Gear Seven/Arc Studios/Shift
I Like Music
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

How Volkswagen Reignited the Thrill of Driving


After the iconic 2010 ‘Buying a Volkswagen from an Old Lady’ ad, the creative director of DDB Berlin, Heitor Buchalla shares how the team put a new twist on it, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

How Volkswagen Reignited the Thrill of Driving

In 2010, German car manufacturer Volkswagen, or VW, released an ad that captivated audiences, in the best way. As a father and son ended up ‘Buying a Volkswagen from an Old Lady’, the campaign saw snippets of the seller's past, as she took her car on wild adventures, risky manoeuvres and generally threw it around. Poking fun at the lady’s questionable driving, the reliability of the car was never questioned. 

At the end of 2022, agency DDB Berlin and production company Zauberberg reimagined the ad as it gained traction on the social media platform Reddit. Bringing the classic spot to a new audience, the manufacturer and agency saw it as an opportunity to reinvent and make it modern with an electric twist. 

Now featuring the all-electric Golf, an ‘Old Lady’ is seen selling her car and reminiscing on the good times. As she bakes car shaped cookies, gets a tattoo and looks longingly at the old pictures of her with her red VW, it becomes apparent that it’s time for an upgrade – and a wild drive to scare the sales associate!

Telling LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about the ad is DDB Berlin creative director Heitor Buchalla, who explains why the original spot is one of his favourites, how it regained attention and where you might see an Easter egg or two.

LBB> Let’s start by talking about the original 2010 ad which inspired this one. Can you tell us a little bit about ‘Buying a Volkswagen from an Old Lady’?

Heitor> This legendary VW commercial is one of my favourite spots ever made for the brand. A shy old lady is willing to sell her beloved Golf, and its quality is being tested critically by two potential buyers. They inspect the car from all sides. This is interrupted by flashbacks of the old lady driving the Golf excessively like a race car. Convinced by the Golf’s great condition, they finally buy the car from her. The commercial ends with the super: ‘Not every old lady is trustworthy – luckily every Golf is’. 

In my opinion, it’s a masterclass on advertising filmmaking. It has everything you need to create an iconic piece of work: Simple and powerful idea, brilliant execution: the nuances of humour, outstanding casting, subtlety, a great soundtrack, the perfect twist, and finally the striking ending line bringing it home. I could go on for hours if you ask me.

LBB> Why was this a good time to do a new take on a classic?

Heitor> Last year, around spring, we stumbled upon a Newsweek article which stated that the original 2010 VW film resurfaced on Reddit, breaking the internet at that point. The classic was being presented to a new generation and it was getting as much love as back then when it was created, and people were asking for a sequel. At the same time, we had this super exciting brief, to advertise the ID.4 GTX and ID.5 GTX, the high-performance electric Volkswagen cars.

At that point, our task was obvious: we should give the internet the sequel it’s been asking for. We wanted to prove to our audience that you can indeed have just as much of a fun driving experience with electric vehicles. There was no one better to embody the thrill of driving than the daredevil lady from the original spot.

LBB> What did the client want to achieve with this spot?

Heitor> It’s important for Volkswagen to consistently focus on building and maintaining its beloved brand. This can be achieved through incorporating humour and relatable, authentic storytelling. Of course, effectively promoting the company's vehicles, particularly their electric cars (and making electric mobility for all) is also crucial.

LBB> Can you tell us about some initial conversations surrounding the idea and what you and the client were keen to incorporate?

Heitor> The idea was loved from day one, and as an agency, we couldn’t be happier with such a brave decision coming from the Volkswagen team, pushing such a bold idea forward. Nevertheless, for this sequel, we wanted to be extra careful and deliver the same creative quality our DDB Amsterdam colleagues delivered 10 years ago. Back in Brazil we usually say “Não se mexe em time que tá ganhando” (if it ain't broke, don't fix it) and I personally took this expression very seriously in this case.

We wanted to make sure that the new spot worked as a stand-alone piece, with an engaging and entertaining story for those who have never seen the previous one, while also appealing to those who remember the first ad.

