Volkswagen of America, Inc.
Volkswagen of America, Inc.ALL GROWN UP. SORT OF. CAMPAIGN
DRIVERS WANTED CAMPAIGN
LIVE LARGE CAMPAIGN
NEW BEETLE CAMPAIGN
3800 Hamlin Road
Auburn Hills, Michigan 48326
Telephone: (248) 340-5000
Fax: (248) 754-4930
Web site: www.vw.com
Volkswagen of America, Inc. (VWoA), the U.S. extension of Europe's largest automaker, Volkswagen AG, released its fourth-generation Jetta sedan in 1999. The Jetta's exterior resonated so well with 20-somethings that it outsold all other VWoA models, including the Golf, the GTI, the Passat, the New Beetle, and the EuroVan Camper. In 2004 the Jetta accounted for 40 percent of VWoA's total sales, but company executives feared that Volkswagen was losing customers to competing brands with more power and greater features. In 2005 VWoA released an all-new, fifth-generation Jetta called the A5 Jetta. Automotive critics raved about its upgraded interior and engineering but criticized its bland exterior. To attract consumers who had favored the 1999 Jetta but now wanted more from a car, VWoA released a campaign titled "All Grown Up. Sort Of."
The campaign was created by VWoA's longtime ad agency Arnold Worldwide of Boston. It included print ads, radio spots, television spots, and alternative mediums such as wooden puzzles, coloring books, and a six-minute film titled The Check Up. The campaign debuted on March 19, 2005. The first commercial, "Airport," featured a young businessman using his A5 Jetta to shuttle an older, conservative executive from the airport. When the stodgy executive turned on the Jetta's radio to "check the scores," the speakers blared out heavy-metal music. The spot ended with the tagline "The new Jetta. It's all grown up. Sort of." Although the campaign's cost was undisclosed, Volkswagen spent an estimated $30 million on Jetta advertising in 2004, according to the media researcher Nielsen Monitor-Plus. VWoA ended its relationship with Arnold in September 2005.
The campaign earned Best of Show honors at the 2005 Francis W. Hatch Awards, which recognized creative excellence within New England's advertising community. Some VWoA car dealers criticized the campaign for not informing customers about the A5 Jetta's features. Nevertheless, the campaign helped Jetta sales increase 25 percent in the first three months of 2005 compared to the same period the previous year.
When the ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach of New York released VWoA's "Think Small" campaign in the 1950s, automotive advertising in America changed forever. Before "Think Small," print ads for automotive brands typically depicted large, showy cars against imposing backdrops. In contrast, "Think Small" featured one small image of a Volkswagen Beetle juxtaposed on a stark white background. "It was one of the first advertising campaigns to treat audiences like they had some intelligence. It was tongue-in-cheek and unexpected," Linda Scott, associate professor of advertising, art, and design at the University of Illinois, said to Automotive News.
In 1986 Doyle Dane Bernbach merged with the ad agency Needham Harper & Steers of Chicago to become DDB Needham Worldwide. During the latter half of the 1980s the expanded agency created campaigns that touted Volkswagen's German engineering. Spots featured Volkswagens speeding around test tracks. In 1990 DDB Needham Worldwide crafted a campaign around the German word for driving pleasure, "Fahrvergnugen," which was paired with a small stick figure. After experiencing waning sales VWoA briefly awarded its advertising account to Berlin Cameron Doyle and finally to Arnold in March 1995. Arnold's first executions featured the tagline "Drivers Wanted," which Arnold used for 10 years. Because VWoA did not release a new model during Arnold's first two years, the ad agency cross-promoted Volkswagen with Trek mountain bikes and K2 skis.
The 1999 Jetta resonated so well with younger customers that VWoA claimed to have the automotive industry's lowest average customer age: 33 years old. Over the next three years, however, the Jetta lost ground to competing brands, such as the Audi A4 and the MINI Cooper. Although its exterior remained popular, the fourth-generation Jetta's lack of power and limited features were cited for decreasing sales. To inject juvenescence into the brand Volkswagen engineers upgraded the fifth-generation Jetta, called the A5 Jetta, in size and features. According to automotive critics, the Jetta's popular exterior was lost in the upgrade. To suggest that the larger, more expensive A5 Jetta still exhibited the youthful uniqueness of its 1999 predecessor, Arnold released the "All Grown Up. Sort Of" campaign.
The campaign targeted college graduates who were beginning to make their first adult life changes, including purchasing a home, starting lifelong careers, or committing to long-term personal relationships. Both of the campaign's TV spots featured 20-somethings performing notably adult activities, while still listening to hard-rock music. The campaign reached for "that person in the in-between stage in life," David Weist, Arnold's creative director for the campaign, told Adweek. "Where they're half grown up and still half a kid. They have a better job, they might have a steady relationship with someone, but they still can't quite throw that futon away or the monkey lamp. That's where the car is."
Volkswagen dealers criticized the spots for not providing enough imagery or information about the newly engineered Jetta. Ad critics, however, remarked that a strategy focusing more on image than on information was effective. If the tech-savvy target connected with the content, according to Arnold, the target would later research the Jetta themselves. "For the younger consumer, it's all about image and about wanting to feel good about yourself," Wes Brown, a partner in the Los Angeles marketing firm Iceology, explained to Automotive News. "If you've got a good image, they'll come in, and the product will speak for itself."
The fifth-generation Jetta was designed for a more affluent target than the previous Jetta. The A5 Jetta's baseline price of $20,390 was nearly $4,000 above that of the 1999 model. The A5 was also 17 centimeters longer, loaded with more features, and outfitted with a larger engine. In addition, according to automotive critics, it resembled the Toyota Corolla, a car popular with 30-something drivers. One of the campaign's spots, "Independence Day," featured a man and a woman in their late 20s who used an A5 Jetta to tote large speakers off to a newly purchased home. The spot implied that the fun-loving couple had moved from an apartment to a house just so that they could dance to loud rock music.
JETTA: IT'S A BREEZE
After Volkswagen's marketing team noticed that North Americans preferred sedans and coupes over hatchback-shaped automobiles, Volkswagen released its first Jetta, a larger version of the Golf hatchback. The first Jetta was released worldwide in 1980. Later generations emerged in 1984, 1991, 1998, and 2005. The original version's name came from the jet stream—the swift air currents that circle the earth. Although Canada, the United States, and South Africa retained the Jetta name across all five generations, the 1991 model in Europe was called Vento after the Italian word for "wind." Continuing its tempestuous naming convention, Europe's fourth generation model was titled Bora, the name of an air current above the Adriatic Sea. The 2005 version was once again called the Jetta in Europe but not across the globe. It took the name Sagitar in China, Bora in Mexico, and Vento in regions of South America.
