This ad is a little weird, to be honest.
Old car commercials can be so very entertaining, with Ford Mustang commercials right up there. Even among the best, this ad for the 1985 Ford Mustang is a standout. Everyone knows the famous American pony car, but in the mid-80s the muscle car scene was a little… different. How Ford chose to navigate the changing landscape in its advertising says a lot.
There’s one thing that’s largely missing from this car commercial: the car. It’s shown a few times, but the ad is more about the “Mustang state of mind” than anything else. That’s exactly what Ford was selling, because at least in the eyes of the automaker, the car had lost a lot of its former luster. Perhaps this is why a plan to launch a radical new Mustang with front-wheel drive and a turbocharged, non-V8 powertrain was in the works in the mid-80s?
Essentially, this commercial is what they call “image advertising” at its finest. Don’t really focus on the product, but instead curate a social image based on it. In this case it’s the assertion that owning a Ford Mustang will make you more stylish, likable, and apparently a better dancer? It’s so bizarre.
Also, this commercial only pours gasoline on the fire when it comes to Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger fans today saying Mustangs are “girl cars.” Women are highly featured in the ad, making it obvious Ford is working hard to appeal to female car shoppers. This isn’t just some jab at the Mustang, because there’s hard data to prove out of modern American muscle cars it appeals the most to women drivers.
To be fair, there’s a nice callout to the Mustang heritage, but you might not have noticed it. At one point the woman in the white Fox-body convertible pulls up on the side of the road where a man is holding a horse’s reins. Yes, it’s a subtle reference, but that’s apparently all we get. Oh, and the man is wearing a very 80s muscle shirt for good measure. Sad.