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New Volkswagen Beetle is “a boy.” Huh?

The new campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle declares “It’s a boy.” That tagline has appeared on billboards and, more recently, in print ads. What’s the heck does it mean?

Take a look at this print execution, which is running in magazines such as GQ.

The copy reads:

“It’s a boy. But not much of a baby. This all-new Beetle is, in fact, a whole new man. One that comes with an available turbocharged, 200-horsepower engine, as well as a bold new take on an iconic design. It’s the Beetle, reborn. That’s the Power of German Engineering. That’s Das Auto.”

So who cares about the sex of a car? Apparently Volkswagen was trying to get more men to buy the Beetle. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

“A Volkswagen spokesman says about 60% of New Beetle customers were women. The company would like to even out the gender distribution or even tip it somewhat in favor of men. After all the widely accepted wisdom in the car business is that women will by ‘boy cars’ but men won’t buy ‘girl cars.’”

Ok. Let’s break this down.

It’s a boy! That headline paired with a photo of the car coming out of a tunnel suggests a birth. Once you see it that way, you can’t unsee it. That’s probably the most vagina symbolism you’ll see in a car ad today.

Also, who says men like boy cars? Plenty of men refer to their cars with feminine words. Imagine a classic Mustang enthusiast speaking with romantic language about his “baby” or “beauty” or what have you.

There’s also no getting around the fact that this is a compact car. No copy line will convince me a Volkswagen Beetle is a tough machine I’d steer through the mud, or drive to the lumber yard, or use to tow a cement mixer. Face it: It’s a cutesy car.

Even if we pretend we aren’t looking at a vagina, and make the logical leap that this car is a boy, and conclude that therefore men will like to drive it, I still don’t get it.

So this obviously isn’t my favorite car ad. But it’s still miles better than the local VW dealer which ran an ad with a photo of the Beetle that said “I’d tap that.” Gross.

Who created this ad?

Deutch/LA, under group creative directors Michael Kadin and Matt Ian, and creative director Mark Peters.

Who signed off on it?

Eric Wilson, marketing communications manager at Volkswagen of America.

More about this campaign in The New York Times.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Copywriting

3 comments

  1. Wow, I’ve long lamented cliched gender-pandering, but this, and Dr. Pepper 10, and (insert your favorite recent example,) demonstrates how low some agencies/companies think the lowest common denominator really is. (Bonus disappointment: 8-10 years ago, VW had a seemingly endless string of impressive ads.)

  2. Daryl Lang says:

    Well said, William. I actually thought about mentioning the Dr Pepper 10 commercial in this post. Here’s the link for anyone who hasn’t seen it:
    http://youtu.be/3iuG1OpnHP8

  3. One of the reasons could be that in fact in German many objects have a gender and “Wagen” is male “der Volkswagen”, “der Kaefer” (German Term for “the beetle”.

    just a thought

    Sarah

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