Volkswagen Looks for America, With Help From Simon & Garfunkel, in This Poetic Cross-Country Trip

Deutsch's new anthem ad turns an optimistic eye westward

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Like millions of Americans, Volkswagen would like to leave the past 20 months behind and embark on a completely new journey with a clear head and a little help from the always-reliable Paul Simon.

The German automaker last month effectively resolved the emissions scandal that dogged its brand since 2015, and its newest campaign from Deutsch looks to reintroduce VW to an American public that wasn’t quite as invested in “Dieselgate” as in other, more directly political controversies.

Like so many uplifting epics, this one starts with tragedy, as a family loses its grandfather. But the tribe bonds during a cross-country trip that their late patriarch never made, driving the brand-new seven-seat 2018 Atlas SUV from one coast to another—through a series of stunning landscapes—to throw his ashes into the great Pacific Ocean.

That the grandfather immigrated to the U.S. will not be lost on some viewers. And in what cannot be a coincidence, this spot, direct by Benito Montorio of MJZ, shares both a title and soundtrack with the January 2016 ad that officially launched Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

The work offers a very different take on tagline “Life’s as big as you make it” than March’s “Luv Bug” spot, which positioned the Atlas as a great place to get it on … and on, and on. Beyond the emotionally resonant anthem, several other new spots also rely on different versions of Simon’s exploratory classic.

Shorter ads in the series, like this one celebrating the impromptu wonder of birds flying in formation, showcase intimate moments shared by family members as they traverse the continent.

Lighter spots remind viewers that birds aren’t the only creatures one may encounter on the way out west.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a complete campaign without a few spots showcasing new and improved features, like a customizable digital display, a Pedestrian Monitoring capability for emergency braking needs, and a larger interior for those nights when the crickets aren’t the only ones competing for your auditory attention.

“Our first seven-passenger SUV was built with American families in mind,” Volkswagen of America svp of marketing said Vinay Shahani in a statement. “The ‘America’ campaign tells the story of Atlas through the lens of an American family traveling across this beautiful country.”

The model is also built in America. In fact, it’s the first VW SUV assembled in the Chattanooga, Tenn., plant that just received a $900 million investment from Volkswagen corporate. Do you see a pattern developing here?

The 90-second version of the ad will air in theaters, while the other spots will run on all major networks and cable channels. Key placements include the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals.

Client: Volkswagen of America
Agency: Deutsch
Campaign: “America”

Client credits
President, CEO: Hinrich Woebcken
SVP, Marketing: Vinay Shahani
Director, Marketing Communications and Media: Jennifer Clayton
Advertising Manager, VW Marketing: Chanel Barresi
Brand Advertising Senior Specialist: Tammy Nguyen

Agency credits
Chief Creative Officer, North America: Pete Favat
Executive Creative Director: Todd Riddle
Group Creative Director: Heath Pochucha
Creative Director: Zaid Al-Asady
Associate Creative Director/AD: Lindsey King
Copywriter: Paul Sincoff (America, Blanket and Bumble)
Art Director: Scott Brown (America, Blanket and Bumble)
Creative Director/Art Director: Paul Oberlin (Sleeps Six)
Creative Director/Copywriter: Matt Sherman (Sleeps Six)
Copywriter: Jeb Quaid (Intersection, Maps and Parents)
Copywriter: Jessica Schnurr (Coast to Coast)
Director of Integrated Production: Vic Palumbo
Executive Integrated Producer: Margaret Nickerson
Senior Integrated Producer: Ali Issari
Associate Producer: Kayla Laufer
Music Supervisor: Eryk Rich
Music Supervisor: Chase Butters

Group Account Director: Tom Else
Account Director: Alex Gross
Account Supervisor: Erin Shanahan
Account Executive: Nate Pouley
Director of Product Information: Jason Clark
Product Information Supervisor: Chris Brown
Co-Director of Strategy: Susie Lyons
Group Strategy Director: Donn Rohn
Senior Strategist: Ben Perreira
Junior Strategist: Leigh Citarella

Director of Integrated Business Affairs: Abilino Guillermo
Group Director Integrated Business Affairs: Gabriela Farias
Talent Coordinator: Kristian Evanculla
Director or Broadcast Traffic: Carie Bonillo
Broadcast Traffic Manager: Courtney Tylka

Production Company: MJZ
Director: Benito Montorio
Executive Producer: Kate Leahy
Line Producer: Martha Davis
Director of Photography: Alwin Kuchler
1st Assistant Director: Gregg Dobbin

Editorial Company: Cartel
Editor: Andy McGraw (America and Coast to Coast)
Editor: Leo Scott (Blanket, Bumble, Intersection, Map, Parents, and Sleep Six)
Executive Producer: Lauren Bleiweiss
Producer: Lauren Pullano
Assistant Editor: Vanessa Yuille

Post Facility: MPC
MPC Flame Artist: Brian Williams
VFX Supervisor: Ben Persons
Executive Producer: Karen Anderson
Senior Producer: Mark Driscoll
Production Coordinator: Dori Sharvit

Color Correction: MPC
Colorist: Mark Gethin
Executive Producer: Meghan Lang
Producer: Rebecca Boorsma

Music (Licensed and Original/Arranged)
Licensed Music for America
Track: “America”
Artist: Simon & Garfunkel
Composer: Paul Simon
Publisher: UMPG
Label: Sony Music Entertainment

Licensed Music for Coast to Coast
Track: First Aid Kit cover of “America” by Simon & Garfunkel
Publisher: UMPG
Label: Sony Music Entertainment

Original/Arranged Music for Blanket, Bumble, Intersection, Maps, Parents and Sleep Six
Track: Singing Serpent covers/arrangements of “America” by Simon & Garfunkel

Audio Post Company: Lime Studios
Audio Mixer: Joel Waters
Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan
Assistant Mixer: Stephen Fredericks

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.