You Be The Judge #4: Volkswagen 'Apology' Ad

So it's time for the next You Be The Judge, and it's a hot topic. By the way, thanks for all your thoughts, contributions and opinions on these so far, it's been great finding out what other people think about stuff rather than just blathering on about our own opinion. So please keep them coming.

This time it's the VW 'Apology' print ad that ran over the weekend. I've put 'apology' in quotes not to be snarky, but because it's not really an apology is it? And I understand that might not be the point of this ad, the ad does state it is more about action than words.

How does it compare to how Tesco infamously mishandled their crisis a while back with a poorly thought-through 'rousing' apology ad?

These things are hard to get right, but get them right and I think you can go a long way to help yourself out of a sticky situation. And I think a huge part of getting it right involves telling the absolute truth without embellishment or excuse. If you have the balls to go with the absolute truth, and admitting where you went wrong, I think that can be very powerful.

It's a bit like customer service, you don't really notice customer service until something goes wrong, but if something goes wrong with a product or service, and customer service come through in a great way, you can sometimes end up feeling more positively towards the company than before the thing went wrong in the first place.

Lastly, I can't let another of these go by without repeating my point about brands and agencies just not getting the potential of print advertising, and misusing as a medium. When their backs are up against the wall, they write succinct and simple copy-based ads, because they know people will read them and they can get a point across powerfully – but when they're not in crisis, they go to back to making bland, pretty wallpaper nonsense again. 

Anyway, here it is if you haven't seen it. Click on the image to enlarge...

Previous You Be The Judge posts...
You Be The Judge #3: New Johnnie Walker Campaign
You Be The Judge #2: Labour Party Candidate Videos
You Be The Judge #1: airbnb


  1. Hmmmm.... just strikes me as a bog-standard product reclaim message masquerading as "brand assurance" fluff. Neither of which do anything to address VW's current PR crisis.

    I'd expect more from a company with A) such a distinct voice, and B) a track record of world-beating long copy ads.

    A miserable effort. A miserable fail.

  2. Headline is good, the rest is pretty shite. Nothing to convince me that they'll change their ways, nothing to explain what really happened and why it happened. Nothing in there about why VW's are still the most reliable cars, even after this scandal. Opportunity missed.

  3. "..we'll continue to do everything we can to win back your trust"

    Except actually apologise it seems

    It's a clever angle (trust) as you'd expect from VW. I drive one- not a diesel mind...
    And it's all quite clear on what happens next and that "it's personal"
    But not headlining with "An Apology" does seem a bit of an oversight

    Something that gets me about this whole mess is that did anyone really buy a diesel believing it to be the greener choice,rather than simply a more fuel efficient option with superior MPG? Personally I struggle to recall any linkage between diesel and a cleaner environment

  4. Actions speak louder than words.
    VW seems to have missed that lesson.

  5. A perfect opportunity for an updated 'Lemon' ad. However, it appears VW is not only losing its reputation but its balls as well. Bernbach will be spinning in his grave.

  6. Sandals have got an Autumn sale on. That water looks nice.
    I don't think the ad is worthy of your 'You Be The Judge' feature.

  7. Sandals have got an Autumn sale on. That water looks nice.
    I don't think the ad is worthy of your 'You Be The Judge' feature.

  8. I don't even like the headline. It's a clunky metaphor that doesn't track well. Trust is not a "part in our vehicles." I suppose one could argue that it's a part OF their vehicles, but that wouldn't work with the "auto parts" game they're attempting to play. Anyway, forgetting all of that, it's all just pissing in the ocean; way too little of an effort to have any effect on an issue so big.