The linguistic creativity of a Volkswagen car advert 

Humour 

What would life be without humour? Advertising companies have found that authenticity, brand awareness and the art of persuasion are key components of their potential success. The Volkswagen car advert aims to potentially attract a new customer base and also to retain their regular customer base. The text is written in a lighthearted manner, it’s an easy read. The form is a storyline and it’s somewhat different from what’s usually expected from a car advert. The tone is joyful and it demonstrates the creators expertise of language application and the surrounding culture which leads to a successful use of humour (Hann, 2019). The advert suggests that this particular one euro coin can buy “a dubious late night kebab in Ibiza, amongst other things we’d rather not write about” which is a reference to British holidaymakers in Spain who went there for the sole purpose of partying. It appeals to their memories and aims to give them a chuckle. It’s a part of social convention to do something slightly unpredictable in this particular area of the world (Selanniemi, 2003). The feature of humour in this advert makes it multi vocal as it could be understood in various ways depending on cultural and social background. It’s also important that connotation is easily understood within the British population, just like the reference “cheap as frites” as seen on Fig. 11 Adverts on Eurostar’s website which suggests that a trip to France is as affordable as chips. It extracts intertextually on a phrase in British English “cheap as chips” which means that an item is very cheap (Tagg, 2019). 

Persuasive language 

Repetition is one of the key strategies in persuasive language. Repetition in narrative reinforces the point and distributes understanding.  In this particular ad, there are several repetitions aiming to include a specific audience by using the personal pronoun “you” and involvement strategies in the phrases “And what about you? Where have you been lately?”. Group-in inclusion depicts social bonds, status and also tests the limits within societal norms (Hann, 2019). Involvement strategies are used in storytelling (Giaxoglou, 2019). The similarity between this ad and story is evident in the attempt to involve the reader by addressing them through the text. David Ogillvy identifies the most pervasive and effective words in his book “Confessions of an Advertising Man” such as now, magic, wanted which are used in Volksawagen ad. Content marketing manager Elizabeth Bell claims that “customers are more interested in buying experiences than products. Stories humanise the brands” (Bell, 2021). She mentioned another Volkswagen commercial “Moments; Volkswagen” promoting the New Volvo XC60, presenting the car’s safety features can protect a young child’s future. 

Storytelling in context 

This particular piece is a very distinctive piece of creative writing. It contains the typical structure of a fiction story. This commercial’s basic plot could be interpreted as voyage and return. It’s a type of story in which the protagonist is travelling to another world and details their attempt to get home. Some examples of such stories are Alice in Wonderland, Orpheus, The Hobbit (Hultgren, 2019). The storyline of this advert is a one euro coin travelling through Europe. Verbs are essential in relation to stories as they make the story possible to progress. Verbs take different forms depending on the time at which the action happens (Hultgren, 2019). Tense is a set of forms taken by a verb to indicate the time (Fabricius-Hansen, 2006). This advert uses past tense to mark the action as seen in the extracts “this one euro coin has been further than you can imagine” and “it entered circulation in Greece” in every instance that the coin changes its location. (Hultgren, 2019). Labov through his study of how people speak in unselfconscious, natural manner (Labov and Waletzky, 1967) labelled the story structure indicating the abstract, orientation, complicating action, evaluation, resolution, coda (Giaxoglou, 2019). The coda is easily seen at the end of the text as it quizzes the imagined audience if they have been anywhere lately and the moral of the story is to “get out there”. The point of the story could be understood as the message to travel and make memories and it’s a form of intertextuality. 

Figurative language 

The word intertextuality contains two parts, “inter” which means ‘between’ and textuality is the interlacing of different systems of signs from which text is composed. According to Kristeva (1980), texts are not self-complete and independent systems, they are created by the repetition and modification of other textual forms. The advert component is made up of several sentences creating a story, but all of them have already been written in other texts in various forms. Throughout the story, different stages of the journey of a coin are shown in the sentences. Creative sequencing of the information that produces dramatic impact affects the reader’s experience to observe the progression from the narrator’s point of view (Giaxoglou, 2019). This ad contains elements of figurative language such as metaphors, hyperbole and catchy phrases. The sentence in bold is a metaphor as it presses the issue of rethinking the audience lives by experiencing the travel of a one euro coin. “It settled a dispute over a piece of land just outside Marseille” is an example of hyperbole. This figure of speech is not typically meant to be taken literally as it emphasises strong feelings and creates inspiring impressions. 

