The prevailing question seems to be, do the Volkswagen crash-n-carry sudden-impact ads sell cars?
This remains to be seen. What is already being seen and heard are thousands of Internet forum messages and water cooler conversations around the country both for and against the ads themselves. Cited by opponents as frightening and violent (Ms. Dawson says they leave viewers “confused, shaken, drooling, and trembling”), proponents say the all-important message of safe driving and vehicle safety is driven home. Conceding the effectiveness of the safety tactic, Laura Ries, president of marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries, says it doesn’t work for Volkswagen. Dennis Virag, president of the Automotive Consulting Group in Ann Arbor, Michigan, disagrees. Virag says, “Times have changed. Safety does sell.”
Curiously, those opposed to Volkswagen’s ads don’t seem as revved up over the latest statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute that reported what causes the most crashes on U.S. roads. You’d think anyone who is the least bit vocal about fictional wrecks would have something to say about real wrecks. (American society has a low threshold for pain when it’s not real. In another similar “don’t remind us of reality” moment, many went high and to the right over a cartoon of a wounded U.S. service member while the real deal lay about in Landstuhl and Bethesda — still unvisited by the majority of those who took issue with the cartoon.)
Almost 80 percent of crashes occur within three seconds of the driver becoming distracted. Driver distraction accounts for 65 percent of near-crashes. Cell phone use tops the list of driver distractions while reading and eating follows close behind. Eighteen to 21-year-olds are four times more likely to crash and near crash than their over-35 counterparts. With so many dangerous drivers on the road (let’s face it: someone who doesn’t know he/she isn’t sitting in a waiting room is a dangerous driver), it’s no wonder the most sought-after feature for new car buyers is the safety package. Before considering heated seats and sound systems, consumers are opting in for everything from side-curtain air bags to active braking.
I’m still waiting for my dream public service announcement: A law enforcement officer comes upon a wreck and surmises who was at fault. He reaches through the window of the non-fatally-wounded but bleeding driver-at-fault while he’s still in his car. The officer pulls the guy’s wallet from his pocket, says “I’ll just take this!” as he yanks the driver’s license out, and flings the wallet back in the car. DMV officials, with tools in hand, confiscate the license plate. The tow truck driver removes the driver from his car, sets him on the side of he road, and tows the car. An ambulance drives off without the injured driver-at-fault. “Big Yellow Taxi” plays as the announcement fades to black.