Volkswagen's New I.D. Buzz Ad Is What Marketing Should Be
Updated: Jul 6, 2019
We all remember the monumentally embarrassing mistake made by Volkswagen discovered in 2015. The worldwide car company did their best to cheat emissions tests in the infamous scandal known as "Dieselgate". To sum it up, Volkswagen embedded their software with code that detects testing conditions, enabling the vehicle to activate its emissions controls only during regulatory testing while actually emitting 40x more Nitrogen Oxide during real-world driving scenarios. We don't intend to let the company get away easy and they didn't. It was a gross abuse of their consumers' trust and a terrible infraction against the environment and the standards in place to protect it. They were calculated in their deceit and payed the price. However, they have no other choice but to move on...and they did.
Volkswagen's new commercial is what marketing should be, and it is a great example of the power of art and creativity. It's artistic, emotional, communicative, powerful and honest without being apologetic (they have admitted and apologized for their mistakes). It is not, evasive, egotistical, pathetically apologetic, or artificially moral. Volkswagen does not pander or sob, they plainly acknowledge their terrible mistake in a quietly obvious way, while simultaneously ushering in the result of them learning this hard lesson.
The new ad takes place mostly in darkness while featuring a lone car designer clearly burdened by the challenge of recovering from his company's mistake. The ad leads with radio clips from the 2015 scandal. Twenty-five solemn seconds into the ad Simon and Garfunkel's Sound of Silence gently plays in the background, acknowledging the brand's sin, "Hello Darkness my old friend...". The ad skillfully juxtaposes great imagery with the classic song as it progresses, insinuating and literally showing the spark of their new idea. Volkswagen's depiction of the laboring designer, alone, pursuing redemption through art was raw and relatable. Then, out of the darkness comes the bright lights of their new concept, Volkswagen's I.D. Buzz. The ad flashes text that reads, "In the darkness, we found the light. Introducing the new era of electric driving.", further acknowledging their error.
We are by no means saying you should forgive them, that is your choice. But, we are saying that this kind of pure marketing should be a standard for the ad industry. Art and creativity should not be used to deceive. Rather, it should be used to creatively inform and imagine. Volkswagen's ad is also a testament to the challenge that commercial artists face; it is not easy reaching out to potential customers, especially after your company has spoiled their taste for your branding. The artists and marketing team were dealt a huge challenge and they did well to overcome it. What better product could follow a scandal regarding harmful environmental emissions than an all electric car (ignore the batteries okay people)? The Volkswagen art and marketing team clearly knew this was about all they had to work with after such a blatant error made by their company.
Enter the new I.D. Buzz, an all electric resurrection of the classic VW Bus. From a visual design standpoint, we think this is right where it needs to be. An old classic with a cult-like following naturally resists a reboot such as this, but that's another challenge Volkwagen's team had to overcome. It's a step forward for the company...a step made without forgetting its past.