Volkswagen: Eyes on the Road

By: Eliza Borish

Recently, the car company, Volkswagen, released an interactive PSA called “Eyes on the Road” in a Hong Kong movie theatre to show moviegoers the consequences of texting and driving. Using a first-person perspective of driving a car with only the arms of the driver being visible, the Volkswagen ad uses a location-based service to send a text message to each of the unsuspecting audience members while the video (and the car) continues forward. While the audience digs into their pockets to check the text message they just received, the vehicle on screen crashes, shattering the windows to the car and jolting everyone out of their seats. When the audience finally realizes that the person behind the wheel on screen is representative of them, it becomes clear that their wrongdoing—of texting while driving—causes the car crash. Immediately, in black writing the words “mobile use is now the leading cause of death behind the wheel” appears on a white background bringing forth the significance of the interactive ad that just occurred and the need for changing standards when it comes to mobile use within vehicles.

I’ve watched the video a few times now and every time the audience reaches to see their phone, I brace myself for what’s coming: I know there is about to be a car crash, yet I feel equally as unprepared and shaken when the car crash does in fact occur. So what does this mean for Volkswagen, the company behind the commercial?

Personally, it seems like a brilliant move if you ask me. With this commercial, Volkswagen is essentially killing two birds with one stone. From a marketing standpoint, the ad is an effective and strategic tool. Because of its original view point and its interactive ability, the commercial shows the importance of and highlights Volkswagen’s strong commitment to safe driving while also generating traffic and buzz to the Volkswagen brand itself. From a safety standpoint and using a clever PSA for the specific audience in the video and essentially all viewers of this video, it hones in on the point that texting and driving is plain stupid. Often people believe that bad things won’t happen to them and that they are indestructible and while I pray that no one gets into an accident due to a mobile distraction, the reality is, is that these things do happen. So to put the audience in the scene of the accident (and crime) sends a successful, yet chilling message: if you text and use mobile devices while driving, the person in that car on the screen next time could be you.

Down to the core of it, this commercial is relaying the visual that it is better to be jolted out of your seat in a movie theatre from an unsuspecting car ad than jolted out of the drivers seat from an incoming car or tree or anything that could become a target when your eyes (and mind) wander to a screen instead of focusing on the road. When you are on the road, a simple text message can wait and that’s what Volkswagen is emphasizing in this new commercial.

At the end of the day, this PSA is just an ad and the line between PSA and ad merges. For Volkswagen, however; it is a smart marketing tactic that accomplishes multiple things. Between the audience and the brand, there is a sense of trust and reliability created; it feels as if Volkswagen has the audience and future drivers’ backs by wanting to promote safe driving. Additionally, Volkswagen is evoking brand awareness and promotion by creating a viral, effective and highly regarded ad. Lastly, Volkswagen uses a new feature interaction to accentuate the overall ad experience for both themselves as a brand and their target, the audience. Overall, whether you think this commercial is for the audience or for the brand or you think it’s a PSA alone or an ad alone, there is one thing you can’t deny: it is very effective in all senses and to me, that is a win-win.

What do you think about Volkswagen’s “Eyes on the Road” PSA? Do you think its effective as a marketing ad? What about as a PSA? As always, I welcome your comments and spread the word.

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