VW's Dark New Brand Advertising Campaign

In an attempt to wipe layers of tarnish off its reputation after it cheated on emissions tests a few years back, Volkswagen is out with a new brand campaign today. The first spot, “Hello Light,” airs in Game 3 of the NBA Finals tonight.

I really got a chuckle from one line in the release: “The limited-run spot is a moment for the company to clear the air on the diesel matter, acknowledge what happened and all that it brought about.”

Clear the air? At least the communications team has a sense of humor. Did I mention the scandal was about emissions? Specially about not clearing the air but making it seem, through cheating, that the company was clearing the air? It was cheating that cost the company upwards of $30 billion in fines, car buybacks and related costs.

At least the new ad, from Johannes Leonardo, refers to the scandal as a scandal and not just another “matter.”  

And it features a person you assume is a VW car designer, who presumably had nothing to do with the emissions cheating but appears to feel the burden of it. With head in hand and a deep sigh, you can almost hear him thinking, “holy crap, how the f**K are we going to design our way out of this one?”



And then he comes up with the brilliant idea of designing … wait for it … an electric car! Welcome to the party, Volkswagen. Better late than never. The company has said it will debut an electric car in North America next year.

There is a lot of darkness in the ad, which is set to Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence.” I’m not sure why. Even Paul Simon, who wrote the song over 50 years ago, has said he doesn’t really know what it’s about, although he did write it in a bathroom with the lights turned off.

The spot ends with the graphic message: “In the darkness, we found the light.”  Of course they did. And in the future, honesty will be their preferred policy, I guess is part of what you’re supposed to believe.

Well, you have to start somewhere. It’s not going to be easy cleaning up this brand’s sullied reputation.

A new phase of the campaign, called “Drive Bigger” begins June 11. According to the company, the tone of that phase will mark a return to the “thoughtful, fun and unassuming Volkswagen ads of the 1950s and '60s.”  The work will run in print media, as well as on TV, digital and social platforms.

Here’s a quote from Scott Keogh, president and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America: "This campaign is for all of those we disappointed, all of those who stayed with us, those who worked like crazy to keep us moving forward and for all of those who stopped caring. We have a responsibility to do better, to be greater and we intend to shoulder that responsibility."

I guess he had to say something.

And yes, VW, you do have a responsibility to do better.


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