By Don Klein
Award-winning ad man-cum-auto journalist Don Klein knows a good (or bad) car commercial when he sees one; the Ad Section is his space to tell you what he thinks of the latest spots. The ad’s rating is depicted via the shift pattern at the bottom, but everyone has an opinion when it comes to advertising, so hit Backfires below and tell us what you think, too.
In 1959, Volkswagen ran a print ad with a photo of a Beetle and the tagline, “Think Small.” Its simplicity and compelling logic made it a watershed event that changed not only the face of car advertising, but advertising in general. It received so much attention that it put both VW and its agency (Doyle Dane Bernbach) on the map as the standard bearers of advertising creative excellence. In the ensuing 50-plus years, VW has continued to give us many memorable breakthrough ads, culminating in 2011’s wonderful “Force” commercial, which featured a mini Darth Vader having a close encounter with his father’s Passat.
Two years later, you can still find that spot at the top of almost every “Best Commercials Ever” list because it deserves to be. So I find it surprising that VW decided to make a new father-son Passat commercial. Did it really think it could outdo “Force” with this boring portrayal of an inept father teaching his son how to throw a baseball? And given the legacy and challenge of maintaining VW’s high creative standards, this is the best it could do to communicate the Passat’s durability?
The storyline is appealing enough—despite their mutual lack of athletic ability, a young dad encourages his son to improve his ball-tossing skills by trying to show him how it’s done. If more fathers invested this type of interest in their kids, the world would be a better place. Ironically, except for the fact that they’re trying to sell you a car, the payoff line is admirable: “Pass down something he will be grateful for.” If that “something” referred to the life lesson this supportive father is demonstrating, I’d say it’s a great spot. But instead, the creative team uses it as a straw dog to set up the commercial’s real message: Your kid won’t appreciate your teaching him to throw like a dork, but you can make up for it by giving him your hand-me-down Passat when he gets old enough to drive.
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Junior looks to be somewhere between eight and ten years old, so depending on where they live, this baton-passing should take place in the next six to eight years. Will the now-new Passat still be roadworthy by then? Hard to say—all it does in the commercial is sit in the driveway. It doesn’t even deflect one of the kid’s off-target tosses. Although durability is ostensibly the point of the commercial, the only evidence it gives …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver