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Look who's talking!

Marketing ploys that instantly catch the eye are becoming the signature of Volkswagen. This time, to mark the launch of the Vento, its entry-level sedan in India, the German car maker decided to give newspapers a voice.

After holes were punched and tyre impressions made in newspapers, who knew what Volkswagen had up it sleeve as its next media innovation? With strategies that are becoming the hallmark of the brand, this time, the German car maker brought another surprise for readers of The Times of India and The Hindu -- namely, a 'talking newspaper'.

The creative was a full page ad of the Vento, on which a small, black box was stuck -- this provided the 'voice' of the ad. As the newspaper was unfolded, readers could hear a recorded message about the new sedan. The chips used in the black box were light sensitive; and the message would turn off automatically when the paper was folded back.

The communication was carried out across Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru and Chennai in the two dailies.

Talking about the innovation, Lutz Kothe, head of marketing and PR, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Volkswagen Group Sales India says, "At Volkswagen, innovation is a way of life and extends beyond our cars to the communication we do for the market. With this campaign, our aim was to get the awareness of prospective customers for our new Vento launch and drive traffic to our dealers' showroom. This approach has converted a static medium to a dynamic one. The idea directly correlates to one of our brand propositions, which is innovation."

The idea, based on musical greeting cards, took shape with Volkswagen's media partner, MediaCom India, which took care of the positioning; while DDB Mudra developed the creative concept.

Talking to afaqs!, Divya Gururaj, managing director, MediaCom India, says, "We needed to get quick awareness in a cluttered segment. To top it, the brand is associated with innovations that stand out, and people expect something different each time."

"It is indeed a difficult task, especially with a medium such as print, where everything has been done to death," Gururaj adds.

Bobby Pawar, chief creative officer, Mudra Group says, "The brand lives in popular culture; and we have to raise the bar each time. Anything different polarises people. The objective was to get people talking, imprinting their minds and sparking off conversations."

The innovation came from the idea of the Vento. The sedan is positioned as a car that has been crafted with such passion that even its engineers find it hard to see it being driven away.

"We thought it would be great to give the same passion with a voice to a medium that has no voice. We started with the idea that this passion needs to be heard at the most unexpected places," says Pawar.

The creative team at DDB Mudra includes Pawar and Rajeev Raja, national creative director. The copywriters are Anshumani Khanna and Hemant Sharma; while the art has been handled by Timsy Gupta and Trishna Prakash.

Six months of planning went into what seemed to be an uphill task logistically. "A total of 25 lakh chips had to come at a cost that made sense. It seemed to be a logistical nightmare," Gururaj explains.

While Volkswagen and the agencies chose not to divulge the spends behind the exercise, it is learnt that the chips cost the company less than Rs 10 each.

Interestingly, in early 2009, afaqs! reported a similar marketing proposition by Pioneer Book Company, which publishes magazines such as Meri Saheli and New Woman. The idea was that advertisers would be able to play their jingles even in a print ad.

Lalit Pahwa, director, Pioneer had then told afaqs! that the audio feature could be enabled with the help of a pre-recorded chip. The chip would be embedded in the page in such a way that when the reader arrived at the page, the audio would start playing; it would stop only when the page was turned.

He had claimed that the concept could be replicated in newspapers, trade magazines and in-house journals as well.

afaqs! tried to reach Pahwa for his views on the Volkswagen innovation, but he chose not to comment on it.