Advertisements for breakdown recovery services are a staple of our TV viewing. We probably all remember with some nostalgic fondness the “very nice man” AA campaign, or Patricia Routledge pre-empting her role as Hyacinth Bucket in an RAC advert styled on a classic British farce at the very end of the eighties. These days, though, advertising campaigns have taken a darker tone.
Picture the scene. A car is broken down at the side of a seemingly remote country road. It’s approaching dusk. Steam plumes from under the bonnet. The bonnet itself is slightly ajar, implying that the woman has bravely attempted to assess the problem but has perhaps been scared back into the car by the fading light around her. The woman frantically tells the operator, “I’m literally in the middle of nowhere!” Her children, apparently unaware of the danger they’re in, laugh and giggle in the backseat. In her panic, the mother drops her phone. Then suddenly, in a dazzling flash of AA-hued yellow not unlike a Star Trek transporter, a TARDIS-like box appears and an AA mechanic emerges. The family are saved.
Aside from the uncertainty of which intellectual property has most been compromised by the advert, it is interesting just how starkly this campaign is in contrast to its camper forebears. This was a recent AA campaign from 2012. Since it aired, the company has pushed it across their social media with straplines such as “As if by magic an AA Patrol appears and rescues a mother and her two noisy kids” and “2 noisy kids & 1 stressed mum break down on lonely country road”. The use of words like “rescue” and “lonely” are key here. This is a pretty clear appeal to fear, and perhaps it works – the company boasts 14 million members across the UK and Ireland.
Of course, you’re not just buying breakdown cover anymore. These days, breakdown cover can come with a raft of optional extras, from a free MOT to any number of free car washes. You can have roadside assistance, at home assistance, hire car options, onward travel, warranty options on garage repairs, cover for a single person in a single car, cover for cohabiting couples in multiple cars, replacement keys, replacement batteries – the list goes on. The cost goes up the more extras you include – or, more exactly, you’ll see the cost go down if you exclude these extras – so always consider if extras are actually worth the money.