While automotive critics compared the new Jetta's exterior to that of the Toyota Corolla, they likened its interior to that of an Audi—a brand partially owned by Volkswagen AG. Although the baseline Audi A4 and Audi A3 were slightly pricier than the A5 Jetta, Audi's advertising targeted a similar market. In March 2005 Audi of America, the North American branch of Audi, released its "Never Follow" campaign to herald the release of its seventh-generation A4 sedan. One campaign promotion asked consumers to locate nine Internet banner ads that highlighted new A4 features. Participants in the contest were eligible for a two-year lease on a new A4. Other prizes included PalmOne and Bose products. The campaign targeted 25- to 39-year-old men and was developed by ad agency McKinney + Silver of Raleigh, North Carolina. "We decided to engage the user, let them interact with the brand and let them see what's changed," Erin Bredemann, interactive strategist at McKinney + Silver, said to Adweek. "You collect these parts and also learn about the car through the game."
In June 2005 McKinney + Silver released its "The Art of the Heist" campaign to announce the all-new Audi A3, with a suggested retail price of more than $26,000. The campaign told the story of two hit men chasing the fictional Ian Yarbrough, who had recovered a stolen Audi A3 containing valuable computer files, across America. A plethora of media were used to tell the campaign's narrative, including one 30-second television commercial, print ads, outdoor ads, online banners, and the website www.AudiUsa.com/A3. According to Audi, more than 200,000 people interacted with the Audi website in a single day of the campaign.
The campaign's two television spots, "Airport" and "Independence Day," debuted on March 19, 2005. "Airport" showed a 20-something man picking up his older, more conservative colleagues at the airport. At the spot's beginning the 20-something impressed the older men with a well-articulated business conversation. The mood inside the A5 Jetta deteriorated, however, when the man seated next to him stated that he wanted to "check the scores" and turned on the car stereo. Rock music blasted out of the speakers. The spot "Independence Day" featured a young couple dancing in their apartment to the Kings of Leon rock song "Molly's Chambers." After a downstairs neighbor complained, the couple used their A5 Jetta to transport larger speakers to what the spot later revealed was their new house. The commercial ended with the two dancing inside their new living room. Both spots concluded with the copy "The new Jetta. It's all grown up. Sort of."
To the dismay of Volkswagen dealers, neither spot explained the new Jetta's features. Also, the commercials rarely aired images of the A5's revamped design. Defending the campaign strategy in Automotive News, VWoA vice president Len Hunt said, "Everybody reaches for the obvious, 'I'm going to spend $20 million, so I better show what the car's got.'… We know our audience loves our brand, and we've made a name for ourselves with our ads, and we're sticking to that. We desperately try to keep this VW character in our ads."
For a less traditional effort of the campaign, Arnold hired uniformed 20-somethings to disperse coloring books and wooden puzzles with the "All grown up. Sort of" theme within Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Washington, D.C., and Seattle. The coloring books featured adults performing mundane tasks, such as washing dishes, computing taxes, and engaging in boring conversations, until being "rescued" by A5 Jettas.
Two-page foldout print ads were published in national magazines. Before the ads were unfolded, new Jettas appeared in serene settings such as in front of an upscale restaurant. Once the ads were opened, images showed much rowdier Jettas performing stunts such as driving in tight circles ("doing doughnuts") in the snow. One ad featured two nude owners running along the beach. "It's a different walk to take," Brown said in Automotive News. "Do you talk about all these features that are new to you and your buyer, or do you do it more abstract[ly] and say, 'If this is the way you lead your life, this is the brand for you.' European brands tend to go the more abstract way."
Arnold also created for the campaign a six-minute film titled The Check Up, starring Joe Pantoliano, formerly of the mob-family TV drama The Sopranos. Two million DVDs were inserted in Entertainment Weekly. Another 1.5 million were made available at Volkswagen dealerships. The film's narrative featured a 31-year-old man being investigated by a case officer for something called the "Federal Commission of Adulthood." The investigator, played by Pantoliano, monitored the maturation of young adults and made sure that the 31-year-old was accruing responsibilities. In addition to The Check Up, the DVD contained interviews with Volkswagen designers and driving footage of the new Jetta.
Although the campaign helped A5 Jetta sales for the first three months of 2005 increase 25 percent over Jetta sales for the same period in 2004, other Volkswagen brands were underselling. Comprehensive sales for VWoA's first seven months of 2005 were 22 percent below the previous year. Volkswagen eventually severed its 10-year relationship with Arnold in September 2005 and awarded the account to Crispin Porter + Bogusky without a repitch from Arnold. Arnold executives blamed their loss on Kerri Martin, the new director for brand innovation at VWoA, who had previously served as the marketing communications manager for BMW of North America. Martin had worked closely with Crispin Porter + Bogusky to relaunch BMW's MINI Cooper in 2001.
"All Grown Up. Sort Of" earned Best of Show honors at the 2005 Hatch Awards, an annual event organized by the Ad Club of New England. Arnold executives readily defended their work after their campaign collected the award. "Certainly [the win is] bittersweet because VW was so much a part of the agency," Ron Lawner, chief creative officer at Arnold, said to Adweek. "But I think [the awards] speak very loudly about how modern and integrated this agency really is. We won for a body of fully integrated campaigns, and to be slapped for not thinking outside the box when we in fact live outside the box [is frustrating.]" Lawner was speaking only a few days after VWoA announced that it would use Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
Crain, Rance. "Integrated Ideas Are Not King at Frat-Boy Jokester Crispin Porter." Advertising Age, November 14, 2005, p. 22.
Creamer, Matthew, and Jean Halliday. "How Crispin Drove Off with VW." Advertising Age, September 12, 2005, p. 1.
Dutka, Elaine. "Volkswagen Commercial Now Available on DVD." Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2005, p. G7.
Elliott, Stuart. "With Sales Slumping, VW Switches Agencies." New York Times, September 7, 2005, p. 2.
Geist, Laura Clark. "Humor Is Hallmark of VW Ads." Automotive News, October 17, 2005, p. 36.
――――――. "New VW Passat Advertising Highlights Features, Safety." Automotive News, September 19, 2005, p. 16.
Harper, Brian. "Grown Up, but Will Anyone Notice?" Montreal (Quebec) Gazette, April 13, 2005, p. E5.
――――――. "Volkswagen Has a Lot Riding on Its New Jetta." Edmonton (Alberta) Journal, April 15, 2005, p. I3.
Joyce, Kathleen M. "Talking Shop." Promo, October 1, 2005, p. 24.
