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VW Film Shorts Less Than Sweet

Posted by: David Kiley on November 3, 2005


Volkswagen’s latest push into Net film advertising is short, or shall I shay “shorts,” but not always so sweet.
The German automaker, which is struggling amidst a sales and profit decline in North America and just changed ad agencies, is rolling out 120 short films, each around 15 seconds, on its website,, to promote the new redesigned sedan.

Each short, in a funny or quirky way, spotlights a different feature of the new car. In one, a Mother appears to be frightened of a squad of terrorizing child like doll approaching her house, and hastily nails boards up across the windows to keep it out. Cut to feature: Child-proof rear safety locks. Another shows a break dancer doing his thing on a giant record turntable to rap music. Cut to feature: Automatic brake disk wiper.

The idea was conceived by Havas’ Arnold Worldwide, Boston, which only handles VW advertising for another month. The agency was replaced recently by Crispin Porter +Bogusky, Miami.

The strategy behind the approach is this: Find a way to cleverly communicate the sometimes tedious list of special features that a car company’s engineers and product developers want to see played up in ads in a form and format that won’t put potential buyers to sleep.
The Passat, which was launched in September, has gotten off to a bumpy start, especially with regard to advertising. The TV spots have lacked the creative energy that VW and this agency became known for in the late 1990s. These Net shorts are interesting, and go at least part way toward achieving the objective. I was curious to play some of them, but after three or four, I lost interest. There is something not quite interesting enough about them to hold my attention. There is a sense that someone said: “Look, we have to produce 120 of these things so don’t spend any money on each one. Make them as clever as you can. We just want to drive some traffic to the website.”

Here is one thought. Each film should have actually closed with a 3 to 5 second piece of film with the actual feature being demonstrated. To just put up copy that says,” Automatic brake disk wiper,” doesn’t tell me anything. It feels like a half baked cake, or jello that’s not quite set. I’m from Missouri (not really). Show me. VW has a big online ad buy on popular web portals driving people to the site. But I think the ads could show on their own off the vw site, but only if they were completed the way I suggest.

Reader Comments

Greg Coghill

January 24, 2006 4:50 PM

Agreed. I do not understand why marketers think that meaningless and boring film clips would attract anyone in the first place (except for branding nerds like myself and David Kiley), let alone promote a product. I am a fan of Volkswagen, but I usually expect more from them when it comes to their innovative and unique advertising. I generally find that VW is in tune with the cutting edge target market, but I think they dropped the ball on this one.


January 29, 2006 8:54 PM

I have stoppped watching TV because the ads are so wierd. For example Burger is now promoting "The King" a reference to the devil...

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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