Sunday, January 5, 2003

Volkswagen & Mr. Blue Sky

We've said it before and we'll say it again: TiVo rocks. And while the commercial advertisers of the world debate what to do to reach those of us using DVRs to watch our favorite programming, we'll just keep on scanning through commercial breaks.

Unless, of course, something catches our eye.

That's the trick with TiVo and other legal DVRs: You still have to see the commercials, even if you don't watch them. So when a commercial comes along that catches your eye you go back and watch it.

Such is the case with Volkswagen's most recent campaign, a pair of visually stunning commercials titled "Bubble" and "Chain Reaction" that promote the launch of the auto manufacturer's newest Beetle.

The commercials were executed by visual effects company A52 and director Mike Mills for Arnold Worldwide's new 2003 Beetle Convertible ad campaign for Volkswagen of America, Inc. Each ad features an elaborate interplay of music and imagery to get across the common theme of "escape."

The first spot, "Bubble," focuses on a young man’s mundane and isolated indoor existence. Expertly crafted scenes from his apartment, his cubicle, the escalator, the copier, and standing in the window of a skyscraper illustrate the passage of time and the persistence of his enclosure. To highlight the sense of bewildered entrapment, Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr. Blue Sky" scores the ad.

At the end of the spot, after a masterful scene of the young man walking through the office, time passing around him, the hero looks out the window of the building's flying walkway and sees, on the street below, a convertible top being lowered.

And perhaps the most surprising aspect of the commercial? The convertible top is all we see of the new Beetle.

"Chain Reaction" presents a series of square shapes, each appearing successively in place of one another. Square paper-towel dispensers, office buildings, crates, sandwiches, documents, disks...all leading up to the presentation of a nicely rounded VW Beetle.

What's the message here? Why did we stop our TiVo fast-forwarding between segments of another episode of "24" to watch a 50 second VW commercial? Simple: it was worth seeing, in-and-of-itself. The commercial was far more experiential and cinematic than your average "Chicken of the Sea" spot. "Mr. Blue Sky" didn't hurt, either.

So could the solution to Television advertising in the age of TiVo be as simple as making good commercials? God forbid. fb

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