Dissecting the Volkswagen Vento Talking Print Ad

The advertisement that got everyone talking: in the office, at home, on Twitter, on Facebook, on blogs and even on Google search.

Volkswagen came up with an innovative talking print advertisement in select editions of The Times of India (Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Pune) and The Hindu for the Vento sedan on September 21, 2010.

This morning I was left wondering about the source of the sound, only to figure out, much later, that it was emanating from the newspaper in my hand. The only way I could shut it up was by putting down the paper.

Each of the editions had a separate four-page pullout (enveloping Delhi Times for The Times of India Delhi Edition), with soft-stories on three pages and the advertisement occupying the last page.

Video of the Volkswagen Vento talking ad in action

The ad shows a Volkswagen engineer crying looking at a finished Vento and the audio says, “The best in class German engineering is here. The new Volkswagen Vento. Built with great care and highly innovative features. Perhaps that’s why it breaks the hearts of our engineers to watch it drive away. The new Volkswagen Vento crafted with so much passion it’s hard to let it go. Volkswagen. Das Auto.”

This campaign would’ve caused Volkswagen a bomb, The Economic Times website reports that a similar device would cost about Rs 40. Now multiply the figure with the print run of the newspapers and add to that other print and placement costs.

I decided to rip open the little very talkative device and, as expected, there wasn’t much in there. A speaker and a small circuit powered by two button batteries. Within the circuit was the most interesting component, a photoresistor, also known as light dependent resistor (LDR).

Components of the Volkswagen Vento audio ad device

Components of the Volkswagen Vento audio ad device

Video showing the photoresistor in the Volkswagen Vento speaking advertisement

The black blob IC (integrated circuit) holds everything else needed to make the speakers speak. Some reports suggest that the speaker is light-sensitive, but it isn’t, a resistor on the circuit connected to the speaker is.

The agency responsible for executing the advertisement is DDB India, a unit of DDB Mudra, which is one of the four agency networks of the Mudra Group.

VW even put up a digital version of the speaking print ad on its India website, but then it cannot have the same impact.

The last time an advertisement caused such widespread excitement was when JK Chemicals launched Kamasutra condoms, back in 1991. JK, via its advertising agency Lintas, had taken up all available advertising space in the October issue of Debonair magazine (yes, that Debonair magazine, an appropriate launch vehicle for a condom). The issue sold out in a matter of days and is considered a collector’s item (Pity I don’t own one. Was too young back then.)

Now waiting for a desi version of what Pepsi and CBS came up with in the September 18, 2009 edition of Entertainment Weekly (audio and video, both embedded within a print edition). That’ll surely cost a few bombs.

Or for something more economical, some company could try Playboy’s 3D centrefold trick (Wonderbra has also done that, only difference is that they put up the girl, along with her enhanced cleavage, on a giant hoarding) Somebody please do soon, I need free 3D glasses.