Devina Joshi

Volkswagen: Coming back to life

Volkswagen is out with a new commercial for its 'Once in a lifetime offer' on the Polo and the Vento, which plays around with the idea of reincarnation.

Is it tactical? Is it a thematic brand campaign that talks of Volkswagen's legacy? Is it an ad for the Polo? Or the Vento? Clearly, the latest commercial from the Volkswagen stable seems to have done its job - generate curiosity by being just a tad vague about what it is trying to say.

Volkswagen: Coming back to life
The commercial uses the creative route of 'reincarnation', and shows a typical Parsi man who is extremely finicky - almost to the point of an obsession - about keeping his vehicle, the Polo, spic and span over the years.

"The Polo. You'll come back for it" goes the super, while the voiceover concludes that with the 'Once in a lifetime' offer on the Vento and Polo, one will be induced to check their nearest Volkswagen store to know more.

The ad, while talking of coming back to know more about the offer, can easily be construed as a commercial that positions the Polo/Vento as a heritage car, used over generations, in the Indian context. The ad even shows an almost vintage version of the Polo, versus a newer one.

Lutz Kothe, head, marketing and public relations, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Volkswagen Group Sales India, clarifies that the ad is indeed a tactical one for the offer, and any reference or resemblance to a 'brand legacy' message is purely coincidental.

Volkswagen: Coming back to life
Volkswagen: Coming back to life
"While Polo does have a rich heritage, this campaign was not about playing it up. It was our aim to create intrigue and excitement about the carline and thus followed the creative idea around the fact that the offer is so tempting that one comes back for it even across lifetimes - thereby showcasing the different generations of the Polo," he says.

The Polo has been in the market for a little over a year. "This campaign has been created to ensure that this carline continues to be in the consideration set of people and drive traffic into the showrooms even during a slow sales period," Kothe elaborates on the objective.

The commercial has been created by DDB India, while Nomad Films is the production house. Rajeev Raja, creative head, Volkswagen, DDB India, says, "We didn't really want to reveal the offer in the ad, as the message was about inducing people to check it out in showrooms. And, Volkswagen always releases work that tells a human story, the little 'twinkle in the eye' kind."

The idea is to showcase how tempting the offer really is, while re-birth is the creative hyperbole to portray it. When asked if Volkswagen legacy as a message is a by-product of the ad, Raja chuckles, "Well, I guess this is an ad that kills many birds with one stone!"

The music for the ad has been given by Raja, along with Merlin.

Once in a lifetime ad?

So, will ad folk 'come back for more' when it comes to the strategy behind launching an offer campaign that doesn't talk of the offer, and runs the risk of being seen as a legacy ad for a product that is a little over a year old in the cluttered Indian car market?

Volkswagen: Coming back to life
Volkswagen: Coming back to life
Dheeraj Sinha, regional planning director, Bates 141 Asia, says that heritage and history are always positive things to evoke for a car brand. In a market situation where the feature list is getting highly competitive, it's important for brands to bring in values that are beyond comparison.

"To that extent, rising a little above product-focussed advertising is a good move. However, how do you bring alive heritage and history in a culture where the brand hasn't been a part of the folklore in a big way? It certainly would have been easier if the brand had a shared history with the nation," he opines.

Clearly, 'tactical offer' is not what is coming through for Sinha, and the ad loudly spells 'legacy advertising' for him.

Arun Raman, executive vice-president, planning, Lowe and Partners, says that he finds the strategy a little confusing, marked with "lazy thinking."

"First, is this ad for the Polo 'You'll come back for it', for the Polo plus Vento 'once in a lifetime offer', or is it for the Volkswagen brand trying to say that it goes on for a lifetime, with the inheritance cues?" he muses.

A flaw, according to him, is the absence of product cues, or why 'this car is better than the others'. Furthermore, with Indians adopting the new and shrugging off the old in various walks of life, tradition/heritage may not be the best creative or strategic route, he says. "I am quite amazed why a new player in the Indian market is on the 'from generations' platform, when it has been around here for just four-five years," he concludes.

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