A Beautiful Ad That Didn’t Work… and An Ugly One That Did

“They kind of forgot to sell the car.”

The Dog Strikes Back_ 2012 Volkswagen Game Day Commercial

Remember this commercial from the 2012 Super Bowl? Watch the ad and then answer the one-question quiz below.

Volkswagen, like many advertisers that year, released the ad on the Internet a week early to get people talking. The reviews in the media after the game were extremely positive.

The ad ranked #2 on the USA Today Ad Meter. Shirley Brady of Brandchannel called it “Another big win for Volkswagen” in the Washington Post, and predicted greater recall for the featured model than VW had accomplished the previous year in the same slot.

Here’s the quiz:  without going back and watching it again, which model is the ad about?

I’ll Give You a Hint: It Was The Beetle

A few days after the game, I met with a Volkswagen dealer in Hawaii. I asked him what he thought of the ad.

He wasn’t impressed.

He told me that several days before the Super Bowl, Volkswagen had sent out an email blast offering Volkwagen owners special incentives to come in and test-drive a Beetle. The dealership also sent out its own email to its database making the same offer.

“How many people have responded to the offer?” I asked.”So far… zero,” replied the dealer.

I asked him if anyone had mentioned the ad in the showroom that day. “If you mean any customers… no. I think Volkswagen kind of forgot to sell the car.”

If the advertiser’s aim was to entertain, the ad was a success. But if they wanted to generate customer interest in the new Beetle, that dealer’s evidence pointed to failure.

What about sales overall? In February, 2012 Volkswagen sold 1,303 Beetles. An ad in the 2012 Super Bowl cost $3.5 million. Setting aside production costs and any other advertising VW did for the car, this works out to $2686 per Beetle sold.

If you think about it, there’s generally no correlation between how much something cost to make and how interesting it is. — Seth Godin

If the ad works, it is a great ad no matter how many rules are broken or how bad it may look, smell or taste. If the ad is not working, it is wretchedly bad no matter how clever the production. — Don FitzgibbonsThe Guru’s Rules for Local Advertising

Here’s The Ugly Ad that Worked

This one’s from a group of fast food restaurants in the Southeast. All it did was work.

This commercial would not do well on the USA Today ad meter.  But that’s not how the advertiser kept score.

This ad had one job — to move more hot dogs during the middle of the week. It performed magnificently, delivering an almost-immediate double-digit lift in hot dog sales on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

The restaurants gave up some margin on the hot dogs and made plenty back on all the fries, sodas and custard people bought with their dogs.

ph/dpcoto by Simone van den Berg

ph/dpcoto by Simone van den Berg

You can go after awards if you want, but don’t forget to sell the product.

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