The best goods don’t need to be praised, but it doesn’t hurt to draw attention to their qualities. We certainly cannot deny that those who came before us strove for creativity. However, Internet tools have expanded our capabilities significantly.
Václav Klement, the company’s co-founder, got his first customers from the milieu of cycling associations and clubs in whose events he actively participated. He organised demonstration rides and led by example by personally riding to potential customers on a bicycle. In addition, the visionary Klement was a well-educated bookseller with a great business ingenuity. He deftly compiled texts for the first newspaper advertisements, posters and brochures and supported bicycle sales with a personally written brochure on cycling. Impressive accompanying black-and-white drawings were a must. Colour posters also proved to be very effective, although they certainly could not match the dimensions of today’s billboards. For example, an iconic poster from 1898 combined the motif of a girl’s beauty with the promise of the low weight of the SLAVIA bicycle: According to this beautiful picture, the girl and the bicycle together weighed only 63 kg.
The success of L&K motorcycles and cars at sports events soon became a frequent motif in the company’s advertising. The “officials” from the established ad department successfully faced the pressure coming from foreign-brand importers by emphasising their own export successes, for example, by reprinting a Japanese article in the exotic script. In 1912, the L&K company spent 90,000 Austro-Hungarian crowns (around CZK 30 million today) on advertising. The workers had at their disposal an archive with hundreds of plates and wooden blocks – “stamps” to reproduce drawings and photographs, which they sent to the editorial offices of newspapers and magazines. Václav Klement supervised the promotions personally.
From Bohemia to the ends of the earth
The robustness and reliability of the Laurin and ŠKODA vehicles were also impressively demonstrated by long-distance promotional rides. As early as the autumn of 1907, a fur-coated crew set off in an open FF-type car from Mladá Boleslav to Berlin and Paris. The inscription “8-cylindre-8 Laurin & Klement” stood out on the long front hood, and it was one of the first in-line eight-cylinder vehicles in the world!
One of the first radio announcers and later film director Jan Alfred Holman, who had a beautiful ŠKODA 645 business convertible, also worked in the ŠKODA brand’s promotional department.
ŠKODA car journeys around the world rocketed in the 1930s. They proved that the POPULAR, one of the cheapest cars on the market, was capable of handling a trip to faraway India, or a difficult journey through the USA and Mexico or Argentina. The larger RAPID travelled around the world in 97 days, while another specimen was cruising through Africa.
Eva and Frank Elstner
A passionate scout in his youth and later a teacher, but mainly a traveller, journalist and ŠKODA car promoter František Alexander Elstner, simply Frank to his friends, went on demanding long-distance rides in the second half of the 1930s with his wife, Eva, and the POPULAR model – and not only in Europe: They also went to the northern, central and southern parts of the Americas. In addition to a number of articles and radio reports, Elstner’s travelogues, such as The European Returns (ŠKODA POPULAR in the USA and Mexico, 1936) and Tango Argentino (POPULAR 1100 OHV in Argentina, 1938), remind us of these journeys today. The fragile blonde Eva not only proved to be a great navigator but also alternated with the popular Frank to take turns behind the wheel. After a travel break forced by World War II and the communist takeover of power in Czechoslovakia, Elstner ended his travel career with a final expedition in 1959. However, instead of going around the world, he was only allowed to drive to the Soviet Union, with the then-new ŠKODA OCTAVIA.
During the era of the First Republic, the prestige of the carmaker was also enhanced by images with famous owners: President T.G. Masaryk, writer Karel Čapek, footballer František Plánička and singer Karel Hašler.
The carmaker did not hide its famous customers. Goalkeeper František Plánička was another celebrity customer
Leading graphic artists Vilém Kreibich and Vilém Rotter had a hand in the graphic design of the materials. The former became a famous locomotive designer, and the latter founded and ran the most important graphic studio in Czechoslovakia. In 1928, Rotter gained attention with his first advertisement for the winged arrow company. He was an electrical engineering graduate and excelled with a modern artistic concept that retained a touch for industrial design. The share of colour gravure advertisements grew rapidly from the 1920s onwards, for example, the six-cylinder ŠKODA Hispano-Suiza prospectus was created on luxury paper, which made Kreibich’s drawings stand out perfectly.
In the 1930s, the promotional and advertising department actively supported branded stores and repair shops. It regularly mapped the strengths and weaknesses of competitors for them, collected positive reactions from the press and customers, informed the stores and repair shops of the brand’s sports success and prepared brochures, catalogues and leaflets. The largest budgetary part was taken up by advertising in the daily press and magazines, followed by participation in exhibitions and car shows, sports team expenses etc. Thanks to promotional films, the brand began to gain the attention of moviegoers as well.
Neither the economy of scarcity during World War II nor the socialist era favoured advertising: The production, sale and operation of cars were bound by countless regulations, and the demand significantly exceeded the supply determined by the central plan. Because of the technological decline of local graphic design and printing technologies, many foreign representatives preferred commissioning promotional campaigns to experienced agencies abroad.
The austere if not almost boring advertising on the domestic scene changed after 1989. The “IQ + srdce = ŠKODA” campaign was a hit. The strength and safety of the FELICIA was also proved by the car being suspended only by its doors on crane straps, and this advert became unforgettable.
Its successor, the FABIA, took the form of a huge cake on TV (2007). Five years later, the same motif was made more rough, when the sporty FABIA RS was shown to be manufactured out of bones and snake venom.
If you are looking for trustworthy information about cars and attractive stories from the brand’s life on the Internet, you certainly know the ŠKODA Storyboard content platform or follow the carmaker’s profiles on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Cycling fans all around the world regularly visit the online magazine We Love Cycling. Today, social networks are “lit”, and instead of a black-and-white printed leaflet, viral videos like those on YouTube will draw attention. However, the basic promotion and advertising principles have not changed. Cars and comprehensive mobility services provided by ŠKODA are attractive thanks to the favourable price/performance ratio, modern technologies and attractive design as convincing as the first SLAVIA bicycles 125 years ago.
The generous support of top sports, cultural and charitable events helps in spreading the good name of the ŠKODA brand all around the world. ŠKODA AUTO has also long supported the Czech Philharmonic, the National Theatre, the National Gallery in Prague, Smetana’s Litomyšl Opera Festival and the largest Czech film festival for children and young people, the Zlín Film Festival.
VMP-1 – STRATEGIC PRODUCT PLANNING – MARKET RESEARCH
“Advertising has a great impact on shaping the customers’ relationship with the brand, its positive image and the general success of its products. Modern times have greatly expanded the range of channels through which loyal and potential customers can be reached – for example, online video platforms, social networks and promotion in the form of influencers. Personally, I am part of a specifically focused market research team that provides targeted support to colleagues in order to make the brand presentation successful in the long run. Among other things, we are responsible for using statistical data or quantitative and qualitative methods to determine the initial target group of customers of ŠKODA models and to recommend possible advertising targeting. As ŠKODA AUTO has become a global brand, it is increasingly important to maintain its unified global identity while simultaneously allowing it to adapt to local conditions. A typical example is the differences between Europe, China and India.”