Monday, November 28, 2011

Volkswagen-"Night Drive"

Volkswagen-"Night Drive"
Noam Murro, United States.  2007.  90 seconds
Formerly available at  Found on
I find commercials to be a rapidly progressing medium, following the lead of TV series in the efforts to being more "filmic" and meeting audience's expectations for emotional response; a bar set by feature-films.  I could point to a variety of extremely well-made commercials (Everything Wieden+Kennedy produces for Nike, for instance) but I've picked this Volkswagen commercial about driving through the empty streets of a Los Angeles night because it is personal to me.

The commercial is simple: A beautiful minimal song, borrowed from Cliff Martinez's lovely score for Solaris, is overlapped with a recording of Richard Burton reading a Dylan Thomas poem.  These sounds are over images of a neon lit LA, in all its vast loneliness and graphically beautiful grime.  There's no apparent narrative; just driving and the experience.  Which is what the tagline is: "When was the last time you just went for a drive?"

The most effective ad campaigns (or the most memorable ones at least) are the one's that don't just show glossy images, but communicate a very specific message that addresses the belief system of its core audience.  "Just Do It" and "Think Different" come to mind.  Simon Sinek's Golden Circle theory illustrates this: His theory shows three circles, one inside the other.  On the outside is "What," the middle circle is "How," and the inner circle, "Why."  Sinek states that most traditional marketing and advertising goes from outside to inside the circle, but the most effective forms go inside to out.  Like a religion, you hit the audience at what matters to them: What makes them anxious, or happy, or nervous, what racks their brain.  Once you have their attention at their core, you then reveal how to meet their needs, and how your product will do just that.

This commercial is operating under Sinek's Golden Circle theory.  Yes, it features the Volkswagen Golf, but that is a secondary feature.  The first focus of this is what the tagline states: Do you just ever go for a drive?  Explore the landscape and just roam, contemplating your thoughts, dreams, hopes, desires.  The Golf is just a tool that will help you do just that.  And by speaking to a core belief, and trying to inspire emotion, is this commercial then allowed to be more artistic.  (The commercial has the added bonus of being shot in LA at night, which is the core of my high school social life once I got a car.)

That's the sort of beauty of advertising that I'm fascinated with: That with artistic effectiveness also comes commercial success.  Win-win.  It is a medium, similar to TV, where quality work almost seems to reap more rewards than quality work within the realm of feature films does.


haley schattner said...

I agree with everything you put forth. It is amazing to me that though the commercial has music, and Richard Burton speaking, it is still silent. Maybe due to the slight echo of Burton's narration but mostly due to the subdued shots where things happen but nothing happens at the same time--the television sets are on but no one is there to watch or listen, and here comes a driver who is willing to do just that, in his VW Golf.

Anastasia Crittenton said...

I think the growing medium of commercials is rather fascinating. There are plenty I know who avoid commercials at all costs. Either they have a DVR and can fast-forward or mute the TV when there are commercials. Yet examples like these are a sign that commercials are more than the mass public sometimes thinks of them. I agree with everything you said in your post.

haley schattner said...

I agree with you Anastasia, but I understand people who choose to fast forward or mute commercials. Although there are always wonderful commercials, there are more bad than good. I use 'bad' as a loose term though because even the worst commercials hold weight. For example, I can't stand commercials that repeat the same words over and over again, yet, the commercial has successfully gotten the commercial engrained in my head, and therefore, its job is complete.