VW Uses Johnny Cash to Craft an Inclusive Vision of Modern America

'There's room for everyone' in the Atlas

Volkswagen, which has a long history of using compelling soundtracks in its advertising, has rededicated itself to music since the arrival of Johannes Leonardo as its creative agency. 

Back in June, the automaker memorably used Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence," the first time it had been licensed for a commercial, in the "Hello Light" spot—about its commitment to electric vehicle in the wake of its devastating emissions scandal. Then, in July, it celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with a lovely spot, "A New Mission," that used David Bowie's "Space Oddity." 

This morning, VW rolled out yet another spot from JL with a notable soundtrack. This time it's Johnny Cash's "These Are My People," from 1972. 

It's a product spot, really—for the Atlas SUV. But in its depiction of four very different American families getting through the chaos of a typical morning—framed by the Cash song—it ends up delivering a much broader and more potent message about inclusion in a country riven by ugly debates over immigration. 

See the spot here: 

"Values of inclusivity are part of VW's DNA, so for 'Same Difference' it was important that the creative used VW's product—in this case the new Atlas—as a vehicle to demonstrate these values brought to life," JL executive creative director Jimm Lasser tells Muse. "The new Atlas' spaciousness is not just comfortable, it's specifically designed to welcome all the shapes, sizes and needs of the American family. The feeling of knowing that 'you'll all fit' is a good one, and the end-line, 'There's room for everyone,' reflects that." 

To get the authenticity they needed, the agency and Serial Pictures director John Hillcoat (the Hollywood A-lister whose advertising credits include the stunning Corazón film for Montefiore) cast four real families. 

"To live up to our standard of being a car for the people, we felt it timely to remind us all how much we have in common," Lasser says. "We felt it was a good opportunity to show how these families were more alike and unified than different." 

The spot marks the third iteration of the "Drive Bigger" platform. 

" 'Drive Bigger' not only refers to the quality that goes into making VW's cars, or their imminent move and commitment to an all-electric future. It speaks to the mindset of our drivers. People who put the interest of their families and their communities before their own," says Lasser. "With 'Same Difference,' we are inviting everyone, no matter who they are, into our vehicle." 


VW Atlas "Same Difference"

Client: Volkswagen
CEO: Scott Keogh 
SVP, Marketing: Saad Chehab
Senior Director, Strategy & Comms: Greg Tebbutt
Director, Brand & Marketing Comms: Jennifer Clayton
Manager, Advertising: Chanel Barresi
Senior Specialist, Brand Advertising: Annabel Lyon
Specialist, Brand Advertising: Ladan Rafei

Agency: Johannes Leonardo
Chief Creative Officer: Jan Jacobs
Chief Creative Officer: Leo Premutico
ECD: Jimm Lasser
CD / Art Director: Alice Blastorah
ACD / Writer: Lincoln Boehm
Senior Copywriter: Gautier Fage
Senior Art Director: Harry Neville-Towle
Head of Integrated Production: Dana May
Group Executive Producer: Benton Roman
Senior Integrated Producer: Dennis McKinley
Senior Business Affairs Manager: Kacey Kelley
Senior Project Manager: Loren Lee
Business Lead: Ben Muldrew
Account Director: Vincent Scicchitano
Management Supervisor: Mal Gretz
Account Executive: Stephen Vocaturo
Account Executive: Stephanie Loucas
Group Strategy Director: Mary Bakarich
Senior Strategist: Eileen Zhao
Head of Communications Strategy: Meg Piro
Comms Strategy Director: Danielle Patterson
Senior Comms Strategist: Erinn Morrison

Production Company: Serial Pictures
Director: John Hillcoat
Founding Partner / Executive Producer: Violaine Etienne
Head of Production: Jennifer Gee
Line Producer: Tracy Broaddus
Director of Photography: Adam Arkapaw
Production Designer: Tim Grimes
Costume Designer: Liz Boles

Editorial: EXILE
Executive Producer: Sasha Hirschfeld
Head of Production: Evyn Bruce
Producer: Alejandra Alarcon
Producer: Michael Miller
Editor: : Kirk Baxter
Assistant Editor: : Mitch Goldberg

Color: MPC LA
Executive Producer: Meghan Lang
Senior Producer: Susan Harris
Senior Colorist: Mark Gethin

VFX: A52
VFX Supervisor: Patrick Murphy
VFX Supervisor: Andy McKenna
2D VFX Artist: Steven Wolff
2D VFX Artist: Chris DeCristo
2D VFX Artist: Enid Dalkoff
Online Editor: James Buongiorno
Online Editor: Sam Kolber
Online Editor: Carmen Maxcy
Tracking: Joseph Chiechi
Producer: Andrew Rosenberger
Executive Producer: Patrick Nugent
Executive Producer: Kim Christensen
Managing Director: Jennifer Sofio Hall

Mix and Sound Design: Sonic Union
Executive Creative Producer: Halle Petro
Studio Director: Justine Cortale
Mixer / Sound Designer: Rob McIver
Mixer / Sound Designer: Owen Shearer
Assistant Engineer: Kelly Oostman

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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