Tesla doesn't advertise in a traditional sense. Instead, CEO Elon Musk draws folks in with his eccentric personality.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live this past weekend, on May 8, 2021. Overall, it seems his performance was well-received, despite the fact that some people anticipated the CEO would struggle with the situation. It was the first time in history SNL was broadcast live across the globe, and other automakers banked on that by buying ad spots for their electric cars.
EVs still only make up a tiny part of all car sales in the US, and while they're selling better in other areas of the world than they are on our shores, electric cars still aren't even close to mainstream. At this point, Tesla's huge fan base, in addition to the many folks who are anti-Tesla, seems to pay attention to EV news more than most people.
For this reason, it made perfect sense for Ford and Volkswagen to buy ad spots and draw attention to their EVs while Musk was hosting SNL. One of the first ads of the night was a rerun for the all-new VW ID.4 electric crossover. The Mustang Mach-E appeared later, as well as the Volvo XC90 PHEV. Clearly, these brands are well-aware of how Musk's appeal, personality, and mere presence draw people in, whether they're fans or not.
Arguably more interesting is that startup automaker – with deep roots in Tesla – Lucid Motors took advantage of the Musk appearance to run an ad for its upcoming Air electric car. The Air aims to beat the Tesla Model S when it comes to specs, and it may be the first EV to hit the market with over 500 miles of range. Automotive News reported:
"Lucid’s move to buy into the broadcast gave it a chance to gain awareness with a receptive audience tuning in to see how the Tesla CEO performed in a comedic setting. The spot, which the brand shared on Twitter, positions Lucid as “luxury electric” while promoting the Lucid Air sedan, plugging it as “the world’s first 500+ mile electric vehicle” -- a reference to the race to make an EV that can go 500 miles on a single charge."
This is interesting since the Model S Plaid and Plaid+ are also coming to market soon, which will be prime rivals with the Lucid Air. And, while Lucid hasn't started delivering cars, Tesla has been making the S for years. However, the Silicon Valley automaker continues to delay production and delivery of the refreshed Model S high-performance variants, which means the Lucid Air could hit the market first.
According to a spokesperson from Lucid, who confirmed the ad prior to its debut:
“... the ad that will run during ‘SNL’ will see Lucid Motors return to the airwaves to answer that all-important question – who will be first to 500 (miles of range)?”
Automotive News referenced a story on CNET Roadshow that called Lucid's move to run the ad a "pretty bold" stunt since Lucid has yet to deliver the Air. However, the publication also said that even if the Air gets delayed again, there's a chance it could still come to market ahead of the Model S Plaid+.
Musk didn't really say anything promoting Tesla. The only clear car reference he made was a joke about the Toyota Prius. However, Musk didn't really need to talk about anything specific to draw attention to his companies. Just the fact that he hosted the show, arguably very successfully, and especially after opening his monologue admitting he has Asperger's Syndrome, was likely more than enough to get more people talking about Tesla. Check out the opening monologue below: