Say what you will about the new television commercials from Volkswagen, but they made me stop in my tracks and think, wow!
The Crispin Porter Bogusky spots are the buzz of the advertising industry right now, and deservedly so. They depict a couple of people having a seemingly benign conversation inside a VW when, bam, they get sideswiped and a major accident occurs. For a moment, you have no idea if the people survive or not. Your mind immediately asks, "Was that for real?" Then, as the damaged VW sits in an intersection bashed, bruised and boiling over, the scene is immediately followed by the VW logo and two words: "Safe happens."
This is indeed the real deal. Crispin apparently used stunt drivers and real VW’s to make the accidents happen in real time and at real speeds. And the viewer feels like he’s right there. Talk about rubber-necking delays!
While the ad guys are deep in debate as to whether Crispin/VW have gone too far with their reality programming, I’m not seeing much buzz about the impact of these VW safety spots on Volvo, which for years has "owned" safety as a brand promise.
If I was counseling Volvo, I’d tell them not to take this head-on branding collision lying down. I’d re-assert my "safety" leadership in any number of smart, aggressive marketing ways. I’d begin by issuing safe driving tips for the upcoming Summer travel season. I’d create a safety hall of fame and enshrine those Volvo drivers who’ve never had an accident in all the years they’ve been behind the wheel (and, hopefully not tempt fate in the process). I’d create a "safest places" survey and have consumers identify where they feel safest (i.e. America’s safest city, safest college campus, safest highways and byways, etc.). You get the point.
Now is not the time for the Volvo brand to stay in neutral. American consumers are notoriously fickle and this Crispin spot is one of the most compelling advertisements I’ve seen in a long time. I know that if I were to buy a car for my teenage daughter right now, I’d be looking to get her the safest car possible. Before the Crispin ad, my list would have been limited to Volvo and Saab. Now it would have to include VW as well.