Volkswagen defends 'racy' TV spot for Chattanooga-built Atlas SUV [video]

Volkswagen defends 'racy' TV spot for Chattanooga-built Atlas SUV [video]

March 29th, 2017 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Volkswagen says the 'Luv Bug' commercial for Atlas SUV shows evolution of the VW brand through the eyes of a growing family. (Screenshot from video)

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

“VW advertising has included things about humanity, humor and relatability. It delivers on that.”
Jennifer Clayton, director of media and advertising for Volkswagen of America

Fast fact

Volkswagen says its new Atlas commercial introduces the tagline “Life’s as big as you make it” to speak to the versatility and spaciousness of the SUV for families and adventure-seekers.

The new Volkswagen Atlas SUV is seen during a job fair with staffing contractor Aerotek held at the Volkswagen Manufacturing Plant on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in Chattanooga. Aerotek is hiring to fill production slots for manufacturing Volkswagen's new Atlas SUV.

The new Volkswagen Atlas SUV is seen during...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Some people are saying that Volkswagen's first TV commercial for the Chattanooga-made Atlas sport utility vehicle may be too steamy.

But a top advertising official for Volkswagen of America said Tuesday the majority of the feedback has been "all positive."

"VW advertising has included things about humanity, humor and relatability," said Jennifer Clayton, director of media and advertising for Volkswagen of America. "It delivers on that."

The commercial, dubbed the "Luv Bug," shows the evolution of the VW brand through the eyes of a growing American family. They graduate from a Beetle to a Jetta, Tiguan SUV and then to the new seven-seat VW Atlas, which will hit dealerships in May.

In the process, there are shots of parked, bouncy vehicles with steamed-up windows in secluded spots followed by scenes of the family with new children. The commercial is set against the song "The Birds and the Bees" sung by Dean Martin.

At least a couple of media outlets have raised questions of "car sex" and "baby-making."

The website autoevolution.com said that "People will buy the Chattanooga-built Atlas whether they like this commercial or not, but we'd go for something that hasn't caught the 'Luv Bug' and isn't so obvious about its toddler-carrying potential."

Clayton said the advertising strategy behind the commercial is to show that the VW brand is changing with the introduction of the Atlas and updated, larger Tiguan in 2017.

"We're moving from a small car company to a full-line brand," she said.

But, Clayton said, they understand the perspective of some people, and the company built a media strategy around when adults are watching TV. She said 85 percent of the "media impressions" are past 7 p.m.

Michael Harley, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said he's heard the criticism the commercial is too risqué, but he thinks it's "fun and playful."

With Martin singing the accompanying song, that lends "a lightness and happiness to it," he said.

But, Harley said, a big-picture view of the spot is that it may signal a turning point of how VW views itself. A year and a half ago, VW became embroiled in the diesel emission scandal, while now it's offering an ad campaign that's light and fun, he said.

Such a campaign wasn't imagined 12 months ago, Harley said.

Clayton said that in 2017, about 50 percent of VW's advertising will be targeted at the Atlas and Tiguan as it seeks to sell more vehicles in that hot SUV segment.

Jeannine Ginivan, Volks- wagen Group of America's senior manager of corporate and internal communications, said top officials have emphasized the Atlas is a symbol of the brand's turnaround.

They've said that 2017 is a year for getting closer to the American market and rebuilding the automaker in the U.S., Ginivan said.

In Chattanooga, VW undertook a $900 million expansion at the plant to ready it for Atlas production alongside the Passat midsize sedan. The company is bringing on 1,100 more workers at the plant. That has pushed VW's headcount to about 3,400, according to the automaker.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.


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