VW SCORES WITH YOUTH

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Volkswagen is focusing its TV advertising on younger car buyers, and top marketing exec Liz Vanzura believes the strategy has been crucial to VW's sales renaissance over the past two years.

"We've got the youngest demographics in the auto business today," boasts Vanzura, director of marketing for Volkswagen of America Inc. in Auburn Hills, Mich. The average VW driver, she says, is 33 years old with a household income of $63,000-plus, and 65 percent of the marque's current buyers have not only college degrees but some graduate school experience.

"We market to the smart, young, college-educated crowd in the hopes of positioning ourselves with them and letting them grow through our brand," Vanzura says.

In fact, VW was one of the strongest brands last year in placing ads in broadcast and cable TV shows that drew 18- to 24-year-old viewers. So says Brian Fuhrer, senior product manager for Nielsen Media Research in Dunedin, Fla. Fuhrer's company studies which demographics are watching which TV stations and which companies advertise on those channels.

According to Fuhrer, the Volkswagen Jetta placed fourth, the VW Beetle placed ninth and VW models overall placed 12th in his ranking on channels such as MTV which attract the younger set.

Only Hyundai, according to Nielsen Media Research, was more intensely focused than VW on Gen Y and Gen X buyers.

"We're not trying to market to the masses," Vanzura says. "We just really want to connect with our target audience."

Volkswagen's "Da-da-da" ad in 1997 for the Golf was a direct appeal to 18- to 24-year-old buyers. In the commercial, two friends bumming around in a Golf pick up a chair by the side of the road, finding room for the ample piece of furniture in the car's hatchback.

Similarly, VW's current ad for the Jetta - in which the rhythms of street sounds and the car's windshield wipers come into perfect synchrony - has gotten strong anecdotal response.

In fact, the music on the "Synchronicity" ad has struck such a chord that VW has released it on a CD for dealers to give away in their showrooms. And the music

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