VW Plans Call for Distributing Nearly 2 Million DVDs

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DETROIT -- At the same time it delivers its remade 2005 Jetta to the masses, Volkswagen is rolling out a six-minute product entertainment film it hopes will ignite buzz across the Internet as well as throughout the nation's living rooms. Called The Check Up, the mini-movie is being streamed from two Web sites and distributed on DVDs.
Watch the six-minute VW Jetta mini-film.

The branded entertainment project debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January as part of the German automaker's official sponsorship of the event. But VW now plans to introduce the film to a broader audience.

Other carmakers such as BMW, Mercedes, Nissan and Mercury have produced short films in an effort to generate some creative cache for their brands or new models. But few of the films were as widely distributed as VW has planned for The Check Up.

Joe Pantoliano of 'The Matrix'

In the film, Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix) stars as an "enforcer" who visits the apartment of 31-year-old Mike, played by Kevin Connolly, scolding him for continuing his childish lifestyle, which includes playing video games and leaving empty pizza boxes on the ottoman. A new 2005 Jetta, as well as older models, play a pivotal role in the storyline. Mike defends his Jetta after his admonisher tells him that "It's time to put away the objects of your youth" and buy more grown-up clothes, furnishings and vehicles. The denouement occurs as Mike shows the agent an image of a Jetta totally different from the pre-2005 version.

The story's tightly woven plotline pulls viewers in, but will the entertainment ultimately work as a marketing tool capable of boosting sales? Only time will tell, but VW officials are optimistic.

The automaker wanted to create buzz for the new Jetta, and the movie festival tie-in sealed the plan, said Amy Gushman, brand marketing manager at VW. "Why not do a film that gets to the essence of what the new Jetta is all about?"

Dave Weist, a creative director on the automaker's ad account at Publicis Groupe's Arnold Worldwide, Boston, wrote the script for The Check Up, which the agency developed.
Watch the six-minute VW Jetta mini-film.

March 19 launch date

VW will start distributing the film March 19, the official Jetta launch date, through the Web site and the mircrosite. Visitors can send e-mails to friends from the site to tell them about the film, but the film can't be forwarded directly due to the provisions of the actors' contracts, Ms. Gushman said.

In addition to the online component, 1 million units of the film on DVD will be distributed in the April 1 issue of Entertainment Weekly on newsstands and to subscribers, Ms. Gushman said.

Arnold added content to the DVD to create an electronic brochure. The DVD also has an interview with the Jetta's designer, and added material that shows product features, engine capabilities and safety gear.

In mid-April, VW will start mailing 250,000 copies of the DVD to former owners and consumers who opted-in for more Jetta information on either or

Netflix deal

The automaker also inked a deal with online movie marketer Netflix. In late March or early April, the DVD will be mailed free to an undisclosed number of its subscribers based on "psychographics" and the kind of movies they have rented.

VW said its total U.S. sales slid by 8.6% in the first two months of 2005 to 26,140 units vs. the same period a year ago. Auto experts have criticized the automaker for its attempt to move up-market while allowing its bread-and-butter models, such as Jetta, to get long in the tooth. Jetta, last redone in 1997, has been the brand's longtime best-seller.

Jim Sanfilippo, executive vice president of auto consultant AMCI, said every marketer "is looking for the Northwest Passage for more efficient, less expensive ways to reach their targets." VW's new DVD, he said, is "just another medium."

He called the Jetta launch very challenging for VW because the vehicle's styling "is not visually arresting. It's going to take direct experience with the vehicle to persuade buyers to consider it."
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