Volkswagen Vento: Gaddi badnaam hui!
Anil Thakraney 23 September 2010

The ad is media trickery — the idea should actually create attention in an endearing way, such that the route embellishes the brand’s core personality

The Volkswagen dudes and their ad agency partners will celebrate tonight. At having launched their Vento with a kick-arse media innovation: the little audio contraption placed inside The Times of India that 'speaks' to the readers. Not only will this gimmick get the car to be talked about hectically, as people discuss this media 'innovation' offline and online, but will result in some glittering Indian ad awards (quite likely… Indian ad award juries are highly suspect in any case).
Here's the thing: On every single count, this media trickery is highly repugnant. Getting instant attention cannot be the sole purpose of advertising. Even terrorists with their RDX and prostitutes with their garish make-up get instant attention. The idea must ALWAYS be to get attention in an endearing way, and in a way that the route embellishes the brand's core personality.
In that context, it's highly disappointing to see makers of the high-tech German engineered cars, the much respected Volkswagen guys, indulge in such a cheap ploy. We associate class with Volkswagen, that's what we buy into. But what they have done with this irritating, intrusive toy, is to come across as makers of Rajnigandha pan masala. Or Zandu Balm. What that does to their carefully crafted brand personality, is for the German engineers to think about. What I do now know is this: Volkswagen Vento is a totally down-market car. It's off my shopping cart.
On another front, the so-called innovation is not even crafted with some degree of intelligence. It's a boring, non-stop chatter from a sleepy voice, that pretty much translates what the ad is already saying. Now if my newspaper has to play the role of a radio in my life (eeeeks!), the least it must do is to entertain me. And since the Volkswagen suits want their car to be the Zandu Balm of the category, the least they ought to have done is to compose a special 'Munni Badnaam' Vento jingle. Would have been fun, yaar!
Another problem: What about the issue of cost spill-over? For a luxury sedan, isn't The Times of India, a mass paper, a waste of the ad rupee? Wouldn't this gimmick have been more suitable for, say, The Economic Times? Or one of those many auto mags? To some extent, one may have accepted it if a Santro or a Swift had taken this massy TOI route. So this lowly trick doesn't even make media spend sense.
Finally, and on a separate note, here's another larger worry: Netas like Mayawati, Raj Thackeray and Dr Manmohan Singh will surely latch on to this nuisance. Imagine waking up to them speaking into your ears as you reach out for your morning cuppa. Already the future of newspapers is in peril. This sort of an outrageous invention will only help accelerate that process.
Net-net: A media innovation idea that went horribly wrong. I need some Zandu Balm on the head to cool off.  

Ravindra Shetye
1 decade ago
In the meantime I also happen to read the reactions of the 'Ad Gurus' to this talking ad. As usual they were divided but I could sense some jealousy in reactions of a few 'Gurus' that someone else thought of the idea before me.
1 decade ago
I am totally appauled by what the author has to say about the ad in particular and the product in gemneral. My household was in for a rather pleasant surprise when we got to hear of this ad which we thought was very innovative and the first of its kind in India.
Comparing the vehicle to Zandu balm or Ragnigandha is unjustified and shows how little the author knows about the product in question.
Many a kudos to the German team and the ad agency for such a trendy and snazzy ad.
1 decade ago
One of the best advertising innovations I have seen in a long time, atleast in India. Comparing a iconic brand to rajnigandha or a zandu balm.............OH MY GOD. The funny thing is, either this guy doesn't know any thing about cars or he knows too much about Rajnigandha. "Volkswagen Vento is a totally down-market car. It's off my shopping cart", Dude get a reality check, you wouldn't appreciate a VW even if you could afford it.
1 decade ago

1 decade ago
I don't understand why Volkwagen Vento product is targeted in this article rather than targeting the advertising agency. Many feel that this advertisement is an innovation on its own in the Indian advertising paradigm. Also, just because the autor hates the advertisement doesn't mean that the Vento product is bad. I am not sure if author knows the price of the car, it's price is much lower than Honda city, it is definitely not a luxury sedan.
1 decade ago
The ad is already successful. The very fact that you talk about it in your column is enough.
1 decade ago
I agree with the author. This is not a bad execution per se, but for the wrong brand. Volkswagen continues to launch its products with poor advertising (remember the Beetle ad? bah!)
Ravindra Shetye
1 decade ago
I find nothing so wrong in the ad, especially since the grimmic must be only one part of a large ad campaign. Nothing wrong in being the first to do this even if it has no great value. At least no one thoght of this earlier?
1 decade ago
Can't appreciate something good about a competitor right? The kind of comments that you have put up here just shows your problems with Times. This is something that was never even seen or heard of idea, atleast in India. The ad is going to be remembered for a long time for it's innovative idea and even for the start of a brand new advertising medium.
Do you think a child, college going student or a grandpa reads ET? Times of India is a newspaper that reaches out to all class and age people. You should be thankful that someone like Volkswagen introduced something like this. None of the brands like what you said here, Zandu Balm or Rajnigandha can't even do or imagine this in their wildest dream. Appreciate someone's work, instead of being the negative guy.
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