LaReau, Jamie. "VW Pushes Lifestyle over Product in Ads." Automotive News, April 4, 2005, p. 28D.
Lazare, Lewis. "It's No Secret that Volkswagen Needs the New Jetta to Be a Certified Hit in the North American Market." Chicago Sun-Times, March 22, 2005, p. 51.
Sabatini, Jeff. "Once a Standout, Now Lost in the Crowd." New York Times, September 18, 2005, p. 1.
Scanlan, Dan. "The Redesigned 2005 Jetta: 'All Grown Up.'" Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, July 9, 2005, p. G-1.
While Volkswagen had been the leading import car company in the United States during the 1960s and early '70s, by the late 1970s it had begun to lose its base of American consumers to emerging imports produced by companies such as Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corporation. In the early 1990s Volkswagen's sales hit a low of 49,533 units from a peak of 569,696 units in 1970. In addition to the low sales, the quality of cars being produced at Volkswagen's Mexico plant had become notoriously poor. The Germany-based auto-maker began considering a complete withdrawal from the North American market. In an attempt to inject the joy of driving back into its brand and improve its U.S. sales, Volkswagen released a campaign called "Drivers Wanted."
Created by the ad agency Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot, which was soon renamed Arnold Worldwide, the television, billboard, Internet, and print campaign first surfaced in July 1995. It was created with Volkswagen's estimated $110 million North American advertising budget. Initial TV spots featured quirky and fast-paced content that was intended to target all consumers younger than 45, but the company particularly wanted to attract those between the ages of 18 and 34. Set to rock music and filmed in a quick-cutting style reminiscent of MTV videos, the campaign debuted with eight television spots suggesting that the Volkswagen Golf, a compact hatchback, helped drivers engage more fully with life. The spots' voice-over explained, "On the road of life, there are passengers and there are drivers. Drivers Wanted." The "Drivers Wanted" slogan would be used in almost every Volkswagen vehicle launch for the next 10 years. Volkswagen ended its relationship with Arnold on December 5, 2005, which served as the official end date of the "Drivers Wanted" campaign.
During Arnold's 10-year stint with Volkswagen, "Drivers Wanted" reversed the automaker's sales decline and eventually tripled its North American sales. Besides collecting a plethora of ad-industry awards, the campaign was considered by automotive critics to feature one of the most recognizable ad slogans in automotive history.
Volkswagen entered the U.S. new-car market in 1949 with the introduction of the Beetle. The company joined forces with agency Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1959, and this partnership led to what Advertising Age named "some of the most celebrated advertising ever done." These simple, yet tremendously effective, print pieces helped make the Beetle one of the most successful cars in U.S. history. A generation of young Americans—the baby boomers—embraced the Beetle for its low price, its fuel efficiency, and its cute appearance. By 1970 the Beetle "was an emblem of the time," according to the Boston Globe. At its peak Volkswagen sold a stunning 569,696 Beetles in the United States alone. In the 1970s, however, Volkswagen faced new competition from Japanese automakers such as Toyota and Honda that followed Volkswagen's formula of providing both quality and value. By 1979 Japanese cars had begun to dominate the market, and Volkswagen struggled to redefine itself. The company lurched from one marketing effort to another with an array of agencies at the helm, never effectively conveying a post-Beetle identity. During the 1990s "Fahrvergnügen," which was the German word for "driving pleasure," became one of Volkswagen's largest campaigns. The effort was created by the ad agency DDB Needham and featured a simple stick figure with the Volkswagen logo. Despite the campaign's attempt to rein-vigorate Volkswagen's brand, sales still dropped. DDB Needham was eventually relieved from the account.
"There was a time when people throughout the country knew Volkswagen," a senior executive told the Wall Street Journal. "Somewhere along the way, we lost our sense of direction. The public forgot who we were." U.S. sales fell to an all-time low of 49,533 cars in 1993. Some analysts speculated that Volkswagen—still a European powerhouse—would abandon its American market.
In April 1995 Volkswagen chose Boston-based agency Arnold Communications (then Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot) to forge a new image for the company. Arnold "determined that young people were the core market," according to Advertising Age, and then crafted "Drivers Wanted" around the values, needs, and desires of this group. Although its target audience was adults aged 21 to 44, the initial ads "skewed towards twenty-somethings looking for something beyond a boring econo-box," said USA Today. Instead of setting its sights on a mass market, as it had done in the past, Volkswagen sought to appeal to this narrow segment. Successfully pitching a product to Generation Xers was no easy task, however. Raised in the era of cable, and therefore used to dozens of television channels and their incessant commercials, Xers were more accustomed to advertising than their forebears—and also more impatient. If a commercial bored them, they changed the channel. Xers were also renowned cynics, inured and unreceptive to traditional advertising techniques.
"Drivers Wanted" tried to connect with this audience. Humor and an aggressive "anti-advertising" stance were both essential to the campaign. Unlike traditional car advertising, which was heavy on lists of attributes and footage of cars whizzing around curves, "Drivers Wanted" recognized that this hard sell was rather ineffective with Xers. Instead the Volkswagen campaign used clever narratives to convey the intangible essence of the brand. In a commercial titled "Sunday Afternoon," two young men tooled about in their Jetta with no particular place to go. They found a chair by the side of the road and loaded it into their hatchback. When its malodorous qualities became evident, they abandoned it on the street once more. "It's the commercial about nothing," a Volkswagen employee told the Wall Street Journal. The spot humorously depicted the "slacker" mentality for which Generation X was criticized. The voice-over ("It fits your life. Or complete lack thereof.") wittily conveyed, as one Arnold executive said in a press release, that "we aren't always doing cool, active things." "Sunday Afternoon" also featured a sound track popular among college students.
As "Drivers Wanted" continued to advertise new Volkswagen models, the campaign's target market expanded. When Volkswagen introduced an updated version of its more upscale Passat in 1997, the "Drivers Wanted" target included commercials that targeted consumers above the age of 30. Like the previous spots, these commercials relied on slice-of-life vignettes and humor to reach older and more affluent consumers. For instance, in one spot a middle-aged mother embarked on a date. She paused in her Passat outside to reflect on the irony of the situation: her teenage daughter would be the one waiting up for her return. For the New Beetle's 1998 debut, "Drivers Wanted" first targeted baby boomers, or Americans born between 1946 and 1964. After the New Beetle proved unexpectedly popular with members of Generation X, the campaign was directed at two audiences, targeting baby boomers with spots that referenced the 1960s and Generation Xers with content that was more contemporary. The target for "Drivers Wanted" would be adjusted throughout its 10-year life-span according to what car model was being advertised.
