Who'da thought

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (BRONZE)

Client Credits: Volkswagen Canada
Volkswagen Canada team

Agency Credits: PALM + HAVAS


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):September to November 2013
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: September 1, 2013
Base Period as a Benchmark: September to November 2012

a) Overall Assessment

During the first half of 2013, achieving retail sales objectives was proving to be a challenge.

To overcome this, we set out to better understand how consumers behave in the 30 days prior to purchasing a vehicle. The idea was to re-examine consumer concerns in a marketplace saturated with promotional offers, and adjust Volkswagen’s advertising in accordance with the new needs of increasingly well-informed and well-connected customers.

Focusing on two key insights: 1) potential customers conduct extensive research online prior to dealer visit; and 2) consumers have a difficult time understanding technical features, we proposed to shake up conventional approaches by providing clear explanations of Volkswagen’s distinguishing features in a way that’s easy to understand.

By creating a campaign tailored to consumer needs, we would tackle the consideration barrier head on, and stand out from the competition in the process.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Increase retail sales by 1.2% during the three month period (Sept., Oct., Nov.) compared to the same period in 2012.

c) Annual Media Budget

d) Geographic Area

a) Analysis and Insight

Our analysis showed that in the six months preceding a purchase, consumer perception of vehicle price versus value did not change. This was a significant insight, as perception of value provides the greatest leverage when a consumer considers purchasing a vehicle. Moreover, our research revealed two key consumer trends:

  1. Online videos have become the number one source of information when considering a vehicle purchase.
  2. Consumers research cars online in order to try to understand and compare their complex technical specifications before visiting a dealership.

As a result, we recommended a change to our communications strategy and marketing objectives so the perceived value of our technology would be the focus. Rather than redirecting consumers to a dealership, we’d send them to a conversion site featuring content that provided simple, clear explanations of how they could benefit from German engineering every day, thanks to Volkswagen’s innovative features.

b) Communication Strategy

Our goal was to optimize consumer conversion, guiding potential customers from consideration (a mass media affordability message) to intent (a value message on our online platforms). In order to improve value perception, we implemented an innovative digital communications strategy.

Studies had shown us that consumers have a hard time understanding technology, so features such as Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS), Turbo Stratified Injection (TSI), and adaptive front lights were lost on many potential customers. In order for consumers to see true value in Volkswagen vehicles, they first had to understand the benefits of their features.

Our task was to explain these features in a way that would be easy for consumers to understand.

a) Media Used

A multiplatform campaign was deployed around a promotional website: whodathought.ca. We also challenged industry conventions by having TV drive to web, and web to dealer, which is more consistent with consumer behaviour. Placing the content online was also in keeping with consumer behaviour, as the majority of potential customers turn to the internet when researching a new vehicle.

In all, the campaign featured: web banners, geo-targeted web banners, pre-roll, TV spots, Radio, Newspaper, e-blasts, social media posts and other digital properties.

b) Creative Discussion

An image is worth a thousand words.

Studies have repeatedly shown that communicating with images is an incredibly effective way to get a message across. Information relayed by an image gets to the brain 60,000 times faster than text alone. And to understand something properly, there’s nothing simpler than someone drawing you a picture.

We therefore decided to produce a series of animated short films that explain Volkswagen features in simple terms, using images taken from daily life. We chose the tagline “Who’da thought” to highlight how skillful German engineers are in finding simple, effective and unique technical solutions. By showing how Volkswagen engineers look at things differently when designing their vehicles, we encouraged consumers to take these features into consideration when comparing value and quality as they shop for a vehicle.

To make the technology easier to understand, we demonstrated each feature’s benefits in everyday situations. The impeccable logic behind the German engineers’ designs was highlighted by concrete examples: comparing self-drying brakes with protecting yourself from the rain, using side door beams like a goalkeeper protecting his net, or having an automated collision safety system that reacts as quickly as a person sneezes. 

(see VW_Online_Videos_1_4 and VW_Online_Videos_5_8 files)

Thanks to these animated demonstrations of Volkswagen features, the value associated with each technological innovation became immediately clear to consumers, who are eagerly searching to better understand how a vehicle’s price compares to its value.

c) Media Discussion

To increase consideration, messages were aired using web banners, 30-second TV spots, 30-second radio spots, newspaper, e-blasts to our own database and those of targeted partners, our own digital properties and those of our dealers, and social media. The aim of all media executions was to reach potential buyers 30 days before their purchase with a message that conveyed affordability and value. A call to action invited viewers to visit our website for even more content. (See VW_Brakediscs_TV file)

The website was designed to optimize conversion from consideration to intent to purchase, and built to offer an enhanced experience on any screen, as many potential customers visited the site via mobile and tablet devices.

Eight animated videos complemented the two TV spots and users progressed to various buying tools (promotional offers, build a vehicle, price evaluation, book a test drive, find a dealer, etc.).

a) Sales/Share Results

The campaign had an immediate impact. Retail sales reached 22% over objective, with a 6.2% increase from the same period (September to November) in the previous year. These results went against the trend when compared to the overall market activity, which was relatively flat during the previous year (3.8%). Monthly objectives for the Jetta and Passat models were exceeded by 115% and 166%, respectively, compared to 2012.

As for web banner performance, the click-through rate jumped to 0.35% compared to 0.09% in 2012, far surpassing the industry average CTR of 0.11%.

As well, the e-blast click-through rate was 17%, which was 9% higher than industry standards; the whodathought.ca website saw 143,000 unique visitors; and there was a 60% increase in visits to the Volkswagen special offers page compared to 2012.

The campaign also resulted in a 32% increase in value perception for Volkswagen vehicles (from 21% to 53% with regard to value for money).

But most importantly: the “Who’da thought” campaign generated the highest number of reported sales in Volkswagen Canada’s history, during a fall selling season (September – November).

Who’da thought!

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

In the months prior to the campaign, sales were flat and were tracking behind YTD objective. Light vehicle market was also relatively flat vs same selling period 2012 (September – November) at +3.5%. In addition, traffic to vw.ca was tracking at regular seasonal levels prior to launch. 

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

  • Media budget was flat vs 2012 campaign, within the same selling period (September – November).
  • Budget to produce creative material was flat vs 2012 subject to a slight reallocation of budget for greater investment in digital content, as detailed above.



No unusual price discount.

Distribution Changes:

  • There were no model launches or introductions representing significant volume during this year/period.
  • There were no additional Canadian dealerships added to the network.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

  • Maximum customer incentives and offers were on par with previous year’s campaign. 

Other Potential Causes:

None to speak of.