No test driving the Volkswagen Polo

By Biprorshee Das , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | May 14, 2010
Volkswagen has launched the campaign for Polo, its first hatchback in the Indian market, showing how the car has been tested for tough Indian conditions

German engineering is well-suited for India, if one were to go by the campaign for Polo, Volkswagen's first hatchback in the Indian market. With prices starting at Rs 4.5 lakh, the car is expected to compete against similar hatchbacks available in the market.

The campaign, which claims that the car is built to handle Indian conditions, attempts to clear any doubts there might be about Polo's performance. A series of four television commercials has been created by DDB Mudra, each using a humorous storyline to describe a particular feature of the car.

& #BANNER1 & #The first commercial shows the protagonist testing the car's ground clearance, by placing an ostrich's egg under the car and driving over without touching it. He is soon shown being chased by the visibly angry ostrich.

The second commercial has the protagonist driving through cattle, as he tries to put the car's road handling to test. The ad again ends with the herd chasing the driver.

In the third commercial, the driver tests Polo's claim of running for 27 kilometres on one litre of diesel, as he fills the car with the exact amount of fuel. He soon runs into trouble -- the car stalls in a forest area, after having run for the claimed distance, as tribals drag him away.

The fourth TVC has the protagonist testing the safety and toughness of the car, as he challenges a rhinoceros to 'bring it on'. He soon realises what a bad idea that was, and how tough the car is, as the rhino rams right into the Polo.

Each film ends with a voiceover, which says that the car has already been tested by engineers and one need not put it to any further tests.

The films have been directed by Christopher Von Reiss of Stink Films. Rajeev Raja, national creative director, DDB Mudra group and Hemant Sharma, creative supervisor have written the copy. Art is by Ajmal Mohammad.

Talking to afaqs!, Raja says, "There is a cynic in all of us. There's always a feeling that while everything might seem fine, there could be something that just might go wrong. The idea behind the ads was to reassure the consumer that here is a German car that is best suited for Indian roads."

"Volkswagen is a global brand and enjoys a certain stature. However, you have to speak to Indians in a language they can understand. The tonality in the communication is to reach out to the Indian consumer with a little bit of humour and exaggeration, and a protagonist who represents the cynicism often found in us," he adds.

The agency was briefed to communicate the positioning of the car, which has been made in and for India, by the German car maker.

According to Raja, the idea of the car being "already tested" is a very powerful one; it conveys the confidence of the brand, which further helps to reassure a potential buyer.

The TV campaign is being supported by extensive print, digital and outdoor innovations that are typical of Volkswagen.

Tested, Okay

When asked, creative experts and planners have appreciated the way the car's features have been presented in a quirky manner.

"The TVCs are nice. The questions about the car are taken head-on with a funny take delivered. But an ostrich egg is one thing; and our chassis denting on one-and-a-half feet high speed breakers another. Handling cattle on the road is one thing; and taking on awry, peak-hour traffic is another," says Vedobroto Roy, creative director, Cheil Communications.

Roy adds that despite his reservations, the films work for him, because of the Volkswagen brand and his exposure to the company's edgy global advertising. However, he wonders if this would hold true of the Indian consumer as well.

"In a market with great options and in love with Korean cars, I find these commercials preparing to fight an uphill battle all the way," he says.

Saji Abraham, vice-president, planning, Lowe Mumbai is of the view that the car's features have been brought out, without having to resort to clichés. He thinks that the commercials are well- suited to appeal to young, urban consumers.

"It would appeal on both rational (features fit for Indian conditions) and emotional (reassurance and peace of mind) levels. It gives the brand a distinct tone, which is far removed from its competition. This will stand it in good stead, as a lot of the competition is in the 'brochure' advertising category," he says.

"Polo needs to show its Indian credentials, as is required from any 'imported' car, to assuage fears that it may be unfit for Indian conditions. And they have found and interesting way to do it," Abraham adds.

Rohit Malkani, executive creative director, Grey Mumbai too finds the work "interesting, simple, and yet effective". However, he wishes the commercials had a far stronger India connect.

"The Indian cultural milieu and landscape is fertile territory if you want a powerful demo. This does not really live up to the Made in India promise; although I quite enjoyed the films themselves," says Malkani.

Abraham complains of the production values, which he thinks could have been much better.

"The rhino ad does not seem to make sense. If it is about safety, why does the man panic? Also, I see no obvious signs of safety, such as airbags popping up. Lastly, if the objective was to show Indian challenges, when did we start seeing ostriches or two-horned rhinos in India?" he quips.