Volkswagen's line of small cars faced competition from a bevy of American and Japanese companies that strove to attract the same youthful audience as "Drivers Wanted." In 1994 the Chrysler Corporation introduced the Neon, a compact auto offered under both its Dodge and Plymouth labels. With ad agency BBDO Worldwide, Chrysler created the $85 million "Hi" campaign, directed at consumers aged 18 to 29. This print, outdoor, and television effort ran during high-profile events, such as the Super Bowl, and gained a great deal of attention as a result. The spots attempted to imbue the Neon with a likable, distinctly human personality. Commercials showed the little car driving through unusual landscapes, and at the end of each spot the Neon stopped facing the camera and delivered the campaign's tagline: "Hi" (which was written above the car). One print piece declared, "Hi. What could be friendlier than Neon's spacious cab-forward interior?" and answered itself, "It's friendly right down to the sticker. Gotta run." Chrysler continued "Hi" until 1997, when it incorporated Neon's advertising under an umbrella brand campaign.
General Motors (GM) had successfully marketed its Saturn under the theme "A Different Kind Of Company, A Different Kind Of Car" since the brand's introduction in 1990. An analyst for the Tennessean praised the campaign as "the most brilliant marketing campaign of any car in the last decade." Saturn's commercials, like those in "Drivers Wanted," favored vignettes about its drivers over traditional car-advertising tactics. In 1994 GM spent $141 million on advertising Saturn. Commercials included the depiction of a security guard who logged 100,000 miles on his Saturn without ever leaving his small community.
In 2002 German automaker Bayerische Motoren-Werke AG (BMW) reintroduced the MINI Cooper, which many automobile analysts considered a direct competitor with the New Beetle. BMW hired the agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky to handle advertising for the brand. To promote the car's recreational qualities, the agency famously strapped MINI Coopers to the roofs of SUVs and drove them across America. MINI Coopers were also parked in the bleachers of sporting venues. Playboy even allowed a MINI Cooper to be featured as a 2002 centerfold.
One of Volkswagen's later competitors was the Toyota Scion, which debuted in 2004. Scion was a brand created by Toyota to target Generation Y consumers, people born between 1978 and 2000. Seventy percent of Scion's marketing budget was spent on lifestyle events, including small-venue concerts. Because Generation Y was considerably more savvy about technology than older generations, Scion allowed its customers to accessorize their cars via the Internet before even stepping foot on a lot.
Buoyed by its revived fortunes, Volkswagen resurrected the legendary Beetle in 1998. To celebrate the debut of the New Beetle, Volkswagen created a series of commercials and print ads that used the "Drivers Wanted" tagline. Some slyly referred to the original Beetle's roots in the counterculture movement of the 1960s. One spot quipped "More Power. Less Flower." Another put a decidedly ironic twist on that generation's maturation: "If you sold your soul in the '80s, here's your chance to buy it back."
Volkswagen employed a variety of traditional and innovative marketing strategies to outmaneuver its competitors. The company aired its "Drivers Wanted" spots during television programming that was popular with its target audience. The campaign debuted on Seinfeld and ER, and later installments of the campaign ran during Generation Xer favorites Melrose Place, Mad about You, Saturday Night Live, and The Late Show with David Letterman, as well as during NFL games. In 1997 commercials appeared during The X-Files and Millennium and on a controversial episode of the sitcom Ellen, in which the eponymous main character revealed that she was gay. While controversy-fearing car companies chose not to advertise during this particular episode, Volkswagen "figur[ed] that the subject matter [was] in keeping with its own slightly edgy pitch to young adults," according to the Wall Street Journal. "Volkswagen is a very cool, progressive company and isn't into prejudice," an Arnold representative told the Journal. "People who have alternative lifestyles also make money and buy cars." Volkswagen sought to place its print ads in publications that were read by its desired audience, including Rolling Stone, Shape, Outdoor, and Men's Health.
Volkswagen also pursued unique avenues to widen the reach of "Drivers Wanted." Volkswagen entered into a partnership with Trek bicycles and K2 Ski equipment and offered its Jetta with a special car rack and a mountain bike, skis, or a snowboard. Special commercials touted the arrangement. A spokesperson explained the strategy in a 1996 press release: "'Drivers Wanted' is all about connecting to life. The activity of mountain biking, like driving a Volkswagen, is also about connecting back to life and the outside world." The slogan would outlive its original 1995 campaign and be used for the remainder of Arnold's relationship with Volkswagen, serving to introduce models such as the New Beetle, the Touareg SUV, and the Phaeton.
In 1998 "Drivers Wanted" was the slogan for the "New Beetle" campaign, which used copy such as "Less Flower. More Power" and "If you sold your soul in the '80s, here's your chance to buy it back." Later "New Beetle" advertisements featured the copy "Hellooo rich hippies!" to target baby boomers nostalgic for the 1960s. "Drivers Wanted" surfaced again to advertise the fourth-generation Jetta and the redesigned Golf, both of which were made available in 1999. That same year Volkswagen executives claimed that the average Volkswagen buyer was 33 years old, the youngest average age in the North American automobile industry.
In 2002 Volkswagen's U.S. sales began to decline. "We didn't have the product strength, and the brand was sort of feeling its way at the same time," Karen Marderosian, director of marketing for Volkswagen of America, explained to Automotive News. "I do think that the advertising had become watered down mainly by … what was going on with the brand overall." Between 2002 and 2004 Volkswagen sales dropped nearly 20 percent. A decrease in Volkswagen's quality exacerbated the problem. According to a "Vehicle Dependability Survey" conducted by marketing-information firm J.D. Power and Associates in 2004, Volkswagens reportedly exhibited 40 percent more problems than the industry average.
During the final year of the "Drivers Wanted" slogan, Arnold released an integrated campaign for the New Beetle that touted the bubble-shaped car as a "Force of Good." The agency hired "ambassadors of good" to feed parking meters and hand out refreshments. In 2005 Arnold advertised the fifth-generation Volkswagen Jetta with a campaign titled "All grown up. Sort of," which also retained the "Drivers Wanted" slogan. On December 5, 2005, Volkswagen officially awarded its $340 million advertising budget to Crispin Porter + Bogusky. That date marked the end of the "Drivers Wanted" campaign.
Volkswagen directly correlated its rising sales and brand recognition in the American car market with "Drivers Wanted." Sales in 1995 rose 18.5 percent from the previous year, to reach 115,114 cars, and Volkswagen noted in a press release that "consumers and dealers are responding positively to our marketing message." In 1996 Volkswagen's sales increased 18.1 percent, while the overall market grew a mere 1.8 percent. An Arnold executive told the Boston Globe that Volkswagen had "seen positive sales results from the first day 'Drivers Wanted' ads went on the air." The advertising industry also deemed the campaign a success. At the 1997 Best of Broadcasting Awards, "Drivers Wanted" took home the top honors, and the campaign won an EFFIE Award in 1998.
