While we were gone… VW says ‘bye to the Beetle; FCB’s first work for GoodLife; Pepsi’s new tagline

The Message resumes its regular publishing schedule next week, but we’re easing into 2020 by catching up on some of the campaigns and industry news that caught our eye over the past two weeks.

Volkswagen says g(o\!/o)dbye to the Beetle

Volkswagen has given its iconic Beetle a touching send-off with “The Last Mile,” an animated spot developed by New York agency Johannes Leonardo that references the automobile’s legacy and impact on popular culture.

Set to a version of the Beatles song “Let it Be” recorded by the Chicago area youth choir Pro Musica Youth Chorus, the 90-second spot chronicles the Beetle’s role in the life of a man whose father bought the car when he was a child. The car is shown at key stages of his life before embarking on a farewell journey identified as “the last mile.”

It includes numerous blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pop culture references, including the likenesses of Kevin Bacon (whose Footloose character Ren drove a Beetle) to Andy Warhol, who painted the car as part of his 1985 “Ads” series. There are also nods to the iconic Beetle ad campaigns “Lemon” and “Think Small,” and, of course, the “punch buggy” game beloved by children.

Arguably one of the most famous cars ever produced, the Beetle had its origins in Nazi Germany but would become a symbol of the Hippie era. More than 21 million of the original Beetles were produced between 1938 and 2003, with a redesigned model debuting in 1998.

FCB’s first GoodLife work takes on ‘fitness elitism’

FCB has released the first creative for GoodLife Fitness since winning the business last year. The cornerstone of the campaign is a rousing, anthemic TV spot that features lots of people working out and getting in shape—not atypical for a fitness club, particularly around the new year, when people are still trying to fulfill their healthy-living resolutions.

What’s different is the distinctly Canadiana tone and a message of diversity and inclusion meant to remove the “fitness elitism” associated with some gyms. The spot shows a montage of different races and people with different abilities working out and taking part in range of activities—from weights to yoga.

The ad is called “Canadian Strong,” and features the music of Canadian artist Haviah Mighty. In addition to the TV spot, creative includes  radio, audio streaming, display, and social video.

Public Health England delays soccer games to promote mental health

Public Health England is delaying the start of 32 games in the third round of F.A. Cup competition by one minute this weekend, part of an effort to encourage Britons—and men in particular—to think about mental health.

During the minute, a film narrated by Prince William and featuring English soccer stars including Frank Lampard and Dele Alli will be shown in stadiums, on TV and social media. Developed by Freuds, the film opens on black-and-white images of famous footballers, with Prince William stating in a voiceover that “In life, as in football, we all go through many highs and lows.”

At the midway point, the film shifts to full colour, and shows the stars breaking into smiles. It urges viewers to search “every mind matters” to obtain a so-called “mind plan” that can help them deal with crises.

The initiative is part of Public Health England’s “Every mind matters” campaign, a partnership with The Royal Foundation and The Football Association’s “Heads Up” program.

Pepsi introduces new tagline for 2020

Pepsi has kicked off 2020 with what it says is its first new U.S.-specific tagline in more two decades: “That’s what I like.” The cola company says the new tagline is about “encouraging consumers to unapologetically do what they enjoy.” It will appear across ads for its Pepsi, Pepsi Zero Sugar and Diet Pepsi brands indefinitely.

Joe McHugh, seinor director of insights and analytics for Pepsi, said in a release that research has enabled the company to unlock “rich consumer learnings” that allow it to fine-tune its brand communications.

The new tagline is accompanied by a slate of five commercials from Goodby Silverstein & Partners and Alma that depict everyday people getting lost in the moment and, in Pepsi’s words, “[dancing] like no one’s watching (even when everyone’s watching).” The spots will air this weekend during NFL Wild Card games and the Golden Globes, accompanied by social/digital, “refreshed” out-of-home, point of sale and retail.

McDonald’s Canada brings back Big Mac debate

McDonald’s Canada is promoting the return of the Big Mac Bacon with a campaign that rehashes the debate: Is a Big Mac with bacon actually a Big Mac?

The new English and French ads feature two men debating the issue, complete with hashtags that consumers can use to show where they stand on the issue: #NotABigMac and #StillABigMac.

WPP hires new head of inclusion and diversity

WPP has hired Adrianne Smith as global director of inclusion and diversity. “Note her title – ‘Inclusion and Diversity’ – not ‘Diversity and Inclusion,'” wrote WPP’s global head of culture, Judy Jackson, in an announcement to staff. “This is intentional as diversity can only thrive with an inclusive culture.”

“Adrianne joins at a great time,” wrote Jackson. “The Culture Team has declared #BeBold as our theme for 2020, and Adrianne has a reputation for boldness around inclusivity and diversity in the advertising industry. One recent example – she founded the very successful Cannes Can: Diversity Collective, which provides opportunities for previously absent faces of colour to be represented at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.”

Ryan Reynolds video generates $300,000 for SickKids

Just before the holidays, The Message told you about super-marketer (and actor) Ryan Reynolds latest fundraising effort for the SickKids Foundation in Toronto. He produced a playful video inspired by a prank played on him by Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal last Christmas—when the pair invited him to an ugly sweater party but nobody else wore a funny sweater. The photos went viral.

Reynolds wrote and produced an animated short film that recreated last year’s party incident before declaring, “Every holiday story deserves a magical ending.” A series of photos show SickKids patients and staff happily wearing the famous sweater, before a closing shot of Reynolds with Jackman, except the latter is now wearing the sweater.

The video closed with Reynolds calling for contributions, and pledging to match up to $100,000, received before Christmas. The ad worked, generating $200,000 in donations, matched by Reynolds $100,000 for a total of $300,000.

Apple signs content kingpin

Apple just made a big move in the escalating streaming wars by signing Richard Plepler to a five-year deal to produce original films, TV shows and documentaries for the tech giant’s new Apple TV Plus streaming service.

The former head of HBO, who gets credit for mega-hits like Game of Thrones and Veep, left HBO earlier this year, shortly after AT&T completed its acquisition of the iconic cable network from Time Warner.

The hiring is considered an important victory for Apple which is chasing frontrunners Netflix and Amazon (with Disney joining the fray and others like NBC preparing for battle) to produce better, more popular streaming content to lock consumers into more appealing subscription deals—not just around TV shows, but music and even potentially hardware (ie. phones).

Chris Powell