Volkswagen: Engineering Life Stories

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | June 25, 2014
In its latest series of TVCs, Volkswagen attempts to make its otherwise cold 'engineering' proposition endearing by weaving warm stories around quality, safety and driveability.

"There is something in it for everyone," is what the European auto giant, Volkswagen, seems to convey in its latest series of TV campaign. The three-film series does more than just highlight the rhetoric 'engineering' element and brand features. It takes a humorous route to define the broad TG of the auto brand. It is the car that anyone can drive and the car that anyone would want to drive.

Volkswagen Hitchhike TVC

Volkswagen Reunion TVC

Volkswagen Gift TVC

Rahul Mathew

Sonal Dabral

The Hitchhike film shows two youngsters (about their 20s) driving a Volkswagen Vento, tapping away and singing out a peppy soundtrack loudly. The young man in the driver's seat is enjoying driving the machine so much that he misses a beautiful young woman asking for a lift on the road. His friend, in the seat beside him, realises the missed opportunity.

The Reunion film shows a family get-together where two young men shown in a single frame are completely opposite to each other. While one of them is confident and composed, the other one comes across as clumsy and irresponsible. When asked to bring ice from the market he enthusiastically volunteers. The other man nonchalantly hands over the keys to his Volkswagen Jetta knowing that even if he falters, the safety features in the car would ensure that he gets back safely.

The Gift commercial features a man in his mid-40s trying out the Volkswagen Polo in a showroom. He asks the sales executive every possible move that one can do wrong while driving. The executive reassures him about the safety features (air bags, door impact crossbar). Satisfied, the man says that he will buy the car. The next shot reveals that the car was a gift for his daughter (many may have found this sexist). The ad ends with the voiceover "Enjoy the confidence, enjoy the engineering." Executed by DDB Mudra West, the campaigns are aimed to highlight "the engineering" element that Volkswagen is renowned for without being overt about it.

The agency's brief was to create a series of commercials that would keep the brand relevant for the customer in a competitive market scenario, emotionalise it by highlighting the key customer benefits and communicate the strengths of the brand through its product USPs - safety, superior build quality and drivability. Rahul Mathew, creative head, DDB Mudra West says, "When we had to tell our consumers about the engineering, we decided that instead of telling stories from under the bonnet, we'll tell stories from life."

Sonal Dabral, chairman & CCO, DDB Mudra Group dubs the TVCs as 'insightful human stories built around the product truth'. In a noisy frill filled world of Indian automotive advertising, he is assured that these refreshing films will be loved and enjoyed by the audience as much as they enjoy owning and driving a Volkswagen.

Volkswagen is primarily targeting young males in the 25-44 year age bracket. This demographic includes entrepreneurs, second-generation businessmen and professionals. The brand states that their TG is driven by recognition, exploration or showing off unconventional life choices (in terms of career and educational background).

In this 360-degree campaign, the TVCs are being aired across GECs, news, infotainment, movies and regional news channels. There is a print and digital leg of the campaign. There are specially designed POS (point of sale) at dealerships as well.

The German carmaker faces stiff competition from likes of Hyundai, Maruti Suzuki, Honda, Tata Motors and Ford. In such a scenario, the company lists its challenges as staying relevant with customers, attract customers through product quality/substance rather than add-on features (bells & whistles) and be visible in a highly cluttered and loud advertising market.

Headquartered in Pune, Maharashtra, the Volkswagen Group in India is represented by five brands: Skoda, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini. While the Vento sedan and the Polo hatchback are the main cars for the European brand, for Skoda, the crucial cars are Rapid and Superb - both sedans. It is to be noted that Skoda has made an exit from the hatchback segment where it was selling the Fabia compact.

The divide

Raghu Bhat

Jagdeep Kapoor

When asked if the campaigns have done justice to the brand, it emerged that there was a clear divide among our experts. According to Raghu Bhat, founder-director, Scarecrow Communications, the ads are "emotional" but done in a half-hearted manner. "The baseline mentions engineering but the plots don't do justice to it," he comments adding that they have limited repeat view ability. In his view, the light, happy tone of voice is more suited to Hyundai than Volkswagen.

However, he gives a thumb's up to the casting and production value. Bhat believes that the German auto brand deserves a different tone of voice. He suggests that Volkswagen should not replicate Maruti's and Hyundai's ads, which try to show a pan-India imagery featuring emotional moments. "But advertising is just one of the many things in cars. Maybe people are not finding enough reasons to pay the price premium that VW is demanding given that cars like Ecosport have redefined value," he argues.

Meanwhile, Jagdeep Kapoor, CMD, Samsika Marketing Consultants applauds the execution of the three TVCs pointing out to the "Reunion" ad in which the clumsy chap brings out the 'no worry' attitude towards the brand, highlighting its engineering. The sheer enjoyment of the drive with the friend brings out the preference for the brand over other obvious options of enjoyment. The concern of the dad for his daughter brings out the dependability of the brand.

"The execution is simple, strategic and enjoyable, like the engineering," he says adding the brand recall will be high due to their relevance, ease of human connection and lightheartedness. In terms of brand marketing, he suggests that the enjoyment factor be experienced by as many people as possible, especially the youth. One of his ideas is that brand could use situations where Volkswagen can be shown as the car one wants to drive after getting a licence - or be the first preference for a trial with a parent and youngster.

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