A fun and intelligent Volkswagen ad

The other day at one of my lunch spots, I was idly flipping through the newspaper while my sandwich was being prepared, and I came across a fun Volkswagen ad:

Volkswagen ad from the newspaper

The Volkswagen brand has a fun and quirky image, and their ads are often playful

Alarmingly, I immediately thought of this reference, rather than the actual pop-culture original.  [For the back-story of Grey Poupon, check out the first four paragraphs of Malcolm Gladwell‘s, “The Ketchup Conundrum”, an article which also appears in What the Dog Saw]

Volkwagen’s got some good ads going these days, and they’re succeeding in part because they’re really playing to the quirkiness of the brand.  What I like about the Passat ad above is that:

  • it’s sooo clean, with no distractions that detract from the beauty of the car itself
  • the name “Passat” only appears in the small text at the bottom of the ad (if they’ve succeeded in getting your attention, they know you’ll read it)
  • they’re relying on the look of the vehicle, in combination with the reference to an ad from a couple of decades ago, to convey a message of “luxury”
  • there’s no big VW logo – you have to look closely at the back of the car or the rims to see a logo [Not to go too tangential, but the origin of the VW logo is neat: the company held an internal competition, which was won by Franz Reimspiess (who apparently also applied his engineering skills to tank development in World War 2, which I just found out now while looking up his name)]

Volkswagen can’t lead with a straightforward luxury message because it would deviate from their brand and alienate their target market.  What happened the last time Volkswagen went all luxury on us?  The Phaeton.

By most accounts I’ve read the Phaeton was a classy, high-quality luxury automobile, but no one wanted to pay 60 grand for a VW.  I think I’ve seen two in my life (and I’m not convinced it wasn’t the same one, twice).  I’ve seen more Tesla Model S, and it’s only just appeared in Canada!

Anyway, I find advertising simply fascinating – from the good to the bad to the “huh?” – so from time to time I’m going to be posting examples that catch my attention in one way or another.  Of course, feel free to share your own faves in the comments section.


Lee Brooks is the founder of Cromulent Marketing, a boutique marketing agency specializing in crafting messaging, creating content, and managing public relations for B2B technology companies.

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Posted in Advertising, Everything, Marketing

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