Non-verbal resources 

Visual effects have been built on to catch the consumer’s attention and create a memory. In the headline with bold font in gold colour “Well, imagine that: a tiny coin making you rethink the way you spend your days” has been placed in this position to emphasise the sentence and grab the reader’s attention perhaps inspiring the reader to read the full story and thus exposing the reader to the brand. It’s also a clever play on words with the story being centred around a “coin” and continuing to state how you “spend” your days. 

The creative use of communicative resources has changed in the past two hundreds years. Fig. 1 The informative format of the barbers pole captured an interest within the interested audience to purchase their services. Advertising has been more persuasive in their techniques to favour one brand over another in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, therefore there’s multimodality in Volkswagen ad (Tagg, 2019). It’s important to look at certain advertising campaigns and how they are used to develop the branding. The Samaritans’ 2018 campaign took a similar approach in non-verbal resources using different fonts and colours emphasising the Samaritans’ hidden message and makes the slogan ‘We don’t just hear you, we listen’ stand out. 

In this commentary I have shown how the strategies of humour; storytelling in context; persuasive language; and non-verbal resources combine to create the effect of persuading prospective or repeat sales. Linguistic creativity significance is more noticeable in figurative language such as metaphors, hyperboles, intertextuality than involvement strategies. It’s hard to define the linguistic features (Giaxoglou, 2019) while it’s defined by a multitude of structures. Advertising might persuade the readers to purchase products which they previously didn’t think about and therefore create a need or desire for their product or service (Tagg, 2019). The Euro coin image is potentially appealing to a specific group – middle class, late twenties and early thirties who enjoy travel and also understand the journey and imagery sourced from different languages references. The premium brands in the group are of the interests of the higher-end sector of the market, whereas the smaller cars by VW target the middle-class families (Pratap, 2020). 

References 

Bell, E (2021) ‘16 of our favourite examples of storytelling in marketing’. Available at https://www.higherlogic.com/blog/14-our-favorite-examples-storytelling-in-marketing/ (Accessed 10 July 2021) 

Fabricius-Hansen, “Tense”, in the Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd ed., 2006

Figure 1, The barber’s pole, in Giaxoglou, K., Hann, D., Hewings, A., Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. (eds) L101 Book 3: Language and Creativity, Milton Keynes, The Open University, p. 36. 

Figure 8, Samaritans poster, UK, 2018, in Giaxoglou, K., Hann, D., Hewings, A., Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. (eds) L101 Book 3: Language and Creativity, Milton Keynes, The Open University, p. 51.

Figure 11, in Giaxoglou, K., Hann, D., Hewings, A., Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. (eds) L101 Book 3: Language and Creativity, Milton Keynes, The Open University, p. 60. 

Giaxoglou, K (2019) ‘Telling stories’, in Giaxoglou, K., Hann, D., Hewings, A., Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. (eds) L101 Book 3: Language and Creativity, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 85-91.

Hann, D (2019) ‘What’s humour for?’, in Giaxoglou, K., Hann, D., Hewings, A., Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. (eds) L101 Book 3: Language and Creativity, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 5–18.

Hultgren, K. (2019a) ‘Unit 16: Storytelling in context’, in L101 Block 3 [Online]. Available at https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1717952&section=2.7 (Accessed 8 July 2021) 

Kristeva, J (1980) “Desire in language: a semiotic approach to literature and art”, New York, Columbia University Press, pp. 66.

Labov, W. and Waletzky, J. (1967) “Narrative analysis”, in Helm, J. (ed.) “Essays on the Verbal and Visual Arts”, Seattle, WA, University of Washington Press, pp. 12-44.

Ogilvy, D (1963) ‘Confessions of An Advertising Man’, Southbank Publishing; REV ed. edition (1 Sept. 2011)

Pratap, A (2020) ‘Marketing Mix of Volkswagen’. Available at https://notesmatic.com/marketing-mix-of-volkswagen/ (Accessed 10 July 2021)

Sielannemi, T (2013) ‘On holiday in the liminoid playground: Place, time and self tourism’. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/291213969_On_holiday_in_the_liminoid_playground_Place_time_and_self_in_tourism (Accessed 10 July 2021)

Tagg, C (2019) ‘The art of persuasion’, in Giaxoglou, K., Hann, D., Hewings, A., Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. (eds) L101 Book 3: Language and Creativity, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 59-60.

Tagg, C (2019) ‘The history of advertising’, in Giaxoglou, K., Hann, D., Hewings, A., Seargeant, P. and Tagg, C. (eds) L101 Book 3: Language and Creativity, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 36-50.

 

 

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