Ad Report Card: Two Weddings and a Sales Pitch 


A while back, Ad Report Card reader Jon A. pointed out to me an interesting link between two recent (or then-recent) commercials. Because both ads still seem to be hanging around, I’ve decided to somewhat belatedly address them. One is for the Volkswagen Jetta (to see it, go here and scroll down to the ad called “Big Day”), the other touts Apple video software (see it here). The Jetta ad has a surprising ending, and the Apple one has a sort of jokey surprise ending. I’ll be giving both away below. Just so you know.

The Jetta ad: Against a pensive soundtrack (courtesy of J. Ralph, according to Volkswagen’s site), a young guy motors along a country road. He looks tense. He seems to be in formal attire. The soundtrack stays the same as we begin cutting back and forth between him and a fresh-faced brunette about to be married—fussed over in her gown by bridesmaids and so on. In the Jetta, the guy checks his watch. He would seem to be the groom. His speedy Jetta helps him blow past occasional pokey drivers who block his way—but then he gets stuck at a train crossing. Although the only sound continues to be the trance-like music, we can see him scream in frustration. Finally he’s at the church, dashes out of the car, up the church steps. Inside, there’s the young woman in her wedding dress. Marrying someone else. This wasn’t Mr. Jetta’s wedding at all, apparently, but one that—Benjamin Braddock-style—he hopes to bust up. The spot ends inconclusively, with bride, groom, and interloper regarding each other uncertainly. Then, of course, the VW “Drivers Wanted” tag line.

The Apple ad: The setting is a tropical island. A guy with tousled hair and open shirt is advising his friend with the video camera. And here’s the thing—he’s Mr. Jetta! Or at least it’s the same actor who played the thwarted lover in the Jetta commercial. And what his friend is about to videotape is … his wedding. A native performs the service, and then we see the guy and his (fresh-faced, but blond) bride editing the footage on their Macintosh. Then we see an older couple, his parents, popping in the DVD he’s made for them, and watching the ceremony. Dad seems puzzled. He looks at the DVD case, which says “Tom & Julie.” “Julie?” he says. “Whatever happened to Leslie?” (Rimshot.) An announcers says: “Shoot, edit, burn. With iDVD from Apple, it’s that easy.”

The question: So, the fun thing here would be to imagine that it’s not just the same actor, but actually the same character, rebounding from his failed attempt to bust up Leslie’s wedding by eloping with Julie—to some South Pacific paradise rather than a gray New England church. (I’m making up the locales, obviously.) What made reader Jon A. point these spots out to me was the intriguing possibility that the recurrence of the same actor wasn’t a coincidence, but an intentional decision by Apple to pick up a character from another campaign. I tend to doubt the latter scenario, but I don’t think it really matters. Once you’ve seen both ads and noticed that it’s the same guy, it’s hard not to imagine them as one narrative. So I look forward to seeing the same actor in, I don’t know, an ad pushing diapers, or life insurance. Or possibly Viagra.

Obligatory critiques: The Apple spot gets the basics done, but it’s annoyingly hokey (not even the revelation that the decision to revive this character was intentional would redeem it, to me). On the other hand, I love the Jetta ad. It’s not only way better than the foolish “Jerks for Jetta” campaign I {{ridiculed#2883:Show=1/8/2001&idMessage=6819}} a while back, it’s also a better mini-movie than most of the ballyhooed offerings in BMW’s recent Web films campaign (also {{ridiculed#110969}} in an earlier column). In the battle of the wedding ads, Jetta wins.