Volkswagen has been the leading car brand in the Dutch automotive market for the past decades. With their broad range of different models, Volkswagen can be seen as a true family car brand.
Instead of Volkswagen’s traditional brand campaigns, the brand chose a more business-oriented campaign in 2018. To maintain scores on important brand values (and have an impact outside of the mid-funnel), Volkswagen asked us to create an idea that drives brand sympathy among families, in an innovative way.
Describe the creative idea
Road Tales are location-based audiobooks that transform ordinary highways into magical tales. Road objects like windmills, bridges and lakes are turned into story elements. Parents can play the interactive story through the car’s sound system and then put the phone away.
To make this happen, we first scanned the entire Dutch highway system (5000 kilometers) to identify thousands of objects along Dutch highways. We then worked with several illustrators and award-winning children’s book writers to make the experience feel both innovative ánd handcrafted. This way, we made sure the app felt more like magic than just a smart tech system: qualitative children's books, rather than just an ad campaign. And that's crucial if you want to grab kids’ undivided attention.
Hence, through a mix of good old storytelling and the game ‘I spy with my little eye’, Volkswagen turns every car ride into a story.
Describe the strategy
When looking into typical car-related behavior amongst families, we quickly found that there’s an interesting tension around the use of screens in the average backseat. We know parents tend to use screens to keep their kids quiet: 76 percent of parents with children aged 3 to 16 say their child is typically on a device or watching digital media on car trips.
Most parents do feel guilty about this though, as nearly all parents - 95 percent - consider family drives the perfect time for bonding and view them as an opportunity to get their kids to open up. Furthermore, research has shown that frequent screen exposure decreases kids’ imagination, which can have negative long-term effects.
We therefore aimed to create an experience that addressed all of these issues: (1) decrease screen usage in the car, (2) stimulate imagination based on your surroundings and (3) facilitate interaction within the car.
Describe the execution
The biggest challenge in executing this idea was to find a scalable solution that allows users to start a story at any point on the highway. Instead of creating fixed linear stories on limited segments, we created a story engine that detects objects along the road. To populate the engine with objects we used a combination of existing data points and manual research on Google Streetview, which was partly supported by a tensorflow computer vision engine.
The Road Tales app can be downloaded from both the App Store and the Google Play store.
Our campaign was aimed at creating awareness for Road Tales and encouraging parents to download the app. It consists of a social campaign, influencer strategy, and online video. Moreover, word of mouth amongst befriended parents (based on their positive experiences with the app) proved to be a strong and relevant driver for the campaign.
List the results
At this point in time the campaign has only been released for a month. The first results look very promising:
The Road Tales app reached the #1 position in the app store’s book category within 3 days.
Was picked up by bigger media like Linda, Nu.nl and Het Parool and international advertising blogs including The Drum, Campaign, AdAge and Contagious.
Over 30,000 tales have already been told on Dutch roads, with a total of 450,000+ minutes of highway storytime. Time that otherwise would be spent behind screens.
However, the biggest compliment we got is parents asking for more stories, as with Road Tales they don’t feel the need to hand out screens for every ride anymore: screentime became storytime, and thus quality time. We are therefore researching the possibilities of a sequel, like adding new stories to the app, or even expanding the app to other countries.