawed, clean-scrubbed assembly-line worker for the briefest of moments, before turning back to the job at hand with a look of proud determination… then some tag line about how buying Chevy equals American jobs…

    Samuel Johnson said: ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a Scoundrel’.

    It wouldn’t bother me QUITE so much if Chevy trucks weren’t such tin-cans with the roadholding of a greased blancmange, but the thing is that the advert makes NO claim about the vehicles being any good… and nobody notices.

    Mind you, if they really did claim that the product was well-engineered, well built, good quality and value for money, I think I’d probably have a seizure.

    In the big picture, any time a company starts playing the ‘patriotism’ card, it usually suggests to me that they’ve reached the bottom of the barrel and have begun to dig.

  19. @ #19

    Eh? At no point did I say BL/AR/MGR’s downfall wasn’t self-inflicted; indeed, it was wholly self-inflicted – only camouflaged for too long by oodles of taxpayers’ cash.

    By all means hurl silly comments about Jeremy Clarkson at me if that makes you feel better; what that won’t change is that my initial comment and figures are factually correct.

    Oh, and the UK’s motor industry is flourishing last time I looked – take a look around AROnline news or pop along to Solihull, Wolverhampton, Halewood, Sunderland, Burnaston, Swindon, Goodwood, Woking…

  20. @Keith Andrews

    The Chevy adverts in the UK show a fleet of Chevrolets driving through the desert (including the non-UK Epica and Camaro), then focusing on some non-descript non-offroad SUV, while a voiceover says “No more missed oppurtunities. Chevrolet.”

    There were adverts I seem to recall from the 90s/2000s, which sound like the UK equivalent of that US Chevy ad, which showed Rovers taking people to church in rural England etc. while a voiceover said “We were there for your first day etc. etc.”, the soundtrack was The Divine Comedy – The Certainty of Chance.

    Anyone else remember that?

  21. just remember this- me,you played our part in this with audis,bm’s etc on our drives.And rover did too,because we’ve been conditioned to be euro-centric(when did europe give us a fair slice of the cake?)buy british died years ago.If we bought them maybe re-investment could have taken place coupled with a protective government we would all be still talking how crap the ital was!

  22. I simply don’t buy the notion that the cars were uncompetitive?
    Especially the 45 and ZS.

    The MGZS120 reaches 60mph in 9 seconds, and accelerates from 30-50 in fourth in 7.6 seconds, and returns 38.9MPG.

    Those are an impressive set of figures for a car designed in the Nineties, there are very few cars that can match them today!

    MG Rover’s were competitive cars, it never ceases to amaze me the number of people who comment on seeing my cars, ‘I had one of those- it was a great car’, and ‘my 216GSI was the best car I’ve ever owned’

    Sadly, many people didn’t realise what they had- until it was gone!

    and there is nothing wrong with patriotism in an advert- remember the Metro sending continental cars home?

  23. Watching this TV advert again got me thinking. Although I have no training in marketing, I am almost certain that one of the basic ‘rules’ of marketing goes something like this: NEVER advertise the company in general and NEVER advertise an overview of the product range; ONLY market individual models of cars, one per advert.

    It makes sense, doesn’t it? Prospective customers are buying a car, not the entire company or range of cars, so get them excited about the thought of driving that particular car.

    It seems that no lessons were learned from the ‘all-product’/corporate TV adverts of Leyland Cars and Austin Rover in the 1970s and 1980s that attempted to generate interest in everything from the Mini to the Rover SD1 in one fell swoop, but failed to target individual customers for individual cars.

    We all want to feel special, that we are buying a car that is tailored to us in some way especially if we are forking out the kind of money needed to buy a new car, and these corporate-style adverts always fell wide of the mark because they appealed to everyone and no one.

    I would argue that much of the German manufacturers’ marketing success has stemmed from generating interest in one car from their model range at a time and also communicating to the prospective customer how the long-standing core strengths of their brands (engineering integrity, build quality, sportiness etc) are represented in that particular model.

    It’s not rocket science… We could have done that too, especially with cars as good as the ZS 180 and ZT 190 & 260 which were great examples of engineering. So why didn’t we?

  24. I have an original issue of this handed out when the proto-type ssang yong mg suv was showed up at the round house and the sporty 75 cc that sadly never made production.

  25. @15 a lot of industry insiders knew it was the end when the cityrover was introduced.It was crapulous.

  26. It was as crap as the 100 before it – but it was an excellent upright roomy OAP windfall, had it been priced keenly..

  27. So so sad. You could make a list as long as your arm as to who to blame & when it all went wrong for MG Rover.
    I wish they were still around today – even with all their problems.

    SAIC / MG Motor are making the MG Rover management look like absolute genius’s at the moment.
    & that is saying something…

  28. 31. @ TwoR8s

    Couldn’t agree more.
    Can you imagine the French or Italian public “not buying” cars from their own country.?
    – even though their cars are generally poorly made, cheap rubbish.

