Volkswagen goes Pop?

Volkswagen are tapping PopArt to promote their Emergency Braking system.   Post-modern irony, smart move or just plain derivative?

Let’s look at the work:

vwcity3 vwcity1 vwcity2

So, we all recognise the style, right?  And ‘Almost’?  Well, that’s just Lichenstein’s ‘Explosion‘, isn’t it?

Clearly designed to appeal to a young,artsy crowd (who probably weren’t even born when Explosion appeared), the print ads are meant to reference the way the emergency braking system gets you out of trouble at low speeds while implying the force of the impact through non-threatening cartoon graphics (because, you know, when cartoon Tom gets hit in the face by an iron-wielding vartoon Jerry, it all turns out OK in the end, doesn’t it? It’s much the same on the roads).

If we take the central tenets of PopArt – elevating the mundane to dizzying levels of artistry through decontextualisation, repetition and varying levels of abstraction –  these posters could be seen as the pinnacle of post-modern irony.  The art form recontextualised into the communication function that it once was (comic books) with the sole intention of commerce.

It’s Pop, but at the same time, blatant commerce.  Nice.

One could argue that this is a smart move.  After all, the images take little decoding, little thinking about and are jarring enough to arrest attention, but not jarring enough to put the viewer off.

By contrast, just look at the mental load you’ve got to expend to get the meaning from this flavour of the campaign:

VW Distraction_Page_1 VW Distraction_Page_3 VW Distraction_Page_2

PopArt is more accessible to the time-stretched viewer, for sure.

But it’s less pretty in this incarnation and, although more fun, a little on the safe side.

Perhaps, ironically, that’s the point…

A safe execution for a safe subject.

It would make sense.

Of course, if drivers would just pay attention in the first place…  But that is another tale entirely.

Neil Hopkins is a Marketing and Branding Theorist at heart, and a Marketing Communications Manager by day. His blog – interacter – is the primary location he shares insight and information relating to marketing, branding and advertising strategy.
You can follow Neil on Twitter, circle him (like an escaped bull) on Google+ or track him down in any number of other ways.

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