How Volkswagen Found the Perfect Moment for Its Latest Safety Spot

Inside Deutsch's 'Baby' ad for Jetta

IDEA: If you have kids, you may never have driven as fearfully as when you pulled away from the hospital with your firstborn. It’s an auspicious moment to base an auto-safety ad around, and a perfect one for Volkswagen, it turns out, which is fine-tuning its Jetta targeting— traditionally singles—to include young married couples. A new spot from Deutsch shows a man and woman taking their newborn son home, but facing danger immediately as a van cuts them off. The baby sees his life flash before his eyes, which amusingly consists simply of things seen earlier in the ad—being held by his mom, loaded into the car by his dad, and cut off by the van. “It’s such a universal story, and every parent can relate to it,” said Deutsch group creative director Michael Kadin. “But it has the Volkswagen twist of seeing it through a 3-day-old baby’s eyes.”

COPYWRITING: As always with Deutsch’s VW work, the focus is not a product feature—or in this case, the thematic pillar of safety—but how it relates to the target at a certain point in their lives. “I think that’s much more compelling than slamming the car into a brick wall at a test facility,” said group creative director Matt Ian. After the accident is averted, the voiceover says: “If your life flashes before your eyes, make sure it’s in an IIHS top safety pick. The Volkswagen Jetta. That’s the power of German engineering.” That last line is common to all VW spots—Jetta, Passat, Beetle, etc.— and the copy lines always set it up. The logo and “Das Auto” tagline appear at the end.

The plot here is exaggerated, but with a truthful insight—a line VW likes to ride. (Think of the 2012 Passat spot where the friends learned Spanish on a short car trip.) “We didn’t want to play it for broad comedy, because then you dismiss it,” said Kadin. “We wanted it to feel real to a young couple, especially to a mom.”

ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Noam Murro shot the ad on a Saturday at a hospital in downtown Los Angeles. The visual look is clean and unaffected, until the flashback. “There we put filters on it and blew out the edges so it has that dreamy quality,” said Ian. Murro was adamant that the comedy would work only if the baby’s flashback was limited. “You can’t go back to the delivery room. That ruins the joke,” said Ian. Added Kadin: “I’m being wheeled out, I’m being put in a car, a car is going to hit me—those three beats were the humor of it.”

TALENT: The agency used twin babies—almost a necessity, given the SAG rules about children’s work hours. They were significantly older than three days, which is also common. “The baby does look a little old, but he also gave us some amazing looks we would have never gotten from a genuine newborn,” said Ian. The baby almost looks like he shakes off the flashback as it’s ending. “We didn’t shake the baby’s head. He just did that,” said Kadin. “We felt like we had 80 percent of the story right there.”

SOUND: The sound design helps frame the flashback—lots of reverb, the baby’s heartbeat, etc. The music is a remake of “O-o-h Child,” a 1970 song by the Five Stairsteps. The original felt too big, so Deutsch had Elias Arts re-record it. The lyrics begin, “Ooh-oo child, things are gonna get easier,” an amusing perspective for a baby to have after childbirth. The song stops abruptly when the van swerves in, then starts over afterward. “It’s as if they’re pulling away for the first time,” said Kadin.