  29. @Andrew Elphick – December 9, 2011
    “It was as crap as the 100 before it – but it was an excellent upright roomy OAP windfall, had it been priced keenly..”

    Exactly – when Motorpoint flogged them for a couple of grand less they flew out of the door. More people would have bought it if the price was right.

  30. “When was the last time you saw a French Police car not made in France?”

    Gendarmes use a lot of Land-Rover Defenders (probably because no french manufacturer makes anything similar)

    “For the record A Rover 75 Police liveried car appeared in the BBC series “55 Degrees North” a few years ago. That was a fictitious telly programme of course. Actually the car did look good!”

    Rover did build some demonstrators for Police forces to trial, they did some MGZTT’s too, it’s the demonstrators you see on the TV. MGR used to be the official supplier to Midsomer Murders, you often saw 45 & 25 panda cars in that.
    Of course the Rover 800 was used by a few forces and the SD1 before that was very sought after by a great many forces.

  31. @Magnus

    The fact that Rover lost a shedload of money under BMW stewardship was more a bad reflection on BMW than anything. They should have got to grips with the Rover management early on – it was clear that BMW had no plan for developing the Rover brand and had bugger all experience in “assimilating” an aquisition (VW seem to do okay at it).

  32. BMW assimilating an aquisition – the precedent was set when they took over Goggomobil some decades earlier – chew it up and close it down..

  33. @14 – Yes Dennis, you are correct, I recall the SD1 and 800 were popular with many police forces so couldn’t have been all that bad could they? I’m sure a ZTT would be every bit as good as the current trend of Police BMW 5 series.

  34. The Met Police used Rover 800s, where I was based at SE London Traffic, the police found that the 827 was a good around and verstile car, I know that workshops said that the vtec a good engine to maintain, and I noted that cars already gone around the clock.The Met didnt buy any 2.5 KV6 engine cars though. The Met had loads of Metros and Rover 111s as panda cars for some time. Vauxhall Omega saloon replaced the Rover 827 Si, but the saloon was not big enough and replaced by omega estates. Good feature as ever, well done.Regards Mark

  35. @ 34: I’ve seen gendarmes in Focus estate and transit last summer in France!Must be due to some euro-law against monopoly I guess…
    There has been a lot of lobbying to keep the Clio built in France last year (Turkish Dacia was ear-marked due to low labour costs), a lot of jobs are being lost at PSA (c. 5000) both in factories and offices/design…
    @ 36: bmw was mainly after the toothed timing belt patents, sales of the goggos were dwindling, the “real” cars were serious opponents to their neue klasse, so it was a 2 birds-1 stone tale.
    Some tend to forget that MGR was planning to have both 25 & 75 built in China…Jobs would have been lost anyhow, it seems to be the pattern all over europe: factories are closed, machinery re-located in countries where wages are lower, either to China/India or some new “european” countries. Globalisation will leave Euro-zone ( except Germany maybe..) industry-less just as UK did from the 80’s and dependant on China or the few countries with a REAL industry to get goods! Then, how long will it take for them not to be dependant on Europe or US designers-Engineers?
    Our balance is already seriously in the red -as a whole, in Europe- what else will be left to sell? Whisky and cheese..!
    MGR demise was the alarm bell that a bit of nationalism or patriotism is needed in order to keep your own or your neighbour’s job safe. Take a look at every item in your house: made in China or India or Thailand…. then, ask yourself: can I buy the same “made in Europe”? For some, maybe, at a premium, others, nope, like this very microsoft keyboard I’m using: it’s made in china like most other brands. It has become the world factory, not convinced? try that:
    Take a look at the Argos catalogue, it has all the answers, most of their products are made in China!!!

  36. @31 French and Italian cars may be (in your opinion) “poorly made cheap rubbish”, but at least the French and Italians still have indigenous car manufacturers……

  37. I’m sorry.. But the “BMW badges” comments are ridiculous…

    Do you REALLY think that?

    Skoda’s have had VW badges on them sine the Favorit.. “Part of the Volkswagen Group”… Look how long it’s taken for the image to rise back up to one of quality. And TBH, it’s the VW platforms that have facilitated that. And even now people who aren’t up on there cars still consider Skoda a naff Brand…

    BMW badges would have achieved nothing more than “They’re owned by BMW now” comments, which, were said anyway.

  38. ‘at least the French and Italians still have indigenous car manufacturers.’

    The key seems to be to retain some family ownership, along the lines of JCB. See Peugeot, Ford, BMW, VW, Fiat, Toyota.

    ‘Take a look at the Argos catalogue …’

    Also take a CLOSE look at the products on sale at a Aldi. Aside from the few branded foods on sale, the Aldi brands will not tell you where they were produced. There is a trend towards omitting this from all products.

    The next threat to UK manufacturing sector will be food processing and production. Bear this in mind when you’re filling your shopping basket (and you can figure out from the packaging where it was produced!).

