Ad Spotlight: Volkswagen’s “Don’t Selfie and Drive”

Volkswagen is feeling some heat right now, but as I was looking over the issue, I ran across a couple of its old ads. While no one is really a fan of Volkswagen right now, this “Don’t Selfie and Drive” series is a great reminder to think again before pulling out your cell phone:

Image courtesy of
Image Courtesy of

What Makes It Great

We all know we should wear seatbelts and not play with our phones when we’re driving, but the impact of these warnings have lost a lot of thrust over the years. Creating an image of the consequences isn’t new, but showing the result of a selfie and not just another car crash scene is what pulls us up on our heels. This is called shock advertising. While some advertisers use down-and-dirty tactics in their shock advertising (e.g., lots of coyly covered up body parts), Volkswagen has purpose behind the gruesome images: honesty. Through an appeal to fear, Volkswagen challenges the audience, “Is a selfie worth this?” While plenty of people debate the ethics of fear advertising, I think in this case, that fear may save a life (or several).

The copy in this ad is also spot-on. By using it as a reference to the “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign, Volkswagen is sending the message that playing with your cell phone while driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence.

Note: In this ad and the others in its series, many of the drivers are not wearing seatbelts. So, Volkswagen is also blending a warning about seatbelt use into its ad.

What Could Improve

While the positioning of the actors is phenomenal (I love how the arm is a prominent part of the bottom frame—you don’t even need the text to understand that it’s a selfie), I’m not, however, a fan of the image’s filter. It looks too airbrushed. I think a better choice would have been to put a type of Instagram filter on the camera to make it look more like a photo you’d see in your newsfeed. Although this would add to the macabre feel of the ad, I think it would also ground it even more in reality.

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