Volkswagen of America is taking another dip with Discovery
Channel. Following up on its Cannes Lions creative award-winning campaign on
Discovery during the network's annual Shark Week last August, Volkswagen has
renewed its relationship as presenting sponsor for this year's event, which
begins on Aug. 4 at 8 p.m.
Last year's campaign was based around the creation of an underwater
Volkswagen Beetle Shark Cage that was integrated on the network via short-form
content that ran throughout the week during breaks between the shark-related
programming. Going one better, this year, the underwater observation cage has
been transformed into a 2013 Beetle Convertible Shark Cage that marine
biologist Luke Tipple will take on a Subaquatic Road Trip along the ocean
The 2012 Volkswagen Beetle Shark Cage campaign won media
agency MediaCom a Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity Silver Lion
for Best Brand or Product Integration into a Feature Film, Existing TV Show or
Series, as well as a Bronze Lion for Best Media Campaign for a Car and
While this year's campaign is a continuation of that initial
VW Shark Cage idea, last year's campaign was hatched from scratch, a collaborative
effort that included Volkswagen's creative agency Deutsch Los Angeles, the
Discovery branded entertainment team, the planning and content creation units
at MediaCom and ultimately, of course, Volkswagen engineers.
The goal of the initial Beetle campaign was to dispel the perception
that the car was more of a female-type auto, and to increase sales among men by
getting them to think it was a cool car. With Discovery's Shark Week drawing a
sizable male audience, the agency believed it was the right platform on which
to make that pitch.
"Once we knew Shark Week would be the right platform for a
Volkswagen Beetle campaign, we then had to determine how to relaunch this
iconic brand," says MediaCom media planner Dave Fasola, managing partner and
group director on the Volkswagen account.
"We had worked with Discovery before on projects for other
clients and had also worked with their creative agency, Deutsch Los Angeles," adds
Adam Pincus, head of content, MediaCom Beyond Advertising, who worked with
Fasola on the creation of the initial campaign last year. "We all sat around
the table and tossed out ideas. There was no one lone source of creativity.
Everyone had ideas and participated."
Swimming With Sharks
"It was a four-way collaborative discussion," Fasola says. "Whatever
we decided to do, we wanted the outcome to be tied into the spirit of Shark
Week. We all brought up ideas of how to bring the Beetle to life, how to get it
into the water, to swim with the sharks. Everyone added a layer of creativity."
Pincus says it took between six and eight weeks of creative
discussion, development and brainstorming to come up with the final idea.
Once it was decided to create a Beetle Shark Cage that would
go into the water, Fasola says a shark photographer who works for Discovery
suggested creating a car that could actually drive underwater. From that point,
it took a few weeks to design the car and only a few days to build it.
The campaign consisted of three 60-second content spots,
along with some teaser pieces. One spot was dedicated to showing how the car
was designed. A second showed how it was built. And a third showed it moving
underwater. The spots ran throughout Shark Week online and as interstitials on
Discovery in between primetime telecasts of shark-related programming. There
was also digital content and a co-viewing app was created so viewers could watch
bonus content on tablets.
"We were looking to develop a fun, interesting way to get
male consumers interested in the Beetle," Pincus says.
And it worked. Monthly sales of the Beetle immediately
topped 3,000 units, which was the highest total of the year. The number of male
buyers jumped by 20%, to 40% of the total model buyers. Average digital
engagement on the Shark Week online site was 28.5 minutes, and there were 5
million views overall. The VW playlist had 350,000 viewers with a 65%
completion rate and there were over 1.9 million Facebook posts generated about
the Beetle Shark Cage.
"Increased sales were sustained through the rest of 2012 and
the sales trend for the Beetle has remained strong through 2013," Fasola says. And
to keep the momentum going, the agency ran a Beetle commercial in this year's
Super Bowl in early February.
This Year's Model
VW has since been promoting some of its other models during
2013, but Shark Week begins this Sunday so the process will start all over
This year, not only iPad users, but also iPhone users will
be able to view footage via a co-viewing app. And viewers also will be able to
share photos, videos and Shark Week news directly from their mobile devices to
online social media outlets, including Discovery and Volkswagen Facebook and
Fasola acknowledges that it might be hard to top last year's
campaign but it's at least been proven that Shark Week on Discovery is one of
the best places to market the Beetle to male consumers.
"To top last year's campaign is going to be tough," Fasola says,
"but our goal is to continue to keep Volkswagen involved with Discovery and
And Volkswagen of America's VP of marketing, Kevin Mayer, adds,
"While most of the entertainment world has adapted to our busy schedules
through on-demand viewing, Shark Week is a rarity in that it still captures
millions of viewers in a weeklong shared experience. Volkswagen is excited to add
our unique touch to an event with such an impressive impact on pop culture."
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