  39. “The key seems to be to retain some family ownership, along the lines of JCB. See Peugeot, Ford, BMW, VW, Fiat, Toyota.”

    Austin, Jaguar, Morris….

    “Also take a CLOSE look at the products on sale at a Aldi. Aside from the few branded foods on sale, the Aldi brands will not tell you where they were produced. There is a trend towards omitting this from all products.”

    I think there are rules that cover atleast some food products. Though i’m not sure which. If you look at the produce section in Tesco, you’ll notice there are origin labels on the shelf edge or the side of the crate/box. I know the store gets fined if trading standards pay a visit and the country of origin labels are missing.

    You do see a lot of “Made in EU” on products though, which allows a manufacturer to have factories spread out all over europe.

    One of the biggest things that limit overseas food production though is shelf life and cost of shipping. Milk is a good example, it’s very expensive to ship it in from abroad, because we consume so much of it, you would need a pipeline to make it viable. If it’s heavy AND short life then it generally has to be made close to point of sale, because it goes off too quick to go by sea and is too heavy to be viably shipped by air.

    Even the food we do make here though, most of the ingredients come from overseas. Chocolate is a prime example, we don’t grow cocoa here. I know of a firm locally that makes chutneys, and cocktail dressings. Pretty much everything they do comes in large barrels and it just packaged here.

  40. @Craig 26… I take your point about promoting a single car rather than the whole company’s image. Having said that I remember in the late 1970s, Datsun UK aired a TV commercial featuring the actor Jack Hedley which promoted their whole selection from the Cherry to the 260Z – it obviously worked for them, though I accept it was 30 years ago and the business situation of Datsun & MGRover was quite different.

  41. All this talk about BMW…
    If BMW had had their business head on when they bought Austin Rover they would never have wasted their money on the 75, they already had models in the market segment the 75 was aimed at.
    Continue with the Mini as they did. This would have complimented their then current range.
    Develop Land Rover, BMW could have taught LR about build quality and built a brand that would have complimented BMW as it had done for Rover in the 1960’s. Remember, BMW in the 1990’s was, as it still is, the premium brand of choice that Rover once was in the 1960’s when it was making the P6.
    MG would have been developed as a pure sports car brand.
    Phase out the rest – BMW make all the saloon cars in Germany. Don’t put BMW badges on the Honda Rovers, this would damage the BMW brand as it did to Rover when that badge was put onto Austins!
    So this would leave us with MG sports cars (not Honda Rovers with MG badges on) Mini and Land Rover.
    The Rover name would have lived on in Land Rover and not become the devalued brand it became.

  42. British goods are great and last. My Dualit toaster was bought in 1995, the French toaster before it lasted a few months. My Henry vacuum cleaner was also bought in 1995 and never loses suction (unlike several Dysons I have known). I have a 1960 Sprite; a 1992 Rover 214Si and a 1995 Rover 420GSi. My latest purchase is a 2005 Jaguar XJ6 which is beautifully built and feels like a sort of automative big brother – looking after its occupants and never letting them down. My running shoes are all made in the UK. British goods are out there, are doing well and are a credit to the companies and staff who make them. I hope this adds to the debate. Merry Christmas.

  43. MGR punted the 75 around the police forces – the City of London operated a few ZTT V6 under 54 plates for a while and they seemed to be okay.

    An insider in the police told me a few years back that whilst it impressed, a lot were put off by the appalling reputation the KV6 got when the early versions were fitted in the later 800 series (a reputation it probably deserved it has to be said).

    Regardless that the 75/ZTT had a much changed and re-engineered engine mattered not, and unfortunately the reputation stuck. Police fleet managers want utter reliability and that my friends is why there were never many Rover 75 police cars.

  44. The reason behind this advert is clear. Foreign readers might have trouble comprehending this but in England if you are patriotic you are quite likely to be viewed as a either naive or possibly even xenophobic. Urban sophisticates would not be seen dead driving a car from an English company.

    I remember when BMW took over Rover talking about it to an ostensibly intelligent colleague who told me it didn’t matter if companies were UK or foreign owned! This “corporate” advert. is clearly an attempt to counter this type of opinion.

  45. @39 You do realise that industry is not confined solely to China, and I hope that you see that industry will not disappear off to the People’s Republic either. In fact, some companies are deciding to bring factories either back to the West or to other, even cheaper nations. The Chinese car industry is in complete disarray despite it’s size and the critical nature of their Market to manufacturers. Also, be aware that Chinese growth is beginning to slow and that inflation is at record highs in it’s shops. Therefore I do think it premature to call time on the West’s manufacturing industry at current.

  46. Oh, and BTW, Britain is not ‘industry-less’. The sector has grown massively since the dark days, it’s just that most everyday goods are produced in cheaper-to-build-in countries by mostly Western countries. We can pull the plug on Eastern factories in the future just as easily as factories anywhere else.

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