Volkswagen is waving to the Beetle this year featuring a Beatles song, Kevin Bacon, Andy Warhol and Andy Cohen.
A nostalgia-laden animated ad called “The Last Mile” will get a significant push during New Year’s Eve TV programming, with airings on ABC, CNN, as well as digital billboard buys on Times Square. The spot, by Johannes Leonardo, depicts the iconic car’s role in the life of a man who is shown growing old with the Beetle, which ended production earlier this year after a run that began in the 1930s. Along the way, the ad works in references to the Beetle’s outsized role in pop culture.
Beetle’s “Let it Be” feature is a nod to the car’s appearance on the “Abbey Road” album cover. Kevin Bacon appears in animated form as Ren, the Beetle-driving character he played in Footloose. An animated version of Warhol quickly appears (at the 1:01 mark, snapping a photo of the Beetle) in a nod to a painting the pop artist did of the car. The ad also includes a reference to VW’s classic “Think Small” and “Lemon” campaigns from the 1960s by Doyle Dane Bernbach.
Cohen appears at the 1:03 mark, on the receiving end of a “punch buggy”—the old road trip game that calls for a punch on the arm upon spotting a Beetle. The Bravo personality will co-host CNN’s New Year’s Eve coverage. He teased the ad on Instagram with a paid post encouraging followers to post pictures of their own Beetles.
It’s part of a larger influencer campaign that will include postings from other Beetle enthusiasts. The TV ad will also run during NBC’s Jan. 1 coverage of the National Hockey League’s “Winter Classic,” as well as during college football programing, including the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl.
The Beetle was debuted in Nazi Germany in 1930s and later became countercultural force in the US and was beloved by the hippies. But the brand ended the model this year—the last one rolled out of a Mexican plant in July—as more consumers dump small sedans in favor of crossovers and SUVs.
The ad attempts to bridge the Beetle’s cultural heyday with VW’s future, which includes a heavy investment in electric vehicles. The final scene shows the Beetle morphing into a beetle insect and ascending heaven. It ends with the line “where one road ends, another begins,” as well as the brand’s “Drive Bigger” tagline that was launched earlier in 2019.
The “Drive Bigger” campaign, which marked Johannes Leonardo’s initial work on VW, began in June with an ad that referenced the automaker’s global diesel emissions scandal. The scandal began in 2015 when VW was caught installing “defeat devices” on vehicles to evade emissions testing. The June ad, backed by Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” positioned the emissions crisis as an impetus for VW’s aggressive move into electric vehicles. The EV push comes as VW tries to recapture environmental high ground it lost in the wake of the scandal.
In “The Last Mile,” VW nods to environmentalism with a scene showing the Beetle driving by a wind farm. Leo Premutico, co-founder and co-chief creative officer at Johannes Leonardo, characterized the ad as “the Beetle giving its blessing to the new path the company is going to be going down”.
Referring to the Beetle as an extremely democratic vehicle, Premutico says,
Part of the reason we wanted to animate this film is to really to paint everybody who’s in it, irrelevant of how famous they are, with the same brush—to really put everyone on the same footing. This is obviously a big moment for the company to say goodbye to the vehicle. When a car is this ingrained in the culture, it’s everyone’s goodbye.
Nexus Studios have collaborated with agency Johannes Leonardo, this handcrafted animation piece titled “The Last Mile” serves as a farewell tribute to the Volkswagen Beetle, looking back on its 80-year lifespan. Director FX Goby of Nexus takes us through the decades, telling both a personal and cultural history of our relationship with the beloved Bug, which has been a counterculture, pop and political icon.
The ;90, which will be shown at Times Square on New Year’s Eve as well as airing on NBC, CNN and ABC before the ball drops, is set to a rendition of “Let it Be” by the Pro Musica Youth Chorus children’s chorous.
A special traditional hand-drawn technique named Rostoscope was used, the campaign conveys the warm affection held for the Bug by owners and enthusiasts. Goby said,
The film has a limited color palette, evocative of a warm, nostalgic feel. We wanted the film to feel warm and tactile, as if every frame had been printed, keeping the slight happy accidents of overlapping colors and paper textures.
This is a jumpstart for the brand while welcoming 2020, just like the tagline of the video said, “Where one road ends, another one begins…”