Volkswagon Get Creative

In the age we now live in, of Sky+ and Virgin+ combined with ever busier and hectic journeys, adverts are becoming increasingly hard to see.  We are gradually teaching ourselves to tune them out, perhaps skimming the odd one when something outrageous catches our eye, but generally most of us don’t want to see the visual bombardment we encounter everyday.  The fast forward button on remote controls makes this extremely easy, as does the gradual learning of our subconscious not registering everything that our eyes see.

Auditory, however, now there’s a relatively untapped resource.  Yes, we have it coming from radio and word of mouth, but from a newspaper?  Well that’s exactly what Volkswagon‘s recent advert did.  Three weeks ago VW rolled out talking adverts in two of India’s national newspapers, The Times of India and The Hindu.

Local responses to the advert range wildly from “gobsmacked fascination” (probably where I’d initially find myself) to “downright annoyance” (one reader reporting that it took 15minutes to get the paper to stop talking!).

A photodiode powered audio chip plays on loop until you close the page.

Opening the paper activates a light sensitive microchip prompting the page to start talking.  Announcing all the product details and information you would typically glean from a written advert, but in an unfamiliar format.  It stands out, it catches your attention, and makes it very difficult to ignore or tune out.  Very clever.

Here’s the advert in action:

You can bet it made a few commuters jump when they opened up their paper on the train that’s for sure!

Innovative? Certainly, yes. Creative? Again, yes top marks for thinking outside the box.  But is it actually any good?  Perhaps had I experienced it for real, rather than via You Tube, it may be a different experience, but at the moment I’m not convinced this will become the norm any time soon.  I’m all for exciting new experiences, doing things differently and making your product stand out, for which you do have to admire VW for.

The audio chip in-situ on the newspaper ad.

For starters it looks quite clumsy, like it was a real afterthought to do this in addition to the printed ad.  Maybe it was, but it still looks like it ought to have received a bit more consideration.  For something electronic to go inside thousands of copies of the national paper that’s a fair budget, even when done efficiently.  You wonder how many of the electronics had problems – did all readers receive the intended experience VW aimed for?  I guess that’s a proportionate risk to pushing boundaries in any field, and we’ll never know if people don’t push.

One immediate issue was clear though as a flight was delayed due to police having to investigate a “stack of talking papers”!

Nobody got anywhere in the world by simply being content
Louis L’Amour, Author

That goes for companies as well as individuals.

Given that newspapers don’t tend to be treated that well either how long did the product last, or more how long was it designed to last?  As I type my thoughts on this up, I think my only real issue with this is environmental.  Those eletronics will need to be disposed of, and you can bet they aren’t likely to be recycled properly.  Should a global company such as VW have more responsibility than this?  Especially for a flash in the pan, one shot 24 hour advertising campaign.  I’m not saying stop being creative and stop innovating ideas like this, but design is so much more than that nowadays.  We should be encouraged to consider the entire product lifecycle, typically via a Product Lifecycle Management Process (PLMP – can’t help but think of a certain 50 Cent song whenever anyone says this) exercise, and that includes product disposal and recycling or reuse.

After the huge buzz it generated across the Twittersphere and other social media platforms you do have to admit that, despite a chunk of criticism and a whole heap of praise, it got the world talking about VW.  I mean, it even got them a mention on here, the coveted Inspirational Geek!

So, a successful campaign?  For me, yes.  It got the world talking about VW and the Volkswagon brand, it got companies thinking “why don’t we do that?” and it got individuals thinking “I could do that better”.  All great stuff, and all provoked from this campagin.  And whenever anyone does it in the future, even if it is implemented far better, the VW name will always crop up as they were the first to do it, a guaranteed form of legacy advertising.

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12 Responses to “Volkswagon Get Creative”


  1. 1 Tony October 13, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    A natural extension to those highly annoying singing birthday cards, I guess.

    Time will tell whether they will be received any differently by the public.

  2. 2 inspirationalgeek October 14, 2010 at 9:22 am

    It’s (strangely) a somewhat even more sophisticated device than those in electronic birthday cards. More technical components and more advanced power supply, all in the name of reducing the size of the overall product I guess.

    I think different markets could have different views, Europe would probably have a different reaction to India – hence why VW tried it there first!

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