I’ve been reading lots of commentary on the Volkswagen ‘speaking newspaper’ stunt this week. For anyone who missed the fun, Times of India came with a small, light-activated, audio device inside. When you picked up your newspaper it started speaking to you. This caused plenty of confusion, including people thinking there were ghosts, and a bomb scare. I personally dropped my paper in surprise – it actually took a moment to realize that the voice was coming from the newspaper.
This sort of campaign really fulfils the definition of being ‘disruptive’. It was new, surprising, and out-there enough to get people talking about it so that the story spread to people who didn’t personally buy the paper. Personally, I thought it was pretty stupid. Fine it was new– the first talking newspaper in India – but it could have been so much more.
It didn’t do anything except read out aloud the ad that was printed on the back page of the newspaper. I learnt nothing new, and there was no call to action. The device didn’t want me to do anything, except listen to it read out the ad. Booooorrrrrrrrriiiiiiiinnnnnngggggg.
There was no off switch. Now that is just stupid. If you didn’t want to hear it, the only thing you could do it cover it up (to block the light sensor) and then throw it out. How environmentally friendly. Personally, if there was an off switch, I would have kept the thing and then found funny uses for it, like hiding it in desk drawers so that when someone opens the draw it starts talking about VWs 🙂 The off switch could have been as simple as a little slider that covered the sensor, nothing fancy.
Next, it looked ugly. It actually looked like a cockroach trap. Maybe that’s fine if they assumed that people will instantly cover it up and then throw it out, but if it had looked good (and had an off switch) then people might have kept it as a souvenir
What would I have done differently – obviously made an off switch. Branded it somehow – like a logo or as a little car model maybe. The content should have been different from the paper ad, and should have some call to action. Lastly, I would have run some competitions or promotions that encourage people to keep the device… maybe collecting the most of these things, or finding funny uses for them and then uploading videos. This can fit in with VW’s existing campaigns such as “The fun theory”, or the recently revived Punch Buggy game (where you punch the person next to you every time you see a VW car (its fun, really).