Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Volkswagen - The Sexist Car

My proposal for a new ad campaign that VW could use profitably. After all, they appear to have a history of misogynistic ads. In 2001 in Croatia they created a couple of real beauties:

Volkswagen Golf in cooperation with Volksbank in Croatia placed two blatantly sexist advertisements in Croatian national magazines and newspapers. The ad sells credits loans for Golf automobiles. One ad shows two older women in the background, overlapping their image are two young women, the caption reads; "Trade old for new." Nowhere is there a picture of an automobile. The second advertisements shows a young half naked woman lying in bed, holding and apple, the caption reads; "Father, for who is this?" "For the privileged, son, for the privileged."

Well, that's in Croatia, you might say, and to be fair to Volkswagen, the ads were quickly withdrawn after some protest.

But something similar though more muted has started in the new Volkswagen ads which are shown on television during the Olympic Winter Games. One ad shows a man in a VW going out to run errands. His wife or girlfriend wants a ride but he won't let her into the car because of the "extra weight". She is left standing while he zooms off into the distance, happy. The Bad Feminist, a new kid on the feminist block, says this about the VW campaign:

I think that the worst thing about this campaign is its reliance on women as a stable of morons. Take its latest, where a man at the wheel of his studmobile tunes out while his word-vomiting girlfriend drones on and on. Finally, after taking commands from some possessed Furbie-lookalike (yes, another unexplainable failure of the campaign), our studmobile driver draws upon his inner manliness to shut the nitwit up. Get it . . . driving a manly Volkswagon gives you the balls to put your woman in her place. Why is it that companies are so sure that the right way to appeal to men is to humiliate women? And why am I so sure that they're right?

I hope that they are proved to be wrong.

The reason for these ads is the fact that VWs are seen as girly cars in the U.S., and the company wants to have more men as customers:

The target audience for the GTI is undeniably male: Volkswagen chose to unveil the new campaign on Thursday by holding a news conference at the office of Playboy magazine in New York. Print ads for the GTI are scheduled to run in magazines like Maxim, Spin, ESPN, Wired and Autoweek.

Beyond the leggy German-accented Helga in a skintight dress, the other women in the ads are typically portrayed as nagging girlfriends who interfere with the male drivers and their "fasts."

In one television commercial that is running during the Olympics, a female passenger asks the male driver, presumably her boyfriend, to roll up the windows because her hair is getting tangled by the wind.

He responds by saying, "Sweetie, it's really hard for me to enjoy the sound of the engine with all that yakking."

Another commercial depicts a man refusing to let his girlfriend enter his car because he does not want to "carry the extra weight."

It is a point that is not lost on Alex Bogusky, the chief creative officer for Crispin, who said he considered the car and its driving experience masculine.

"There are obviously women who will buy the GTI," he said Thursday, but the main emphasis of the ads was the car's performance.

Do they really think that they can run ads dissing women without losing their women customers? Well, I hope that they are proved wrong here, too.

If the campaign is successful among some subsection of men there is still something positive about it: You can tell the sexist ones by simply the car they drive!