Tesla : Electric soundtracks

A US car maker uses Benny Hill and the Rolling Stones in videos promoting its self-driving vehicles. 

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The feature

Tesla, the all-electric car company, announced last month that all of the cars it produces from now on will have the technology to allow fully autonomous driving.   

As part of a public relations push around the announcement, the company released two videos last week that follow one of its electric vehicles on a journey around Palo Alto, California. The video displays the road ahead, and three views of what the computer ‘sees’ – colour coded lines and boxes for lanes, objects, ‘in path objects’ etc. There is a short version of the video, at about 2m, set the Benny Hill theme tune, and a longer version of under 4m set to ‘Paint It Black’ by the Rolling Stones.

The videos are housed on Tesla’s website, were promoted widely on social media and also picked up by several traditional media outlets.

The takeaway

Who would have thought you could use Benny Hill music in a corporate video and make a success of it? The Tesla videos show that you can, all while staying ‘on brand’. The music helps communicate a sense of fun and possibility, very much part of Tesla’s public image.

There is a serious purpose behind the fun. Tesla knows the barriers to putting self-driving cars on the road are technological and sociological. Even if it gets the technology right, many of its potential customers – actual humans – will hesitate at giving up full control to their cars.

In that way, these very watchable videos are clever propaganda – giving the company’s fans something to cheer about, and going some way to convincing the sceptics.

First published 23 November, 2016
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