• Jan 7th 2011 at 7:58PM
  • 43
Bill Hader and the Volkswagen Jetta – Click above to watch the videos after the break

If you have watched Saturday Night Live the last couple of years, you may share my opinion that the only things truly funny is Weekend Update, when cast members do a really good parody of real people like Sarah Palin, Barack Obama and the like, or when the cast produces video set-pieces beforehand.

When the show goes into original sketches, it can be a long hard, painful, unfunny slog. And this brings me to a new set of video webisodes produced by Volkswagen and ad agency Deutsch/LA starring SNL cast-member Bill Hader.

Webisodes are an increasingly common and important marketing tool used by companies, especially automakers. Ford has especially been making wide use of them as it seeks to be king of social media. The thinking goes like this: We are limited to 30-second and 60-second ads on TV because of cost, but why not get jiggier with longer-form pieces on the net where we don't have to pay for time.

The best of this medium remains BMW's The Hire series of web films.

Click here to continue reading how VW went wrong.

First, the team got too preoccupied with jamming a long list of product benefits into the videos. This is done via a so-called VW product specialist, Danielle Gumro, who rattles off a series of sleep-inducing product benefits while Hader tries, through a series of invented personas, to riff on them. It's painful to watch.

There is a series of these webisodes called "Inside Volkswagen Academy." The information on the webisodes notes that SNL writer John Mulaney was involved in the writing. Memo to Mulaney: I don't know what else is on your reel, but don't include these.

Monty Python cast member Eric Idle once quipped: "What's the difference between life and a 'Saturday Night Live' sketch? Life doesn't go on forever." The same can be said of these webisodes.

When creating an ad, and especially a webisode, the point is to engage people – induce them to want to watch. The challenge is greater, not less, with a webisode that lasts 2:30. During each viewing of these, I looked down at the counter to see how much longer I had to watch. The thought of sharing one of these never entered my mind.

Question for the creative team: Was Gumro forced on you by the client? She is painful to watch. And was neither Andy Samberg, nor Will Forte available? These guys have much higher batting averages with funny than Bill Hader.

I can't help but compare these webisodes to a now classic VW 60-second ad that did an awesome job of engaging, and conveying, a product benefit (i.e. how much room there is in the VW Golf to hold that big chair... now that is showing a product benefit!):

And even this ad/video that was maligned by some critics. I actually liked this series created by former VW ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky as I thought it captured some of the spirit of the VW GTI and was humorous enough to warrant sharing and posting.

For an example of how product benefit videos have been improved, check out this one from Ford, which doesn't even try to be funny. It held my attention from start to finish. One of the keys to this one working is that it only tries to convey one major product attribute at a time. When a company tries to jam in every piece of standard equipment and option into a short video, it all just gets lost.

Deutsch made a very good Jetta ad, nicely conveying that the new Jetta has a much lower starting price than most people would think. It has more quality and engagement without turning to an SNL character or writer.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think the girl did a great job playing straight (wo)man. She did what she could, given that they were definitely guilty of information overload. She delivered it well..
      Hader is an odd choice, but I giggled a couple times. It's tough trying to make such dry material funny.

      And to those commenters saying that an Elantra is better than the Jetta, two words: DON'T CRASH.
      Say what you want about the standard features, the Jetta feels like it was carved out of a single block of Granite compared to the tuna can Elantra..
      • 4 Years Ago
      No doubt, good commercial indeed, and I always liked that song. Here's another example of back when VW made good commercials [and good cars] with cool music:

      • 4 Years Ago
      I thought it was mildly amusing. Not as funny as R. Lee Ermey as the former drill sargeant turned therapist, but amusing. And what's wrong with rattling off the the features of the car. About the only other place to get the low down on vehicle features without opening a brochure or reading a website is Motoweek on PBS.

      As for Gumro, she's kind of hot, if you like women with dark hair and glasses who understand cars.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Had a bit of a technical glitch, the above post was in response to the following:

      Stacey 8:48PM (1/07/2011)


      I love the V-Dub in the House commercials (Jaaa-son, and his 1998 Whatchamacallit...)

      This is a good one too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4GCq56bq_k&feature=related

      BTW, is that Tanner Foust driving the F150 in the Ford spot?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wow! RE-TARD-ED.

      Clearly Germans don't watch SNL...because if they did...and understood what they were watching, they'd steer clear of SNL's 2nd tier comics. Instead, they fell into their own chasm and got lost...

      Perhaps it VW actually hired and promoted North America's in their NA offices rather than transplanting Germans...they'd have learned this before their... Fail.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Kudos to VW for trying something (ANYthing) to help make their new car at least interesting. It's about the most bland sedan on the market and about as boring.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I find her attractive. She needs a more naughty librarian look to her though. Awesome job mentioning Will Forte too - he's underrated and puts on a good show. Him in The Falconer and the MaGruber skits (minus the movie) were great ;)

      Autoblog - you forgot to mention the Fast ads - funny and made me want to buy a MKV (I did then too) Still have my fast in my room, although the MKV is gone.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Honestly, if you are thinking about buying one of these new Jetta's you should just end your life. This is the most uninspiring and boring car I have seen since the Camry. I didn't think anyone could even match the Perry Como like and induced coma of Toyota in this department but VW has has set a new bar or should I say new low.
      • 4 Years Ago
      wow that really was painful to watch, i hate my curiosity
      • 4 Years Ago
      Great Jetta ad.
      • 4 Years Ago
      why does it have so much room? oh maybe because its the size of a cruise boat! yea i could make a car more leg room than a civic if it had a port and starboard bow too.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The new Jetta is as exciting as a saltine cracker. Talk about taking ZERO design risks..
        • 4 Years Ago
        Du liebst nicht das Auto? :(
        • 4 Years Ago
        my thoughts exactly.
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