Getting Mileage from Mishaps

Volkswagen recently did something that few companies would do. It essentially promoted a major scandal, manipulated emissions testing results, while introducing the brand’s new future and first electric vehicle.

Pretty gutsy.

The kickoff commercial for the campaign, set to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence,” takes us from VW’s “dark days” of the emissions crisis into the new light of an electric future featuring its first new vehicle, the iconic VW bus.

The new campaign has its share of critics that say VW has no credibility to be making any claims about environmental responsibility, and there is validity to that given the scandal. However, would the company be better off ignoring its sins of the past? Or glossing over them by talking about all the things they were going to do in the future? I’m reminded of the barrage of commercials that British Petroleum (BP) did in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, telling us how committed they were to the Gulf Coast and making things right, without ever really acknowledging in its advertising that they screwed up.

The new VW campaign also reminds me a little of what Domino’s Pizza did a few years ago when they admitted via commercials that their pizza sucked and that it was now going to get better.

Desperate times often call for desperate measures.

While VW has apologized in a number of forums since the emissions scandal, it takes courage to remind us of the company’s dark days, while at the same time introducing us to a new day. It’s a risky move, but in an environment where people want brands to be courageous and take a stand, I think VW is going to get some mileage out of its new campaign.