It was important to tap into the first spot in terms of the tonality, the subtlety of the acting, and details such as styling, location, and the Golf car itself. All without trying to recreate the scenes from the previous spot. We wanted to give Jakob Grunert, the director, the freedom to create a spin-off as opposed to a remake.

LBB> The music really contributes to the spot. How did you decide on this track and when did you realise it was the perfect combination?

Heitor> From the beginning, we knew that – as in the first spot – music plays a key role in bringing this story to life and carrying the emotion. Like in the first film, we wanted to have the same ‘70s/’80s ballad feeling with lyrics to fit the story and the scenes. Composing an original soundtrack was clearly the best option. And that was the best decision we could have made. We had so much fun. Together with our long-time partners from DaHouse and the director, we were able to compose the music and the lyrics to match our storyline, and still have the feeling of a ‘real’ song. 

The biggest challenge was to make it feel believable as a real track, like one of those ‘80s one-hit wonders you would hear at a vintage store. Luckily, it seems we succeeded in this aspect, considering that many comments across social media enquire about the title of the song.

LBB> The combination of the soft music with the funny elements of baking cookies, getting a tattoo, and longing for a VW means the campaign has a humorous tone. Were there any challenges in achieving this balance?

Heitor> Absolutely. Jakob played a crucial role here. The challenge was: how to show her life was boring in a funny way, not being too melancholic, keeping it interesting, without losing the smart and subtle humour. We crafted these situations together, like baking the Golf-shaped cookies, the sad bobble head dog and so on. 

Each detail was considered to maintain a nice balance: Every time she was engaging in a more mundane activity such as having tea with her friends, we could have the creative licence of adding a touch of surrealism and humour as with the bobble head dog being sad.
We were careful not to cross the fine line of what is believable/authentic and maintain a nice, smart, and empathetic humour level that a Volkswagen spot should have.

LBB> What was the casting process for the spot like? How did you find the right person to play the protagonist?

Heitor> As obvious as it might sound, we tried casting the actress from the original spot. However, she is now at a very advanced age and her close family members no longer felt comfortable with her doing a production. This presented us with the great challenge of finding a new protagonist – someone who would deliver as much charisma as the first one and, obviously, someone with a similar appearance. 

The wonderful team at the production company Zauberberg supported us in casting across Europe for a suitable cast. In the end, we found our perfect match in the Netherlands (coincidence? Who’s to say…) and are more than happy with her performance. When we saw her casting material, she was such an obvious choice for the whole team. She delivered exactly what we needed: a certain level of irony and humour, mixed with being the cutest grandma you just want to hug, and you would never expect to be so energetic.

LBB> Where did you shoot the campaign and how long did it take to film, edit and launch the final piece?

Heitor> We shot the spot in different locations throughout Berlin within three days in late October 2022. It was quite a short run, post-production, considering all the internal and external steps, which naturally took a few weeks. However, we were already able to go online around mid-December 2022. So, it was just under two months between wrapping on set and going live.

LBB> How have audiences reacted to the spot? Can you tell us about any memorable responses?

Heitor> After the upload, we received an enormous amount of positive feedback from the community and millions of views and hundreds of thousands of likes on TikTok and Instagram. Many viewers found the spot touching while also being very funny at the same time. A lot of people recognised the connection between the old and the new spot and immediately understood the new spot as a sequel.

One user commented: “…it’s the same grandma from the other ad. VW making their own Cinematic universe…” and this specific comment felt like a big win for the team, since this is exactly what we as an agency working closely with our clients hoped for as a result for the Volkswagen brand: to have such an iconic, consistent and distinct universe in terms of messaging and tonality, that is instantly recognized by our audience.

LBB> Would you like to mention anything else?

Heitor> You might find an Easter egg or two while looking at our protagonist shutting her garage door down. Just sayin’.


view more - Behind the Work
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
DDB Group Germany, Fri, 27 Jan 2023 16:37:00 GMT