Arnold Highlights Car’s Personality
Agency: Arnold Communications, Boston
Client: Volkswagen Of America, Auburn Hills, Mich.
Chief Creative Officer: Ron Lawner
Creative Directors: Alan Pafenbach, Lance Jensen
Art Director: Tim Vaccarino
Copywriter: Shane Hutton
Agency Producer: Bill Goodell
Director: Gerard Dethame
Production Co.: HSI Productions, New York
Editor: Andre Betz, Bug Editorial, New York
It’s a new year and Volkswagen wants customers to enjoy it in a new car. Boston-based Arnold Communications hopes to follow its success with the New Beetle with its current work for Jetta. It’s the first spot in a series of Volkswagen of America ads that tout their new models while staying on course with the 4-year-old “Drivers Wanted” theme.
“For the first couple of years, we were reacquainting people with the [VW] brand,” says creative director Alan Pafenbach. “Starting with the Passat and followed by the New Beetle and now the Jetta, we are introducing new products with personalities within their niche.”
The Jetta spot, which broke last week, is one of an estimated 11 Volkswagen spots breaking in the first quarter. The ads show the importance of cars in people’s lives. Volkswagen spent at least $150 million on advertising in 1998; that figure will rise slightly in 1999, says Liz Vanzura, VW’s director of marketing and advertising.
Key to the Jetta personality is style and affordability; it’s skewed to a slightly older consumer. Passat ads are aimed at financially comfortable but aging baby boomers. “That’s a pretty big canvas to work on,” says Pafenbach, who was assigned VW when Arnold won the account in 1995.
The Jetta ad also represents a subtle shift from lifestyle (remember the hyped-up java salesgirl?) to the car itself.
“The New Beetle was such a compelling product that to decorate [advertising] with smiling people and winding roads would have been beside the point. But the Jetta is rich with new features that need to be shown,” Pafenbach says.
The 60-second Jetta spot, now running nationwide, features a yuppie couple driving down a rain-drenched New Orleans street while listening to a CD. The two exchange glances as they notice that a young woman walking with an umbrella, men unloading boxes from a truck and a shopkeeper sweeping up are all in sync with the music inside the car, the rhythm of the windshield wipers and the sound of the turn signal.
The harmony is disrupted when a van shoots across the Jetta’s path and douses the sleek black sedan in a torrent of water. “That was interesting,” the man remarks calmly. A voiceover concludes: “Sometimes everything comes together.”
“We ramped up production values without becoming too slick,” says creative director Lance Jensen. The soundtrack for the Jetta ad was composed by Pete DuCharme of Somerville, Mass., who was given the assignment from Jensen, a longtime acquaintance, after the spot had been filmed.
DuCharme was specifically asked to write the music at 94 beats a minute–the cadence, as it turns out, of a brisk walk–so that the physical movement in the ad could be in harmony with the chords.
During the shoot, that beat was blared over loudspeakers “to keep everyone in sync,” Pafenbach says. “It’s a wonder we weren’t arrested.”