Volkswagen launches digital-only ad campaign for Beetle

A 70-second digital-only film—titled Ode to the Bug—is Volkswagen India’s first shot in a larger campaign to promote the 21st Century Beetle in the country

The new Volkswagen Beetle Dune is introduced at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Reuters
The new Volkswagen Beetle Dune is introduced at the LA Auto Show in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: German automaker Volkswagen AG has launched an ad campaign for the brand new Beetle as it battles an emissions cheating scandal that has followed it to India.

The company began taking bookings for the 21st Century Beetle car through select outlets last month.

A 70-second digital-only film—titled Ode to the Bug—is Volkswagen India’s first shot in a larger campaign to promote the 21st Century Beetle in the country.

Made by advertising agency DDB Mudra (West), the film aims to create a buzz in the run-up to the launch of the latest version of the iconic car. Its tag line: “Think Fun. Think New.”

In the next phase of the campaign, the company plans to showcase the car at airports and popular malls and launch an interactive digital film.

Sonal Dabral, chairman and chief creative officer, DDB Mudra Group, said the idea of launching the campaign on digital media only was to target the ardent Beetle lover.

“Beetle is an iconic product, it’s got its own cult following and people who love this car. We wanted to stay focused on these very people and hence we decided to go digital,” he said.

Volkswagen has contacted all current Beetle owners in India, informing them about the latest version.

“The messaging for the new car will be done through people who are already passionate and care about Beetle. They will in turn become the messengers. We anyway live in a world where people ignore your message— we thought this might work,” added Dabral.

The film starts off by celebrating the quirky design of the car with a reference to the word “Lemon”—a nod to the Beetle print ads of the 1960s. It takes the viewer on a visual journey through the eclectic moments and memories associated with the car—from the flower power movement of the 60s (both the Beetle and the VW camper van were favourites of that generation) to the electrifying drag races of the millennium years; from its place in music and movies to its table-top miniatures; and from eccentric fans who modified their beloved Beetles into bold works of art, to the average person who may have inherited the car and drives it to work.

The film has been released on Google’s video sharing website YouTube, social networking site Facebook, Volkswagen India’s website and its social media channels.

DDB Mudra said that other digital formats such as banner ads and social media advertising will follow soon.

According to media experts, Volkswagen may have wanted to play safe and not open itself up to any flak from the public given the emissions scandal it has been mired in. In India, the government has instructed Volkswagen to recall 323,000 vehicles, making it the largest such exercise in the country, Mint reported on Wednesday.

“The fact that they are not doing traditional advertising is proof that they don’t want to get into any controversy. India is not a digitally-developed nation where doing digital advertising in isolation would suffice,” said Tarun Nigam, chief executive, PM Media Solutions, an independent media agency.

To be sure, several other brands have chosen go online to kick off their campaigns. One recent example is Maggi Noodles, for which Nestle India Ltd launched its ad film #LetYourMomKnow online when the product returned to shop shelves after being banned in June for allegedly containing monosodium glutamate and excess lead.

The Bombay high court lifted the ban, paving the way for Maggi’s relaunch after government-certified labs said the popular snack was safe to consume.

“This trend is becoming quite popular because you get to generate enough social butterflies online before you break you regular campaign across television, print or outdoor,” said Nigam.

Anusha Shetty, chief executive at Autumn Worldwide, a Bengaluru-based social media marketing agency, agreed.

“Unlike the traditional space, here is a touch and feel to the people who love the brand because the brand is talking to them directly. The conversation becomes that much more intimate, so it’s only fair that they get the preview first. This also enables brands to get first hand reactions and feedback from its consumers,” said Shetty.

Last month, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued notices to the central government and Volkswagen Group on a petition that accused the company of violating India’s emission norms and sought a ban on the manufacture and sale of its vehicles in the country.

The apex environment court issued notices to the ministry of heavy industries, Central Pollution Control Board, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, and Volkswagen’s subsidiaries Skoda Auto AS and Audi AG.

The court has granted all parties two weeks to file their replies and fixed 23 December as the next date of hearing.

“Beetle is an icon of the automotive industry and still enjoys a cult status. The idea behind this film is to offer a distinctive feel to Beetle enthusiasts, enabling them to connect with the legacy of Beetle, which is timeless,” said Kamal Basu, head of marketing, Volkswagen Passenger Cars.