The campaign helped Volkswagen triple its North American sales. By 2005 "Drivers Wanted" was not just an advertising campaign but the foundation of all Volkswagen marketing. Unfortunately for Arnold, the automaker's sales had begun to decline in 2002. Executives at Volkswagen blamed the sales loss on lackluster advertising and on the poor quality of vehicles made at the company's main Mexico plant. After Volkswagen hired MINI Cooper's marketing and communications manager, Kerri Martin, to lead Volkswagen's North American marketing, Arnold was replaced by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the agency credited for MINI's successful reappearance in 2002. During its heyday "Drivers Wanted" was considered the most recognizable tagline in the automotive industry, according to the global market-research firm NOP World.
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In November 1997 Volkswagen of America introduced an advertising campaign for its redesigned Passat. Arnold Communications, the Boston-based ad agency that won the lucrative $110 million North American Volkswagen advertising account in 1995, had created much momentum with its "Drivers Wanted" campaign, marketing the Golf and the Jetta to a target audience between the ages of 18 and 34. Arnold hoped to carry that momentum into the new Passat campaign. Since the Passat was a larger automobile than either the Golf or the Jetta, Arnold highlighted this feature with the tag line that urged customers to "Live Large."
Marketing the Passat represented a distinct challenge for VW and Arnold on several different levels: first, the redesigned Passat was geared toward an older, more affluent market than VW traditionally targeted; second, the new Passat was positioned to compete with Mercedes and BMW, a departure from VW's traditional competitors, the Japanese quartet of Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and Mazda; and third, this Passat represented a major status shift for Volkswagen from the image of the "people's car," exemplified by the original Beetle, to that of a higher-end car of prestige. Transforming Volkswagen's reputation to promote the Passat as a luxury car promised to be difficult if not impossible, some critics suggested, but other observers noted Volkswagen's wisdom in expanding its market.
Since the "Live Large" campaign represented only the first step in VW's long-term diversification project, the three commercials did not necessarily confront all three of these challenges simultaneously. Instead, the "Live Large" spots depicted characters forced to make choices. One spot showed a man at an intersection where he had to choose not which direction to go but between sowing more wild oats or getting married; in another spot a man in his forties visited a diner and tried rhubarb pie for the first time, prompting him to try other new experiences; and the last spot contrasted a middle-aged single mother's anxiety about driving to a date with her teenage daughter's higher anxiety about mom's timely arrival home that evening. Whereas the "Drivers Wanted" campaign had focused on less-consequential choices, such as whether to keep a scavenged easy chair that smelled bad, the "Live Large" campaign specifically addressed more mature decisions and episodes. While critics wondered what relevance these ads had to the car, the "Live Large" campaign set the foundation for Volkswagen's change of image.
In the late 1950s Volkswagen established itself in the U.S. automobile market with a counterintuitive marketing strategy based on honesty, humor, and humility rather than hyperbole. Bill Bernbach had founded DDB New York, Volkswagen's ad agency for its first 40 years in the United States, on the assumption that advertising was not an exact science determined by data but rather a creative art appealing to intelligence and emotion. Bernbach's Beetle ads set a precedent in car marketing by creating a "personality" for the car. Paul McCann of the London Independent pointed out Bernbach's savvy in realizing that "being ironic about selling to the public was a really successful way to sell to the public."
"This insight has become the basis of many subsequent advertising campaigns," said Tony Cox, creative director of DDB New York. "Indeed, you can hear papers about it delivered at every advertising convention you go to—nowadays its usually called post-modernism." Arnold Communications overhauled the faltering image of Volkswagen (sales had reached their lowest point in 1993) with its decidedly post-modern "Drivers Wanted" campaign. The outstanding spot of that campaign, "Sunday Afternoon," which featured two slackers with nothing better to do than tool around in their Volkswagen, struck a chord with its Generation X target market. Lance Jensen, Arnold's creative director who wrote the commercial, spoke with The Boston Globe's John Koch in words that echoed Bernbach's philosophies: Jensen called advertising the "unholy alliance of art and commerce," but he also explained that the "unfortunate thing about advertising, and the wonderful thing, is that it's subjective. It's not math; you can't go to business school and find out how to make great advertising. That's frustrating for clients and people who have budgets. It's a tough gamble."
After the success of the "Drivers Wanted" campaign, Arnold was challenged to produce a similarly successful but very different campaign for the larger, more luxurious Passat. But Arnold had managed to maintain consistency with Volkswagen's history of outstanding advertising by following the same technique established by DDB New York under Bernbach: the coupling of honesty with irony. Arnold's campaign for Passat extended the trajectory of VW advertising by fusing the Beetle marketing strategy of creating personality for the car with the "Drivers Wanted" technique of focusing on the driver, resulting in a hybrid that simultaneously described the car and the driver with its tag line "Live Large."
The success of the "Drivers Wanted" campaign helped strengthen VW's loyal base of customers under age 35, who represented more than half of its sales. Looking toward the future, though, VW realized that its current customers would not remain under 35 forever, so it devised a means of retaining its following through their middle years. As people grow, so do their incomes, the sizes of their families, and their expectations of comfort and status, VW reasoned. In response to these trends VW designed a larger, more luxurious, and more expensive car. The Passat specifically targeted those between 30 and 50 years of age with a household income of more than $80,000. Most of the target market would be married, hold college degrees, and one-third would have children living under their roofs.
Some questioned Volkswagen's logic. Wes Brown of Nextrend, an auto consulting firm, suggested that VW should maintain its strategic status quo instead of attempting to evolve. "I mean, this is VW—people's car. It'll be amazing if they can pull it off," he said. "They've got a lock in gen X with Golf and Jetta. The numbers show that the only thing close is the Honda Civic. Now it sounds as if they're about to move away from gen X in price." Brown assumed, however, that this generation was a static entity, while VW realized that Generation X would eventually grow out of its labels and stereotypes and forge its own future.
The transition from targeting one market to targeting another proved to be a slower process than expected. An Ad Track survey reported by USA Today revealed that Arnold's advertising still appealed more to the "Drivers Wanted" target market than to the "Live Large" target market. Of the consumers asked who were between the ages of 18 and 29, 14 percent liked the ads a lot while only 8 percent of those between 30 and 49 said they liked the spots a lot. However, the goal of the advertising was not to poll well but rather to sell more cars, which happened after the "Live Large" campaign.
