Not being a big Emerson Lake & Palmer fan, I had to look up the lyrics of "Lucky Man" to gauge how the song's original meaning compares to that put forth by Volkswagen in this new Passat spot—which employs a remake of the 1970 ELP classic by My Morning Jacket's Jim James.
Turns out the new treatment isn't a total bastardization (unlike other classic tracks in car ads we could mention). Both are meant to be ironic, though of course the VW spot—the automaker's latest safety messaging from Deutsch L.A.—doesn't end in death but in life, thanks to the vehicle's coveted status as a 2013 IIHS Top Safety Pick.
This is not the result of luck, the spot rightly suggests, but of planning. "Safety starts where luck ends," says the onscreen copy at the end, as our hero, otherwise swimming in good fortune, encounters its violent opposite, yet lives to tell the tale (and perhaps kick the other driver's ass—or he would if he weren't somewhat irritatingly perfect).
MJZ director Matthijs van Heijningen, who also shot the Cannes-conquering "The Bear" spot for BETC and Canal+, skillfully weaves the story together here. In a way, the crash nicely repudiates the treacly opening scenes, which indeed, as it turns out, are too good to be true. This allows VW to have its cake and eat it, too—to deliver a message that's both sweet and tart, the very balance that drives the best Volkswagen spots.
The agency went with Jim James's "Lucky Man" after also commissioning versions from Iron & Wine and M. Ward. And this is where our luck begins to run out, as everyone knows what M. Ward can do for a car commercial.
Client: Volkswagen of America
VP, Marketing: Kevin Mayer
GM, Marketing Communications: Justin Osborne
Advertising Manager: Jeff Sayen
Advertising Specialist: Chanel Arola
Spot: "Lucky Man"
Agency: Deutsch, Los Angeles
Chief Creative Officer: Mark Hunter
Group Creative Director: Michael Kadin
Group Creative Director: Matt Ian
Creative Director: Mark Peters
Associate Creative Director: Ryan Scott
Senior Art Director: Paul Oberlin
Senior Copywriter: Matt Sherman
Director of Integrated Production: Vic Palumbo
Director of Content Production: Victoria Guenier
Executive Integrated Producer: Jim Haight
Production Company: MJZ
Director: Matthijs van Heijningen
Executive Producer: Scott Howard
Line Producer: Betsy Oliver
Editorial Company: Union Editorial
Editor: Jono Griffith
Assistant Editor: Andy Trecki
Executive Producer: Michael Raimondi
Producer: Joe Ross