|They Gave us Lemonade, & then sucked the juice out [We don't feel part of the medium]
By: Brian Keller
The Securities and Exchange Commission got into the burgeoning, let's litigate the Volkswagen business when it sued Volkswagen, and its former CEO Martin Winterkorn, in March of 2019, " for the “massive fraud” it says VW perpetrated on investors. This was another shot launched at VW over its omission of zero emission of truth regarding its emissions-rigged cars. The civil complaint argues that "VW and its leadership should have informed investors that the company was about to take a massive hit."_ The Truth About Cars
While the exact story of “who knew what and when” isn’t completely clear, “it’s clear the automaker knew a reckoning was in the works, just how big of one is up for debate."_ The Truth About Cars
The SEC suit said Volkswagen “repeatedly lied to, and misled United States investors, consumers, and regulators, as part of a scheme to sell, supposedly clean diesel cars, and billions of dollars of corporate bonds and other securities in the United States.” Ultimately the fines, penalties, and recalls cost VW more than $30 billion, and the damage to the brand can't be calculated.
Former CEO, Martin Winterkorn was indicted, by U.S. prosecutors in 2018, for his alleged role in violating the Clean Air Act, by masking polluting vehicles with defeating devices to fool Environmental Protection Agency testers. He was indicted in Germany as well.
NOTE: Sales have been down since the scandal but have rebounded, somewhat, since Q1 2019.
So what do you do if you run Volkswagen?
Well, you pay, and after you pay and you win back some customers, and a little trust as you commit to becoming an electric car company. It's a great idea. We believe the tainted Touareg will be brought back electrically, not as the originally rumored Valdez, but as the VW Kaepernick and it will be available in all colors except white. The Porsche Cayenne will become the Porsche Barrackayenne. There is no plan for Audi as of yet. It is rumored (by the writer of this fabulous column) that the entire Audi line has been sold to Wells Fargo, who in turn liquidated it, and sold all the manufacturing capabilities, technology and parts to China. Wells Fargo's hopefully serendipitous business plan has it charging customers, for the now nonexistent Audi vehicles, via ACH withdrawals and overdraft penalties from their cache of unused checking accounts, setup surreptitiously, for their slowly returning customers.
In 1964 Doyle Dane and Bernbach made one of the universe's most memorable commercials, wonderful and strategically brilliant and the able companion to the unique, "Think Small Campaign" of the 50s and 60s created by Bill Bernbach, Helmut Krone, Julian Koenig and their posse. The Snowplow commercial was the winner of 1964 Cannes Gold and provided a very dry minute in a wet, snowy world. The commercial helped continue the transformation of the VW identity from wily underdog to a champ. The ad was great company to the brilliance of Doyle Dane and Bernbach’s memorable work for all its clients.
Against a background of a snowstorm, a Volkswagen (Beetle) maneuvers its way towards its destination and ultimately disappears into a garage. There is no music there are no faces. It's natural sounds, snow, and the bug (the VW). One does see some boots. After the uniquely shaped and itty bitty Beetle disappears into the edifice, something emerges from the garage and the v/o (voice-over) begins. "Have you ever wondered how the man who drives the snowplow, drives to the snowplow?" This one drives a Volkswagen ... so you can stop wondering." Snow Plow (hit that link back there) 1964
Our favorite line is, after a perfect pause in the monolog, "so you can stop wondering." For people who don't remember days without SUVs and 4-wheel drive, think about it.
You can't go home again
Realizing that advertising is one element in moving a brand forward, you go back to the future, and you turn to your past and DDB (the agency formerly known as Doyle Dane and Bernbach), and the agency that made you and advertising great. They, in turn, turn to Johannes Leonardo, the creative agency filled with transformative ideas that make consumers the medium.* And,they all, in turn, turn to history, and a new take on the VW snow plow commercial. So, far brilliant, the transformative idea is to borrow from your past.
* They say that not us.
In January of 2020, which is now, the commercial is released. A young woman is driving in a processional motorcade. She is stone-faced and looks bored. Who can blame her? Processional driving is boring, how much I heart dirge radio can one listen to? But,there is a flash-forward,a premonition, of about 15 frames of the open road, then a quick return to the motorcade, natural sounds, and bored driver. Okay, we wait for this to be good, we got a tease, then bollocks it starts and quickly, our driver is turned loose onto the open road in a ravenous, country-side eating Volkswagen Passat. But, it's a bodge-up as the audience (we're not feeling part of the medium here) is subjected to a British voice-over. We'll use two cliches for this, one: OMG! and two: Really?
"Have you ever wondered what the motorcade driver drives when they're not in the motorcade? This one drives a Volkswagen Passat. up comes a Super: "This is car country" up comes the final Super: Drive Bigger"
There are no favorite lines and nothing clever just the aforementioned type after our the driver seems happy driving, not in a motorcade.I tried to feel part of the medium, but couldn't wrangle a modicum. Motorcade (hit that link back there) 2020
So you can stop wondering?
See, I used to wonder, sometimes, along with others, about how workers,and in particular,those who served the public, snow plow, drivers, nurses, police,bus drivers, subway workers, doctors, fireman etc., got to work in bad weather and what they drove. Snow plow driver gave a very clever answer while relaying a unique benefit.Ah, the old USP. Not once have I ever wondered what a motorcade driver drives, while not in a motorcade, "ay, there's the rub!" No one cares about someone tearing up the road, as one does in almost every auto commercial.
Bigger is by no means smaller
Drive bigger? Isn't this the company that became iconic by thinking small? Well, it doesn't, anymore. The historically creative agency that thought small, brilliantly, doesn't, anymore. The creative agency did seem to have put a small amount of thinking into this. We'd like to know who was in charge of, not the creative or drive bigger, but who approved it?
Think different, the rumors on Volkswagen
After the motorcade commercial, it's rumored that "Think Thunberg" and "Thunbergnugen" will take a prominent role in next two campaigns as Volkswagen destroys global warming. Removed from consideration was, "It's an Electric Passat, Trump That."
We also understand that Volkswagen is naming its newest performance convertible the Eilish. A Volkswagen spokesperson commented, "VW is empathetic to the progeny of rapidly aging, and somewhat out of touch Millenials. They need a vehicle to call their own, even if they don't really go outside and most don't drive. The new Eilish is being designed with no guidance from us."
In this case it's not Deja Vu allover again
George Santayana, nuts to you and your fancy, "If you don't remember the past you are condemned to repeat it." Volkswagen remembers the past but they haven't come close torepeating it successfully. It's not working, it makes us wonder what happened to the adorable little Beetle that made so many happy and provided inexpensive, dependable, with attitude, transportation. And, what happened to the groovy little Beetle that provided thousands of college kids a rolling, paintable space to smoke pot on the way to whatever trip was to be had.
"But the kids in the schools and the hippies in the streets
Are doing their thing to a rock and roll beat" - probably in a Volkswagen.
It makes us wonder what happened to the ability to think small from automobiles to rye bread. What happened?
Brian Keller is the Creative Director at Chomavision/Chromavision Brand Lab in Manhattan, NYC, USA.
He graduated from the University of Maryland (English), went to grad school at NYU (Cinema Studies) and went to University of Baltimore School of Law.
He likes skateboarding with his son. He also falls off his skateboard and amuses his son. When not amusing his son or riding bikes or playing basketball or working he writes for Beyond Madison Avenue & that's why Beyond Madison Avenue appears twice in this sentence and Talent Zoo once.