DON'T SWEAT IT
In England advertising for the Passat raised quite a stink. Volkswagen ran ads depicting the sweat-stained backs of naked models to promote air-conditioning in the cabins of its cars. Within days Citroen launched almost-identical ads—by coincidence both companies worked up the same idea simultaneously, Citroen claimed. VW elected not to pursue any legal action against Citroen, since both carmakers were imitating a previous Sure anti-perspirant campaign. Subsequently, however, Citroen ran ads pointing out that VW charged 500 pounds more than Citroen for air-conditioning. Nigel Brotherton, VW's advertising manager, countered that Citroen's claim was "unethical and erroneous" since it cited incomparable car models: a direct comparison would have revealed that Citroen's comparable models—the AX and the ZX, equivalents of VW's Polo and Golf—didn't even offer air-conditioning. VW's comparable model, the Passat, offered air-conditioning as a standard feature. Brotherton stated, "We were prepared to be gentlemanly about Citroen using the same ads. It now seems that was the wrong course of action."
Volkswagen intended the Passat to attract drivers from traditional competitors—makers of Japanese and European mid-sized sedans—as well as "hip Americans who own a Chrysler Cirrus or Dodge Stratus, for example, but want a more active and enthusiastic driving experience," according to senior marketing executive Steve Wilhite. More significantly, Volkswagen AG chairman Ferdinand Piech declared at a press conference at the international headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, that he planned to pit the Passat against entry-level models from BMW and Mercedes in head-to-head competition in the United States. The main obstacle to this strategy was overcoming the pervasive association of VW with the Beetle. The legacy of the Beetle's success in the United States haunted these efforts to redefine the image and reputation of VW.
Japanese carmakers overcame a similar obstacle by diversifying brand names, with each major company spinning off an upscale brand: Honda created Acura, Toyota created Lexus, and Nissan created Infiniti. Volkswagen was structured to do the same, with its own upscale brand, Audi. However, VW wanted each of its brands to be its own premium marque, with overlapping instead of graduated markets. Volkswagen would thus compete not only with Honda, Nissan, and Toyota, as it traditionally had, but also with their upscale counterparts as well. "We want to be in the group of Lexus and Infiniti as soon as possible," vowed Piech.
Volkswagen attempted to achieve its goal of competing with BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, and Infiniti by equaling its rivals' quality while underbidding its competitors' prices. According to Piech, "We are working on a car a little bigger in size than Passat for early next century, equal to Mercedes-Benz at 20 percent lower price."
"People are sensible," Piech continued, suggesting that no one would pay $10,000 extra for a comparable car just because of its brand name. While Piech sounded urgent about competing with Lexus and Infiniti, in reality the deadline for moving into this accelerated class was more fluid. "It's a directional thing," VW of America's director of communications Maria Leonhauser pointed out. "There's no time frame in which we want to do this."
The "Live Large" campaign maintained common threads with the "Drivers Wanted" campaign; both were based in reality, portraying scenarios that really could happen. The "Live Large" campaign simply shifted the reality by a couple of decades, depicting life situations that 40-somethings, not 20-somethings, faced. So the main difference between the campaigns was the age of the people cast for the commercials. One constant remained: after doing market research, Arnold realized that they were pitching the Passat not to a new market, but to an older, perhaps wiser, segment of the same market. "They're still VW people," commented Arnold's Jensen, who worked on both the "Drivers Wanted" and the "Live Large" campaigns. "They're still cool, still young in spirit."
Volkswagen had created an image that defied convention; naturally, its customers would defy convention as well. "A car is like a piece of jewelry," Jensen philos-ophized—jewelry not only adorns its owner, but it also says a lot about the personality of its owner. VW people would never wear a gem larger than one karat, if that, because it would be pretentious. Similarly, VW people wouldn't want to drive a Mercedes—"they wouldn't need the badge, and they wouldn't need the baggage," Jensen stated, suggesting that upscale brands carry symbolic weight signifying social status for their owners. VW didn't want to be associated with "snob appeal."
However, there was a growing market of loyal Volkswagen owners who could afford more but wanted to retain the funky VW image. Jensen imagined how they got where they were: "As you grow up, you're forced to make decisions that aren't always fun—maybe you're stuck in suburbia, maybe you're 45 and having a midlife crisis, maybe you're divorced, maybe your life is just in a rut. This is true—people deal with these things, but that doesn't define them." A car represented a highly visible means of redefining one's reality. The "Live Large" ads, with their divorced mother and aging bachelor, depicted people making decisions that help them define themselves. One of those decisions, the ads suggested, was to drive a Passat, a good decision that might compensate for some of the more difficult issues they've faced.
The results of the Ad Track survey could be deceptive, Jensen suggested, since USA Today's readership tended to be much more mainstream than Passat's target market. The ads spoke to a very specific cross-section, and the message got through to its audience, VW spokesperson Tony Fouladpour reported. VW sold 2,563 Passats in the United States in January 1998, a 114 percent increase compared to sales for the month of January 1997. USA Today's Dottie Enrico reported that VW officials were happy with the "Live Large" campaign and that sales had "skyrocketed since the ads began in November." Chris Cedergren of Nextrend assessed the campaign as follows: "All in all, the Passat has been a success story for VW, so I don't imagine they're going to question their ad strategy even if the campaign doesn't perform well in the popularity polls."
Ad Age's reviewer Bob Garfield called the "Live Large" commercials "neither very good nor very bad." He complained that the spots promoted an emotional connection to the people in the commercials but failed to promote the Passat. The commercials, however, weren't intended to sell Volkswagen—the target market was already sold on the brand. They simply needed to be informed that the Passat represented an automobile option appropriate for their lifestyle.
The most outspoken opponent of VW's marketing strategy for the Passat was Jack Trout, a long-time marketing strategist and president Trout & Partners in Connecticut. He proclaimed that pitting the VW brand against Mercedes "Makes no sense. It ain't gonna work, trust me. You can bet a lot of money on that." There were probably many people who made similar proclamations upon first sight of the Beetle in 1938. But given that the Beetle went on to become the most-produced car in history, betting against VW's overwhelming brand loyalty would make no sense.
Healey, James R. "VW Longs for Life in Luxury Lane; Will USA Pay the Premium?" USA Today, July 11, 1997.
Koch, Paul. "Lance Jensen." The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, January 11, 1998.
McCann, Paul, "The Ads that Broke the Mould: When a Boy from the Bronx Got Together with VW, Advertising Became Art with Creativity at its Heart." The Independent (London), June 1, 1998.
