Written on March 3, 2006 at 2:01 am, by Alfonso Surroca
If you've spent any time around Volkswagen or auto forums (or even digg!), you might have noticed some buzz around the new ads for the MkV GTI. While the lion's share of talk has gone to the "Project Fast" ads and its creepy little rabbit mascot (including its propensity to fetch absurd bounties on eBay), Volkswagen has recently launched an arguably better branch of their GTI advertising with the "Un-pimp My Ride" series of television commercials.
Un-pimp mein Auto
After the series of "Fast" ads made their debut during the 2006 Winter Olympics, Volkswagen quickly followed up with a second series of ads also featuring the new GTI. Taking an obvious poke at MTV's Pimp My Ride and the cultural phenomenon of absurdly style-over-substance automotive modification, this "Un-pimp my Ride" series of television commercials features several questionably customized import and domestic compact cars and their owners being shown the light, or rather, forced into the new GTI (their cars get destroyed in each ad).
Goodbye Arnold, hello Crispin
Ending a fairly long relationship with Arnold Worldwide, Volkswagen chose last year to hire Miami, Florida-based Crispin Porter Bogusky as their new ad agency. CP B is known for such work as the Truth anti-smoking campaign, Burger King's advertising, and the MINI brand–an account they were forced to relinquish when they accepted advertising duties for Volkswagen. Arnold's advertisements for Volkswagen were amongst the most respected in the industry throughout the Nineties, so CP B had some enormous shoes to fill. The new ad campaign for the GTI is notable as CP B's first full campaign for Volkswagen, and their approach, decidedly less subtle than Arnold's, definitely works for the new GTI.
Pre-tuned in Deutschland
The new television ads feature a white-leather clad German vixen who looks like she walked straight out of the Seventies, and and a German engineer (played by Peter Stormare) filling Xzibit's Pimp my Ride position. Showing that they definitely have a handle on the GTI's target market, CP B has chosen to focus on something anyone involved in or familiar with the current Volkswagen "scene" knows well: a) import-driving "boy racers: with questionable car-customizing taste are the enemy, and b) elegant, purposeful design is key when customizing your own car. While the backlash at the Fast and the Furious crowd is interesting enough in its own right, it's the emphasis on the GTI's Germanic roots that make this series work for Volkswagen. At the end of these ads, Stormare spouts such gems as "Representing Deutschland", and "German engineering in da haus", and the ads end with the voice-over "Pre-tuned by German engineers".
While Volkswagen's recent mis-adventures in the luxury segment and cold shoulder to its enthusiasts is lamentable, the new GTI is proof that the brand is on its way back toward finding its identity. While it isn't a silver bullet, good marketing and buzz can definitely drive sales in the short-term (the New Beetle helped bring Volkswagen back from the dead in the Nineties).
The three ads are available below:
Parpis, Eleftheria. "CP B 'Engineers' Salvo for VW." Adweek 16 Feb 2006.
Kiley, David. "Sales-Drivers Wanted at VW." Business Week 17 Feb 2006.
Hoag, Christina. "Crispin Porter + Bogusky's rise to the top." The Miami Herald 13 Feb 2006.