Volkswagen spoofs auto ads in new Quebec campaign

Who: Volkswagen Canada, with Type1/Taxi Montreal for strategy and creative; Romeo & Fils for production (JP Chartrand directing); Touché for media.

What: “Pier-Luc Funk in: New Spokesperson,” a French-language campaign starring the Quebec comedian that sends up scenarios that have become commonplace in automotive advertising (including the use of celebrity spokespersons).

When & Where: The social campaign debuted last month with a series of eight videos, with a new video being released every two weeks. The campaign runs through early December across paid social, as well as Volkswagen’s owned and operated channels.

Why: The campaign—spotlighting three key models: the Tiguan, the Atlas Cross Sport, and the Taos—seeks to generate interest in the brand by avoiding category norms. “Trying to do things differently is certainly our model here,” said Taxi Montreal managing director Marie-josée Bourque. “We wanted to partner with a spokesperson, but we didn’t want to do all the traditional spokesperson-ish things.”

Celebrity spokespeople are fairly common among automakers in Quebec, but the goal was to do something different that helps the brand stand out, said Taxi Montreal strategic planner Amy Delafontaine. “It allowed us have a lot of fun, make sure the personality of the spokesperson shone through, and poke fun at some of the cliches of automotive advertising.”

Volkswagen is a relatively minor player in Quebec, with a 2021 poll conducted by Léger finding that only 9% of Quebecers listed it as their favourite vehicle brand. That put the German automaker ninth overall—tied with Kia and just ahead of Subaru (Toyota ranked #1, with 28% of respondents citing it as their favourite brand, followed by Honda at 20%).

How: The videos spoof some of the staples of automotive advertising, such as the absurdity of a car with a giant bow being presented as a suitable gift for occasions like Valentine’s Day (a personal annoyance), and another featuring the gruff-voiced announcer of truck ads extolling the Taos’ “legendary toughness” and cargo capacity.

There’s also a spot featuring Funk contemplating life’s mysteries à la Matthew McConaughey in those Buick ads, spouting faux profundities like “They say that the road is a long river. If that’s the case, I’m the ship,” and “We often say that the clouds are in the sky. But what if it was the sky that was in the clouds?” only to be interrupted by his mother over the in-dash communication hub, asking what the heck he’s talking about.

“The desire was to have those easy to connect with codes that say ‘Yes, I’m watching a car ad and I think I know what I’m about to see,’ but you don’t really know what you’re about to see,” said Bourque. “It’s poking fun at the industry, which Volkswagen is obviously part of. It’s a nice way in when you poke a little bit of fun at yourself in a respectful way.”

VW first introduced Funk as the face of the brand in Quebec during Radio-Canada’s annual end-of-year advertising extravaganza Bye Bye, with a spot that also featured Volkswagen Canada president and CEO Pierre Boutin.

And we quote: “Knowing the capabilities of Pier-Luc Funk, we wanted to produce work which is not your typical car ad and have some fun with it at the same time,” said Mark Dicks, manager, retail marketing at Volkswagen Canada. “This is not the car ad you would expect, and it really stands out from the norm.”

Chris Powell