A couple of years ago, Volkswagen was a brand struggling to combat the perception among mainstream New Zealanders that it was too stuffy, too expensive and too European. So it did some research, hired new staff, launched some new products, created more localisedcomms with DDB and did some serious discounting as part of its 'a car for every Kiwi' approach. These efforts led to big increases in sales and the top gong at the 2012 TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards. But since then, it's been fairly quiet. Now, with its new agency ColensoBBDO in tow, it's celebrating its 60th anniversary in this market with a crowd-sourced ad called The People's Film.
As a release says: "When the first Volkswagen was built, it was built for the everyman. It was reliable, economical and affordable. It democratised excellence. The English translation of Volkswagen is ‘The People’s Car’, and that’s exactly what they were."
Of course, when the People's Car was launched, it had a very different context and very different connotations (Hitler got involved in the scheme and Volkswagen admitted in 1998 that it used up to 15,000 slaves in its factory). Not surprisingly, Volkswagen tends not to draw attention to that fact in its ads, and this campaign focuses on the positive version of the translation by showcasing the brand's local history, which kicked off when it produced its first vehicle in a factory in Otahuhu, Auckland, in 1954.
Tom Ruddenklau, general manager of Volkswagen, says it wanted to get a bit closer to Kiwis, get them to tell their story, show that Volkswagen has been a part of the country's history and "prove that it’s as relevant today as it was yesterday".
"As a European brand, if you are not careful you can easily be seen as too premium and out of reach ... The project was a leap of faith that our customers could tell the story, as opposed to creating/crafting it ourselves.”
Last year, Volkswagen added to the range of ridiculous participatory memes and asked Kiwis to replicate the shape of its new Beetle. And it's followed a similar path for this, asking Kiwis to submit content via Facebook or thepeoplesfilm.co.nz over the past six weeks. They ended up with 16 hours of footage, photos galore and plenty of stories (the oldest submitter was a man in his 80s, one had circumnavigated the globe twice in his Beetle, and the youngest was a two-year old girl) and the end result, which was edited by Finch and voiced by Roger MacDonnell, contains 150 Kiwis in the first 10 seconds and covers models from the '50s to today.
"It was refreshing (and at times scary) approaching this in a way that didn’t involve getting a camera out and making a slick car commercial," says Colenso BBDO's Scott Coldham. “But for what we set out to achieve with this particular piece, the authentic approach was the only option. We’ve uncovered some crazy stories, great content, and amazing people along the way and this is only the beginning.”
According to the MIA, Volkswagen sold 3,769 cars in 2013, up from 2,551in 2011. And in the commercial realm, it sold 1,456 vehicles in 2013, up from 902 in 2011.
According to sales stats for June from bestsellingcarblog.com, "Toyota has a particularly strong month at 20.4% share vs. 17.5% year-to-date, ahead of Ford (10.9%) and Holden (10.7%) while Hyundai is up two spots on May to #4 and 8.2% above Mitsubishi (7.2%), Mazda (5.6%) and Volkswagen (4.5%).
Crowd-sourcing ads, whether getting punters to come up with ideas or convincing them to submit content, is becoming increasingly popular.
Inspired by Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald and producer Ridley Scott's Life In A Day, Christmas in a day was 45 minute documentary created for Sainsbury's that showed a bunch of regular folk celebrating Christmas day. According to the Daily Mail, Macdonald, who also directed Touching the Void and The Last King of Scotland, received more than 360 hours of footage from all over the UK.
Airbnb's crowd-sourced ad, Hollywood & Vines, is a great example of getting customers to become part of a community. It asked fans to send in Vine videos, which are shorter and can easily be made from a mobile phone, and it had a director Tweeting tips and curating the film.
And there are plenty of other examples, such as Dorito's Crash the Superbowl, Pornhub's ad competition or even Victors & Spoils, an agency founded on the principle that talent is everywhere, not just in agencies.