Volkswagen’s Shock Advertising: Influencing behaviour

How can a marketer influence behaviour? Many marketing communications are aimed at influencing and inducing a change in consumer behaviour. It may not be difficult to convince a consumer for seemingly harmless behaviours. But when it comes to behaviours associated with habits, the task becomes difficult.

One such habituated behaviour today has to do with the cellphone. The user normally feels compelled, almost mechanical in her response to tasks associated with cellphone. The moment an alarm / notification is intimated, the user, almost automatically accesses the phone. So much so, that consumers have become habituated to glance into their phones every few seconds.

This can prove fatal in certain situations, for example, while crossing the roads, driving, cooking, walking, etc. The menace is strongly related to driving as an increasing number of accidents are now attributed to the use of cellphones in any manner while driving a car.

Volkswagen decided to address this concern in a unique way. VW tied up with OgilvyOne (China) for a highly localised campaign. VW aired the ad in a cinema hall – MCL Cinema in Hong Kong on 11th June 2014. The campaign was executed in four steps:

1.  Creative Strategy: The ad was shown as a trailer to an on-going film. The ad featured a POV (point-of-view) for the viewers. Viewers felt as if they were in the driver’s seat. The car commences on its journey and the viewers are transfixed onto the screen. POV was a brilliant idea, as attention and concentration is enhanced when the consumer feels he is present in the event transpiring on-screen.

2. Technology: Digital media was deployed. As the ad was being played, VW used a location – based broadcaster, which works on the NFC (Near Filed Communications) technology. Using it, a text message was sent to all the cellphones in the movie hall. Such a delivery did not require the cell numbers of all those present.

3. Message Impact: As soon as the text was sent to all mobile phones in the hall, habituation took over. And every viewer who received the message accessed their phones. This resulted into a shift in gaze and concentration from the screen to their phones. Right at that moment, the car is seen swerving off the road and into a road-side tree, with a large impact. This jolted the viewers and forced their attention back onto the screens. That is when the message gets displayed on screen, to create maximum impact.

4. Reach: The entire proceedings were recorded, especially the reactions of the audience at the moment of the crash. This video then went viral on YouTube  – Volkswagen-Eyes on the Road. Within a week, the video had 19 million views.

Such campaigns highlight the potential of technology assisted marketing communications at a highly localised level. A reach of almost 100% audience in the movie hall through shock advertising would ensure that the point drives home. Location based broadcasting is a highly efficient tool to cater to a geographically concentrated audience base, as in a movie hall, or a conference or exhibition. Airing the ad on YouTube ensured that a buzz would be created. The intent and the content both would ensure net additions to VW’s brand image. The idea for the ad was conceptualized by VW China in response to the prevalence of distracted driving, especially due to texting on the drive.

The ad also encourages creativity, in content and delivery, thereby assuring that marketing shall never run out of unique ideas. But the ad’s success ought to be measured not by its ability to shock the viewer, or the number of views it achieves on YouTube. A true measure would be the change in behaviour, attributable to the ad. Creating impact and moulding behaviours may not be strongly related, and this can only be proved through ex-post facto research.

Marketers have comprehended their social responsibilities and are making efforts to make the society better, safer and happier. Watch the ad at the bottom of the page:

 

 

 

 

I am Ravi Vaidya, a management educator by profession. This is where I intend to be myself, where I can ‘I’deate.

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2 comments
  1. Strategy used by VW is extraordinary & mainly it is so practically done with the consumers so that they can experience the whole seen & can know that their life is so valuable. Doing this VW is not adverticaring for their product but from ad this is shown that how much they care for their customers which is so imp for any customer.

  2. Strategy used by VW is extraordinary & mainly it is so practically done with the consumers so that they can experience the whole seen & can know that their life is so valuable. Doing this VW is not advertising for their product but from ad this is shown that how much they care for their customers which is so imp for any customer.

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