The Beetle Shark Cage

Rekindling the Beetle bromance

Make men fall in love with the Beetle again

Though a VW icon, the Volkswagen Beetle has increasingly been seen as a feminine car due largely to its cute design.

This is a problem for Volkswagen. Why? Because you might be able to sell a guy’s car to girls, but you can’t sell a girl’s car to guys.

On their quest for unprecedented brand growth, Volkswagen needed men to fall in love with the Beetle. A new model ‘manned up’ the car, making the new Beetle faster, stronger, and sleeker. Though now the right style, perceptions were yet to change.

For the launch of the new sporty Beetle we needed to develop a communications platform that would lure men back and convince them that this Beetle was for them.


Pit the Beetle against one of the harshest environments on Earth 

Guys love to talk about their friends who do cool stuff. These are the guys who always have great stories and experiences. In many ways, we live vicariously through them.

We decided to make the Beetle “your cool friend” – the guy who does cool stuff you can only dream about. We used media to put the Beetle in a place every guy wishes they could be (maybe once): swimming with sharks.

The Discovery Channel hosts “Shark Week,” an annual week-long series of television programming devoted entirely to sharks. Shark Week has become a cultural phenomenon and delivers guys to the network in big numbers. With the 25th anniversary of the event falling in 2012, this was expected to be the most compelling Shark Week ever.

Working with Discovery, Volkswagen engineers and a shark photographer and his team, we created a fully operational underwater Beetle – a “Shark Observation Cage.”

This wasn’t just a cage, but a perfect replica of the iconic car. The submersible vehicle had a structure made of tubular aluminum, a set of 19-inch Tornado alloy wheels and the Beetle’s iconic headlights. And it was equipped with a full air system and turbo packs that allowed it to drive underwater.

To drive home our impressive feat, we produced a compelling series of mini-episodes that chronicled our process – from design to construction to finally dropping into shark-infested waters.

So in other words, the Beetle literally swam with sharks!

And seeing the Beetle actually drive on the ocean floor as sharks swirled above was a spectacular sight – your ‘cool friend’ indeed.

The three mini-episodes aired during Shark Week programming on both TV and online, and we created teaser content for VW’s social properties to extend outside of the one week on-air event.

But we didn’t stop there: VW had 100% share-of-voice on the Shark Week landing page, allowed engaged viewers access to exclusive bonus Beetle Shark Cage content on our tablet co-viewing app whilst we also collaborated on promotional assets that included VW tagged tune-ins, out-of-home executions and print ads.

To build buzz before the programme aired, we showcased the Beetle Shark Cage at a dealer event and the Shark Week premiere party, seeing the cage become a pop culture event, with significant coverage ranging from The New York Times and Advertising Age to prominent design, entertainment and automobile publications.


A campaign with bite

Brand recall, likeability and brand opinion scores all shot past competitive benchmarks, and the campaign was named best in content marketing at the Creative Media Awards.
Average digital engagement on the Shark Week site was an incredible 28.5 minutes, with five million views overall. The VW playlist had 350,000 views with a way-above-average 65% completion rate, and we saw over 1.8 million Facebook posts generated about the Beetle Shark Cage!
Most importantly, we saw an immediate and significant impact on sales: Beetle sales topped 3,000 units in August – the highest monthly total of the year!
Who was driving this jump? It was all about the guys… with the percentage of sales from male buyers doubling, jumping from 20% to an astonishing 40% almost overnight!

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