The risks Volkswagen took with two Jetta TV ads that put viewers in the car for high-impact crashes seem to be paying off in shopper interest.
Volkswagen says that since the ads touting Jetta’s crash safety began on April 10, requests for brochures are up 37% at call centers and 56% on the Web compared with the first 15 days of March, and Internet requests for dealer price quotes are up 58%.
The ads, by agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami, promote the 2006 Jetta’s top scores in federal crash tests: a “four-star front-impact crash rating” and “highest government side-impact crash rating.”
In one ad, viewers are along for the ride as a driver is chatting with a friend. A truck suddenly backs into their path, causing an air-bag-inflating crash. In the other, two couples are discussing a movie they’ve just seen, when a truck hits them broadside. In the aftermath, viewers see the passengers shaken but uninjured, then the screen quickly reads: “Safe happens.”
The crashes seem real because they are. The agency had stunt drivers at the wheel for the one-take shoots.
Despite the spike in Jetta interest, one auto marketing expert thinks the jarring campaign will dampen sales in the long run. “The vast majority of consumers are going to be turned off by it and they will take VW off their shopping lists,” says Art Spinella, president of research firm CNW Marketing.
But not Angelique Domangue, 33, a marketing specialist from Baton Rouge She bought a black, $19,000 Jetta on April 22 because of the ads. She’d been test driving new cars since December when a driver ran a stop sign and smashed her Toyota Corolla.
“I saw the commercial and it hit home,” she says. “Until you are involved in an accident like that you don’t realize how shocking it really is.”
VW admits reactions vary, but says the ads have gotten people to think about the brand and safety.
“There are mixed reviews but no matter what, the ads make you think that you can be driving along and you can’t control what’s happening,” says Karen Marderosian, director of marketing for Volkswagen of America.
Dealers say the ads are working. Bob Grace, president of the Volkswagen Dealer Council and owner of Baton Rouge’s Southpoint Volkswagen where Domangue bought her car, says, “We’ve seen a real uptick in traffic. Dealer feedback is that it’s working.”
“The advertising is shocking, but customers are saying that it makes you think about the safety of our cars.”
The safety ads are scheduled to be replaced with a new theme in mid-May, but Grace would like them to air longer: “I’m one that says if it works, keep it going.”