One thing you can be sure of?

As our regular contributor, Gordon Comstock, points out on his blog, this new ad for VW Passat from DDB is very strange indeed….

passat_0.jpg - One thing you can be sure of? - 1590

VW Passat ad, agency: DDB, director: Noam Murro, production company: Biscuit Filmworks

As our regular contributor, Gordon Comstock, points out on his blog, this new ad for VW Passat from DDB is very strange indeed….

The ad sees a recently redundant man skipping around a recession-devastated town to the tune of Morecombe & Wise’s Feeling Positive, before getting into his VW Passat and driving into a tunnel. At this point we’re with Comstock who comments: “I’m having to fight off the implication in the final frame that he’s going to drive full pelt into the front of an oncoming lorry. Because isn’t that glowing light at the end of the tunnel a film convention for death generally?”

As Comstock will expand on in his column in the August issue of CR, VW’s classic advertising has always been based in irony, yet presumably this ad isn’t being ironic – it would be a brave client indeed that would want to potentially associate its brand with death. So what is going on in it?

  • paul

    just a shit ad

  • Noir

    ahhhh, cringe.

  • monkey

    Maybe it’s meant to be a play on the old optimistic quote “there is always light at the end of the tunnel” perhaps? You’ve got to be pretty thick not to get that.

  • Even before the glowing light is revealed, I thought it would be the perfect subversive, viral touch to have him drive straight into a truck or wall.

  • jules

    god i hate this

  • Auntie P

    I was immediately struck by the ‘oncoming train’ aspect of this scenario. Very odd.

  • Is this an attempt to make the VW Brand memorable with a song? – The song will stay in the mind and you’ll find yourself singing it first thing in the morning….

    or is it in direct competition with the recent ‘singing man’ man from the Honda adverts?

    Either way, I can’t say that I like the advert, it is more annoying than memorable.

  • I’m with @monkey – has no one heard of the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’??

    I also agree it is rather annoying, but i think you’re all reading far too much into it. Who seriously analyses the adverts this much? Shouldn’t you be making a cup of tea when this is on?

  • A good way to waste money and send the VW experience to the stone age!

  • EC

    Positive thinking? Well VW you’ve just made us remember we are in a recession and how annoyingly patronizing musicals can be. Nothing positive about that.

  • Jamie

    Yeah, definitely the light at the end of the tunnel rather than the oncoming lorry, especially as it is filmed in the Limehouse Link tunnel heading out to Canary Wharf (one way). Not the most glamourous of locations (budgets slashed in these hard times?) and also he would get caught by the speed cameras as it is only 30 mph in there. Poor advert…

  • JTedM

    At least the sheep have a meaning! I’m also with @monkey, it’s just a mediocre idea done ok. Gotta go, off to buy a Passat and see some dancing sheep.

  • hywel

    appealing to those in the city
    especially with the tenuous sheep in trailer, who drive so long, side by side to it?

  • Monkey

    Yes, yes.

    The phrase ‘Light at the end of the tunnel’ is well-known, but what’s with the sheep in the butcher’s van?

    My point was that it’s a bit of a departure for DDB and VW who’ve tended towards a much bleaker tone. Suddenly asking us to read this ad optimistically is a big get.

    It means you’re looking around for a clever sting in the tail, but instead you get animals being driven to slaughter and an end line that is reminiscent, most of all, of the phrase ‘there are only two things in life you can be sure of: death and taxes’.

    I’m sure that the creatives who wrote this intended us to think about the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, that much is obvious. I was just reporting another effect that it had, which seemed too strange to be wholly accidental.

    Not to get too French about it, but is their intention more important than my reaction?


    I analyse adverts because I also occasionally have to write them. So it helps if I know how they work, like taking a car apart might help you to build one.

  • @ Gordon Comstock,

    Per your query about the sheep in the butcher’s van, they are nodding happily to reinforce Positive Thinking, even though they are fated to a sure death. There: that’s both bleak AND ironic in one van!

    PS, @ monkey: don’t be so condescending.

    I thank you both for your attention in this matter.

  • mmmm… don’t know!

  • Able and Baker

    I’m from Australia. Maybe driving into an oncoming lorry after being retrenched is English optimism?

  • max

    wouldn’t be surprised if someone got sacked for this

    it is absolute rubbish

    compare it with the Night drive advert they did for the Golf mk5 , which was sensational

  • Saw this on the tv the other day and just thought it was a bit hit and miss. I think joe average isn’t going to get it. It didn’t make me want to buy a Passat either ha. Bit of a let down really because I’ve always loved the VW ad’s including the night driving one which I felt was just amazing.

    Not sure if it’s death at the end of the tunnel, I think that’s just reading into it too much. I think it’s more likely to be associated with him just heading out of a ‘tunnel’ (dark, confined etc) and into a new horizon that is a lot brighter than the one he’s just been in. ‘Bring me that horizon’ to coin a captain jack sparrow phrase?

