by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) We’ve seen the articles about self-drive cars, most notably those created by Google. Indeed, it looks as if the era of hands-off driving is no longer science fiction. It may still be a little while before being able to let your car do the driving becomes an everyday thing but, in the meantime, a lot of that ‘intelligent engineering’ technology is filtering down to today’s motor vehicles.

These are technological innovations that boost our driving with added elements of safety and convenience. A while ago I featured an ad for Merc’s system that detected driver drowsiness — now it’s VW’s turn, with the brand’s ‘Side Assist’.

VW Side AssistWithout technical jargon

Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town devised a campaign for this innovation that gets the message across without any technical jargon or simulations. It’s an interesting campaign in that it uses a common message and a technique that is adapted to different media. But why are we featuring a campaign that originally flighted last year, and won a bronze at the Loeries this year?

The really strange thing is that this campaign is not even scheduled for publication or flighting right now, but it’s being talked about in social media and featured on advertising websites. When we spoke to executive creative director at O&M Cape Town, Chris Gotz, he said he wasn’t sure why this had happened.

The answer, I think, is that it’s a truly good campaign that has managed to ‘go viral’ in a sense, because it’s smart and simple.

The dreaded ‘blind spot’

The idea behind the Side Assist technology is that it warns the driver when vehicles are approaching from behind, on either side. Sensors pick up the vehicles in adjoining lanes from up to 50m back — as these vehicles pass through the dreaded ‘blind spot’ — as we all know, blind spots in the side mirrors are the cause of many accidents.

The system draws the driver’s attention to the presence of a car approaching from behind by flashing a light under the mirror. If the driver signals before making a lane change that is dangerous, the same LED flashes more brightly to draw attention to the danger.

In effect, the system ‘knows what’s coming’. And (you guessed it), this is the message that O&M has hooked the campaign onto.

In print, this was done through carefully placed ads, that ‘foretold’ what was over the next page. So, for example, an ad placed on the bottom right-hand page would say: “You’re about to see an ad for a green chewing gum bursting with freshness.” In smaller type, the VW payoff line: “Volkswagen Side Assist. Knows what’s coming.”

VW Side Assist street pole campaign photo VW Side Assist street pole campaign photo 2In the same position

On the next page, in the same position as the VW ad, is another ad. But this time it’s an ad for Clorets SupaFresh.

For street-pole posters, the execution was a one-two-three punch. The first ad would carry the main message: “Volkswagen Side Assist. Knows what’s coming.” The next ad would be “You’re about to see an ad for baked beanz.” The next pole would be “Heinz Means Beanz”.

The radio ad worked along similar lines, sometimes with a quirky take on the content, such as “You’re about to hear an ad featuring the sound of the ocean during a storm… followed by the sound of the ocean during a storm.” And, of course, that would be what one would hear.

Similarly, the TV ad predicts: “You’re about to watch a TV ad featuring a very unusual office. You’ll see a woman who loves her job. Kind of. And her colleagues who love dolphins. A lot. Volkswagen Side Assist. Knows what’s coming.” The following ad is then the one for Careers24, featuring the dolphin-crazy office.

VW Side Assist print adAlways have had fun

VW Side Assist print ad 2The “people’s car” people have always had fun with the VW brand and, in this case, the campaign has cleverly conspired to draw attention to itself by drawing attention to other advertising, and the medium of advertising itself. (How meta!)

The design of all the ads is simplistic to the extreme: the radio and TV ads have no music. Visually, they are all black print (the familiar VW Futura-Bold) on light grey, with a simple VW logo at the bottom. Even the TV ad is just a simple light grey screen, with just the final slogan and logo appearing at the end. This is extremely smart, because it has the effect of making the ads stand out amid the ‘clutter’ and noise of most ads, using white space and simplicity to its best advantage.

Hats off to O&M Cape Town, for a fantastically self-referential, versatile and well-executed campaign. But mostly for a campaign that communicates a really important and clever innovation from the agency’s clients — VW.

Advertising agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Cape Town, South Africa
ECD: Chris Gotz
Creative director: Prabashan Gopalakrishnan Pather
Art director: Reijer van der Vlugt
Copywriter: Justin Osburn
Account director: Gemma Thompson
Sound studio: We Love Jam, We Love Jam
Agency producer: Iris Vinnicombe
Editor: Robert Martin
Photographer: Theo Klompje
Account manager: Sina Berrada


Oresti PatriciosAd of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research.

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