William D. Baue
To herald the arrival of its newest car, Volkswagen of America Inc. launched a high-profile television, print, and outdoor advertising campaign in March 1998. The company had stopped selling its most famous car, the Beetle, in the United States in 1979, but the little car remained a cultural icon for many. Baby boomers fondly recalled tooling about in the 1960s and 1970s in their humpbacked Beetles. The car conjured up images of the counterculture, flower power, and nonconformity. In 1998, to further the company's revival, Volkswagen (VW) brought back the Beetle. While the New Beetle, as it was called, shared the rounded shape of its progenitor, the updated version had a more powerful engine, a roomier interior, and excellent safety features. It also had some quirky touches, such as a dashboard bud vase. Although the New Beetle caused quite a stir when Volkswagen first displayed it at auto shows, the company wanted an ad campaign that could bring a legend from the past into the landscape of the present.
With its Boston-based ad agency, Arnold Communications, Volkswagen conceived a series of ads for the New Beetle that were stunningly basic. "We wanted to keep the ads as simple as they can be," the chief creative director of the New Beetle campaign told the Associated Press. "This car is really about the way it makes you feel." The initial six New Beetle television commercials presented the car against a white background. The spots contained no voice-over or spokesperson and presented no specific details about the car. Instead, they showcased the New Beetle itself to sound tracks of alternative rock music. Each commercial displayed a single written tag line that matched the music and the images in the ad. One spot, for instance, showed seven yellow New Beetles together so that they formed a bright daisy. The copy declared, "Less flower. More power." Other television ads employed tag lines such as "If you sold your soul in the '80s, here's your chance to buy it back"; "A work of art with airbags and a budvase"; and "Suddenly the world is half-full again." Print ads followed a similar format: a single photo of the New Beetle accompanied by snappy copy.
The challenges confronting Volkswagen and Arnold in the New Beetle campaign were manifold. Obviously, baby boomers would have fond memories of the original Beetle and a likely affinity for the new version. But since 1995 Volkswagen had been assiduously building its brand to appeal to younger consumers, and it wanted the ads for the New Beetle to reach this group as well. To do so, Volkswagen strove to create ads that could "evoke memories from consumers old enough to remember the original car while being humorous enough to appeal to a younger crowd," according to Adweek. The New Beetle campaign achieved this by, in part, using tag lines in each ad that appealed to specific groups. While the copy in one print ad, "Comes with wonderful new features like heat," resonated particularly with older consumers who had endured the original Beetle's often faulty heating system, the tag line "Reverse-engineered from UFOs" appealed to younger drivers, specifically Generation X consumers who watched science fiction programs such as The X-Files.
The New Beetle campaign was a smashing success. It won several prestigious advertising awards and was praised by commentators in publications ranging from Advertising Age to USA Today. The goal Volkswagen set for itself was a lofty one, however. Company officials revealed that they hoped the New Beetle and its catchy campaign would bolster sales in the entire Volkswagen division. "Its success would not only be measured in sales of new Beetles, but in the overall growth of the brand and increased sales of VW's other models," a spokesperson from Arnold Communications told Adweek.
Between its arrival in the United States in 1949 and its discontinuation in 1979, the Volkswagen Beetle claimed a place for itself in American history. It surpassed the Model T Ford to become the best-selling car of all time. Its original appeal lay in its uniqueness. While most American cars of the 1960s and 1970s were giant gas-guzzlers, the Beetle was a small fuel-efficient vehicle that offered an alternative to a generation of young consumers who strove to define themselves as living outside the mainstream world of their parents. As a reporter explained in World News Sunday, "The Beetle became a symbol of flower power." Pop artist Andy Warhol depicted the Beetle in a series of prints, and actor Woody Allen included a reference to the car in his 1973 hit movie Sleeper.
Part of the Beetle's allure originated in the groundbreaking advertising created by Doyle Dane Bernbach. Advertising Age's Creativity described the marketing of the original Beetle as "the benchmark for great consumer product advertising." Like the Beetle itself, the ads were understated, with their impact coming through offbeat humor. While traditional car advertising of the era played up the size and shininess of American sedans, the original Beetle spots used the car's smallness and homeliness as selling points.
By the 1970s the Beetle faced increasing competition from, and was losing market share to, the Japanese imports that were flooding the American market. Like the Beetle, the Japanese cars were inexpensive, reliable, and fuel-efficient. In an attempt to halt its decline, Volkswagen discontinued the Beetle in 1979 and introduced the Rabbit in its place. But the Rabbit never gained the same sort of cachet. The company struggled in United States during the 1980s and early 1990s. While Volkswagen sales boomed in Europe, Americans opted for Japanese or domestic autos. Volkswagen was "a nearly moribund brand in this country," declared the Washington Post. In 1995, however, the company's fortunes began to change. With an updated roster of sporty cars and an energized new ad campaign—"Drivers Wanted"—from Arnold, Volkswagen's sales began to climb once more. After introducing a concept car with a shape similar to the beloved original Beetle at a 1995 auto show, Volkswagen was inundated with letters from customers beseeching the company to bring back the Beetle.
With the Beetle's rich American legacy, Volkswagen could not disassociate its New Beetle from the original car. While some analysts had speculated that the New Beetle would mainly attract baby boomers who had owned the original, Volkswagen quickly realized that the New Beetle's appeal "cut across traditional automotive demographic boundaries," according to a company press release. A spokesperson emphasized that early marketing studies had indicated that "people of all ages, young and old, and from different backgrounds responded in exactly the same way—with a big smile." Armed with this insight, Volkswagen instructed Arnold to craft a campaign for the New Beetle that would target a diverse audience.
Baby boomers who had come of age during the era of the first Beetle were an important population to reach with the New Beetle campaign. "We have this … tremendous heritage with the baby boomers," Volkswagen's marketing director told the Washington Post. Many aspects of the New Beetle ads were designed to remind the children of the 1960s about the car of their youth. The essence of the New Beetle campaign was similar to the legendary Doyle Dane Bernbach print pieces. Both campaigns made the car the "hero" of the ads; both used a stark white background, from which the Beetle boldly emerged; both shared the same typeface and understated sensibility. Several of the New Beetle ads deliberately hearkened back to the original car. One print ad proclaimed, "A car like this comes along only twice a lifetime," while one of the television commercials spoofed the original Beetle's notorious lack of acceleration with the wry tag line "0 to 60? Yes." One print piece even used a former Doyle Dane Bernbach ad as a reference point. In "Lemon" an original Beetle had been declared defective because the chrome was slightly marred. The New Beetle installment arrayed a vibrantly green New Beetle beneath the word "Lime."