    Nicely shot ad, just a shame about the storyline I feel. The singing is awful too, they could of at least used an older man that looked like one of the comedy duo, perhaps people would of twigged it better then. Not overly impressed though. SHAME!

  • monkey

    @Reality Check

    I wasn’t being condescending. Just point out what i thought was obvious.

    @Gordon comstock
    I don’t really buy that VW has been leaning towards a bleaker tone. I wouldn’t put this ad too far away from the dog singing in the car which is equally as silly if you ask me.

    As for the sheep, it’s a funny joke, even in death they are optimistic. A little irony and realism doesn’t hurt to balance out the overly positive message.

    And the ‘only two things you can rely on… death and taxes’, i’d happily claim a 3rd in VW. They have been know for their reliability for years… its a bit like the old AA’s 4th emergency service. Funny.

    I too am also in the business of analyzing adverts but i think this one has been over analyzed.
    Its simply about how when everything is going tits up you can rely on a VW… simple as.

    Possibly the ad is aimed at the optimist who see the good and not the pessimists who only look for the bad? Maybe that was the bigger point the creatives were making? (i doubt it though)

    Over the last few years we’ve become programmed to analyze ads (as copywriters) more and more, thanks to the strange ads of late such as gorilla, skittles, cheese strings etc. whatever. that try to ask a little more.
    It doesn’t mean we have to do it with everything.
    When i look back at the D&AD’s in late 80’s early 90’s there isn’t much to analyze as the ads are so clear and clever, they don’t set out to challenge you in any way, just simply to inform.

    As for your analogy I think you need to stop taking so many cars apart. Sometimes it’s better to simply get in and drive them to see how good they are and why they work so well… A test drive if you like.
    Something which VW are very good at getting people to do :-)

  • steveo

    I think an alternative version where the Passat is towed away and crushed would be more fun.

  • steveo

    I think an alternative version where the Passat is towed away and crushed would be more fun.

  • Guto

    this ad is a car crash in itself….

  • I read the post before watching the ad which was probably a mistake.

    I think maybe VW wanted to make a more simple and light hearted link to the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
    It is a symbol of death – the light is symbolic of heaven and a better place, thats why people say it, but generally it just means thing are going to get better…?

  • Ken

    Lost your job, buy a new car?

    And if you did, would it be a VW Passat?

  • MikeW

    Given that VW have been quite steadfast in not offering particularly competitive deals in the current climate I wouldn’t imagine many people would be rushing out to buy a new one.
    With or without a nice, breezy optimistic “bollox to it all” message.

    The passat is an overpriced car in a competitive market.
    VW do make good cars but most people can’t currently afford them.
    The ad I believe tries to address that by “connecting” with the way we all apparently feel at the moment.
    Unfortunately it, like many others, doesn’t quite work because it’s too generic a message to say that “aren’t we all fed up with house prices tumbling and job losses etc etc”.
    That’s crass.
    This ad is crass.

    But then I don’t know what I’m talking about so I’ll go back to being pre-occupied by the economic crisis.

  • sam

    What about the line? Look at the screen-shot, with the blinding light. There is a quote about death being the only thing humans are sure of. I think it’s a blatantly obvious reference, but steeped in irony.

  • Monkey

    Yep, not sure you’ve really got the analogy airborne there. You can drive a car around without learning a thing about how the engine works, you could do that whilst remaining convinced that underneath the bonnet is tiny man who keeps the wheels turning using determination and elastic bands.

    Apart from that I agree with everything you say.

  • Roddy

    I thought of Diana in the Alma Tunnel when I saw it. As well as the sheep on their way to die. As well as the bright light thing. Associations which for me were more powerful and enduring than the denoted meaning in the song (which for me works only properly as thought, but not as feelings). All too worrying.

  • All musicals are positive. That’s what we want. enjoy it. laugh with the sheep. the whole thing is something of a fantasy, and when we reduce a story, myth, or even a fairy tale, to reductive principles of practice, theory and concept we blindly suppress its mystery, wonder and self-disclosure. Aren’t we a sad little bunch when we can’t laugh along with sheep!? :) Even when crushed, oppressed, bitterly poor or locked away for good, a humed tune, a bunch of flowers or perhaps the simplest of kind gestures can suddenly mean the world to even the most hopeless person! let the sun shine its hardest in this hard, hard world. in whatever form it comes. End.

  • JBchopo

    First thing I thought when I saw this ad on TV was what it “might” suggest about Passat drivers – littering, parked illegally, then over taking a lorry in a tunnel […] without paying attention. The last couple of shots of his face slightly unnerve me, as we leave him speeding into an anonymous light.
    I know it’s supposed to be light hearted, and the whole thing did make me smile, but it mocks an issue that effects most people, and definately doesn’t make me want to buy the car!