The video opens on a guy who has just been surprised by a call from his girlfriend. Her parents will be at his place in just two hours, and his place is a mess. Fortunately, he has a pushy and very nosy neighbor in the form of Rob Huebel (a familiar face who starred in “The Descendants”), who takes the boyfriend on an unconventional shopping spree in his new Golf. Huebel drives the car through the aisles of Target, highlighting the car’s handling as well as Target’s Room Essential decor and storage line in one coherent story.
The 3:16 video is the centerpiece of a larger native-content program that will run across the Turner network online, on TV, and on mobile. Funny or Die, it should be noted, is part of the Turner portfolio. Deutsch LA, Volkswagen’s longtime agency of record, developed the creative idea.
So what’s new here — besides an awesome new way to get your shopping done in a flash? There’s nothing new about a car commercial showing off a vehicle’s handling in an unconventional environment. There’s nothing new about using a celebrity or humor in an ad for a car. There’s not even anything new about brands working with Funny or Die to create viral content, because they’ve been doing it for years.
But there is something new about two brands as disparate as Volkswagen and Target finding a way to advertise their products side-by-side in a way that seems so natural, even in an absurd story.
When tracking videos at Visible Measures, we often see multiple brands partnering on a video campaign, but usually their products have some kind of innate relationship: mobile carriers like AT&T or Verizon pair with smartphone makers like Apple or Samsung; one P&G product stars alongside another in a video. Volkswagen and Target have no obvious relationship to each other; you can’t buy a VW Golf at a Target, for instance.
The easiest path for VW — which was leading the charge on this campaign — would have been to just drive the car through a nameless store, a set. Instead, they chose not only to work with Target, but also to feature the store’s products as much as the car. And somehow the Funny or Die writers found a way to balance the VW and Target messaging, without either overshadowing the comedy.
It’s important for brands to remember, however, that while dissimilar, Volkswagen and Target do share something that makes this video work so well — a target audience. The same people that shop at Target (who often fall in a higher income bracket and place an emphasis on the style of the mass retailer) are the same people who might consider buying a Golf (a car that is modern and stands on its German engineering).
Looking to 2015, we expect to see more videos move in this direction: brands partnering in unexpected ways to create unique pieces of content for the web. The growth of alternate content producers like Funny or Die, The Onion, and Buzzfeed, will only feed this trend, as brands approach these content producers for more native content.