The New Beetle ads walked a fine line, however. As much as Volkswagen sought to tap into baby boomers' nostalgia—and thus propel them to their nearest Volkswagen dealer—their tastes had changed in 19 years. The original Beetle's safety record was poor, and as baby boomers became parents, and even grandparents, they would not tolerate such flaws. Moreover, baby boomers had become comfortable living in suburban homes and driving sport utility vehicles or BMWs. A rattling car with little heat would not be desirable. Thus, Arnold Communications took care to present the spirit of the original Beetle in the new campaign, but it used copy that stressed the changes and the improvements in the New Beetle.
The New Beetle campaign also sought to reach consumers under the age of 35, who had few memories of the original. This demographic group was essential to Volkswagen. Priced beginning at about $16,000, the New Beetle aimed to draw first-time car buyers to the Volkswagen brand. Consumer studies had revealed that allegiances to brands were forged early in life, and the company hoped that engendering brand loyalty would eventually keep these younger buyers within the "chain" of Volkswagen vehicles as they aged and saw their incomes rise. This audience would not respond to the same pitch as baby boomers, however. "Nostalgia wasn't going to be enough to sell this car to the youth market," an Arnold executive told Advertising Age's Creativity. "We had to bring the Beetle into the present."
To accomplish this goal, the New Beetle spots employed cutting-edge music. Songs from fringe bands such as Spiritualized, Hurricane #1, and Fluke—all popular among college students—were used to back the commercials. Furthermore, specific ads targeted a younger audience. For example, in the style of updated versions of computer software, one print ad coyly labeled the car "Beetle 2.0." Arnold was confident that younger consumers—particularly retro-crazed Generation Xers—would understand the tongue-in-cheek allusions to the original Beetle. While "everyone knows about the Beetle and what it represented," an Arnold spokesperson explained to Advertising Age's Creativity, the New Beetle campaign made it clear that the most recent incarnation of the Beetle "is different—so the idea is, it's back, but this time it's for you, not your parents."
The New Beetle was not the only small car vying for the competitive U.S. car market, however. DaimlerChrysler's Neon, which was introduced in 1994 and which was sold under both the Dodge and Plymouth brands, launched a new $40 million campaign on March 15, 1999. While Neon had been imbued with an endearing personality thanks to the "Hi" campaign that attended its introduction, the company hoped to update the Neon's image. "We tried to get away from cute, so the ads are more sophisticated in keeping with the changes of the car," a DaimlerChrysler spokesperson told Advertising Age. The campaign, created by BBDO Worldwide, had television, magazine, newspaper, and outdoor components, as well as Internet ads that appeared on prominent websites. Like the New Beetle, Neon attempted to capture a younger audience of consumers aged 20 to 34. To do so, BBDO employed what Advertising Age termed a "purposefully soft sell approach." The initial three television ads featured a voice-over by comedian George Carlin, who read BBDO-created lyrics to three songs: Dean Martin's "Amore," the Lovin' Spoonfuls' "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice," and the Mamas & the Papas' "Dream a Little Dream of Me."
In 1998 Oldsmobile introduced its Alero, which it aimed at "younger, more-forward thinking consumers," according to Adweek. In its $80 million "Start Something" campaign, Oldsmobile and its agency, Leo Burnett, used fast-paced footage of real families set to electronic music. "The spots are trying to communicate a certain way of thinking and living," an Oldsmobile representative told Adweek. In March 1999, Mazda broke a new campaign for its sporty Miata. These ads, which used the tag line "Get in. Be moved," were executed by W.B. Doner & Company and attempted to strengthen the Mazda brand.
Even before the car went on sale, the New Beetle received a marketing boost over its competitors. Newspapers breathlessly anticipated its introduction, and several columnists wrote paeans to their first Beetles. An industry analyst noted to the Associated Press that "Volkswagen really won't have to do much in marketing." But to meet its goals of selling 50,000 New Beetles in the United States in 1998 and bolstering Volkswagen's overall sales, the company chose not to rely on hype and instead spent an estimated $40 million during the first eight months of the campaign. While some rival car companies released narrative campaigns that portrayed quirky characters or elaborate story lines, Volkswagen's strategy for the New Beetle was to focus solely on the car. Advertising Age noted that the spots were a kind of "Rorschach ink blot [that allowed] each consumer [to] process the imagery and respond according to his own values, background, and personality."
To take the campaign to the diverse audiences it wanted to reach, Volkswagen aired the ads during mainstream television shows and in publications that reached large numbers of consumers. But television shows that were popular with consumers under 30, such as The X-Files, Melrose Place, Seinfeld, and Suddenly Susan, were targeted as well in order to attract a Generation X audience. Print pieces ran in popular consumers magazines such as Vanity Fair, as well as in more cutting-edge, niche publications like Wired. Volkswagen also displayed New Beetle ads on Yahoo!'s home page. With its billboards Volkswagen opted for a city-specific strategy. For instance, a New York outdoor ad offered a picture of the New Beetle with the wry comment "Just what New York needs, a car that stops traffic." In a further effort to gain the attention of Generation Xers, Volkswagen signed the New Beetle on as an official sponsor of the Lilith Fair musical tour, which, according to Shoot, was an event that "appeal[ed] to one of the Beetle's target markets, young men and women."
The New Beetle's introduction was a triumph. Demand quickly outstripped the limited number of the cars at dealerships. Indeed, some consumers were so eager to own New Beetles that they paid thousands of dollars above the retail sticker price for used ones. By August 1998, Volkswagen had sold 32,450 New Beetles, and by October it had surpassed its goal of 50,000 for the year. As the company had hoped, the excitement surrounding the New Beetle appeared to lift the entire Volkswagen brand. "The New Beetle is fulfilling its role as a magnet for the VW brand," an Arnold executive told Adweek. Sales for the Jetta, Cabriolet, and Passat increased after the New Beetle's arrival.
Industry critics showered the New Beetle campaign with plaudits as well. It won the highest honors (Grand Prix Award) for the best print ad at the illustrious International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France. According to USA Today, a judge at the show declared that the ads "made me want to buy the car." Furthermore, at the MPA Kelly Awards the campaign took home the prize for the best campaign appearing in magazines. Commentators in USA Today and Advertising Age named the New Beetle ads as among the best of the year. Although it was difficult to correlate ad campaigns with sales figures, 1998 was certainly Volkswagen's best sales year in the United States since 1981. In 1999 Volkswagen introduced a high-powered version of the New Beetle, the 1.8 T, and Arnold oversaw the creation of "Turbonium," a commercial vaunting the car's turbo-charged capacity.
NOT SO POPULAR AT HOME
Despite the New Beetle's warm reception in the United States, the car did not fare as well in Germany, the company's headquarters and home country. The Beetle, which was known there as the Kaefer—the German word for "beetle"—was deemed too expensive. Rumors circulated that Volkswagen would offer a no-frills, stripped-down version of the car in Germany.
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