How VW used custom content for the win

The automaker, aiming to bring the brand to the "weekend warrior" demographic, created more than 150 pieces of custom content for media partners, resulting in five million impressions.
Cohen VW

In a move to freshen up its image, Volkswagen has changed up its strategy for its latest influencer campaign, creating custom and exclusive content for a variety of programs as part of the program.

Canadian athletes Noah Cohen (professional surfer) and Cam McCaul (mountain biker) are at the centre of the campaign, which was the result of a partnership with Toronto-based creative and media buying agency Rooftop. Cohen and McCaul each spent a weekend with different Volkswagen vehicles (Cohen using the new Golf SportWagen All-Track and McCaul with the Tiguan compact SUV) embarking on various adventures which were filmed documentary-style.

More than 150 pieces of photo and video material from the documentaries, as well as various articles, were purposed into custom content for outlets including Sportsnet, Squamish-based Pinkbike magazine, BC Travel Magazine and Surf Canada.

“We could have very easily done a one-hour documentary with each one,” Dave Videka, president of Rooftop, told MiC. “We created short, easily digestible pieces of content like interview advertorials and custom social content, and they were all crafted to fit the key audience of each media partner.”

For example, he said, with Surf Canada’s dedicated surfing enthusiast audience, the agency and brand created a “photo epic” advertorial for the magazine. For Sportsnet, it created a short digital doc on Cohen’s life that focused on some of his injuries as a surfer.

The campaign is currently at the beginning of its second phase. The first featured Cohen and, according to Videka totalled 5.25 million impressions, which was 79% above VW’s target. The video clips boasted a 30% view rate on social media.

Jordan Gracey, managing director of digital marketing of Volkwagen told MiC Volkswagen has worked with influencers before — but the custom element of the campaign was brand-new to VW and part of an effort to not only raise brand awareness for the two new models, but also to expand the brand’s reach.

While she said the brand was not looking to reach a new demographic in terms of age, she said the brand is commonly associated with practical hatchbacks for urban-dwelling individuals. Now, she said, the goal is to expand the brand to the “weekend warrior” subculture and give it a more adventurous identity.

Gracey said VW’s market share in Canada remains modest — it currently sits at 4.8% in Canada and has remained around that mark since last year. She said the share puts it in a position of a brand that is niche but still has mainstream awareness. In total, just over 60,000 units were sold in Canada in 2016.

The portion of the campaign featuring McCaul has just begun and will roll out over the next six weeks.