VW Crafts a Very Different Kind of Campaign for Its Winter Sales Event

JL's mini-docs profile Chattanooga plant workers

In the 90-second film below, Brittany, who works in paint finesse at Volkswagen's massive assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., talks about inheriting her dad's work ethic. "It was instilled at a young age that you give 100 percent or you're not doing your best," she says. "I pushed myself to be the best that I could because that is the legacy he left behind." 

Brittany also discusses her passion for cars, another gift from her dad. At one point, she lovingly inspects a VW's finish with her fingers. Such moments, and the film as a whole, help humanize a company that's absorbed more than its share of negative publicity. 

Brittany is one of four Chattanooga factory workers we meet in a series of mini-documentaries created by Johannes Leonardo. In each, we follow an employee's daily routine and glean a bit of knowledge about how the vehicles are put together. Along the way, these folks share their backstories, hopes and dreams.

This next clip spotlights Ben, a mechanical engineer and fourth-generation racing driver. At the factory, "I put as much love into these cars as I do into my cars at home," he says. 

In the remaining videos, team leader Chris and line worker Tim delve into their experiences at the plant—and in the case of the latter, with the plants he cares for at home when he unwinds: 

Each spot closes with the line, "They sign off, so you can sign on," connecting the workers' stamp of approval with the consumer buying experience, and alluding to VW's "Sign Then Drive" winter sales event, for which the films were made. The full-length versions will appear on the carmaker's social channels, with half-minute edits running on TV—tagged with the "Sign Then Drive" messaging.

"We wanted to elevate 'Sign Then Drive' beyond something transactional to something that connects buyers to VW's core values," Johannes Leonardo executive creative director Jimm Lasser tells Muse. 

The idea sprouted from a tour of the VW plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. "We all noticed a yellow binder follows every vehicle—filled with the signatures of everyone who touched it," says Lasser. "We thought the idea of people 'signing off' on each vehicle was a very powerful thing, especially in a world that is getting more automated. Seeing signatures framed in that way opened our eyes to how powerful a signature can be. It can be a stamp of approval from the people behind every VW." 

Once that premise was in place, the team interviewed about 50 of the 3,000 VW employees in Chattanooga. 

"We simultaneously toured the factory and watched the entire process of the cars being constructed," says agency associate creative director Lincoln Boehm. "The casting process quickly became a bit of a puzzle we were piecing together, given we wanted to focus on four different stages of the production process, but also feature the personalities that were really standing out."

Boehm recalls: "Most of the time each interview would last for about 40 minutes as we would get lost hearing about these worlds and day-to-day experiences that were so foreign to us. There really are fewer places of work you'll find with more diversity of age, race and gender than the Chattanooga factory." 

All told, it took three weeks to scout the plant and choose the employees who appear in the films. 

"The factory itself is operational 24 hours a day, so we were actually filming these people at work, so their top priority was making sure they don't hold up the assembly line," Boehm says. "People on each line would see us filming with their friends, and as soon as we'd cut they'd all start busting each other's chops. It was fun seeing the camaraderie they all have with one another."

Prettybird director Max Malkin nails the hard-working Americana vibe, and casts his subjects in an extremely authentic and relatable light, as they share tales of pride, dedication and self-sacrifice. 

"We wanted to show the modern-day version of the human touch behind each and every vehicle made," Lasser says. "Also, we want people to feel pride for these great American workers. Their stories are worth hearing and sharing."


Client: Volkswagen
CEO: Scott Keogh
SVP, Marketing: Saad Chehab
Retail Communications Manager: Jessica Wolf
Retail Communications Sr. Specialist: Megan Gross

Agency: Johannes Leonardo
CCO: Jan Jacobs
CCO: Leo Premutico
Executive Creative Director: Jimm Lasser
ACD/Art Director: Laura Longstaff
ACD/Copywriter: Lincoln Boehm
Design Director: Charles Watlington
Head of Production: Maria Perez
Group Executive Producer: Benton Roman
Executive Producer: Karen McKibben
Sr. Business Affairs Talent Manager: Toby Feliciano
Business Affairs Manager: Nakiella Smith
Product Specialist: Ryan Callahan
Account Director: Erandika Weerasinghe
Management Supervisor: Danny Alvarado
Account Executive: Sydney Shatsky
Account Executive: Cat Beer
Group Strategy Director: Mary Bakarich
Strategist: Adriana Mariella
Head of Communications Strategy: Meg Piro
Senior Project Manager: Loren Lee
Project Manager: Marcel Lipari

Production Company: Prettybird
Director: Max Malkin
Executive Producers: Suzanne Hargrove
Head of Production: Rika Osenberg
Line Producer: Matt Wersinger 

Editorial: Exile Edit
Executive Producer: Sasha Hirschfeld 

Producer: Becca Riehl
Editor: Shane Reid
Assistant Editor: Stephania Dulowski 

Original Music: Duotone (Ben and Anthem), Pull (Chris and Tim), and Q Department (Brittney)

Record and Mix: Sonic Union
Mixer: Steve Rosen / David Poppa

VFX: The Mill
Executive Producer: Heath Raymond, Clairellen Wallin
Producer: Luke Proctor 
Color: Fergus McCall

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