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Volkswagen reaches for brass ring of coronavirus virtue-signaling with ‘social distancing’ ad (but no cars)

Volkswagen reaches for brass ring of coronavirus virtue-signaling with ‘social distancing’ ad (but no cars)
Volkswagen has coopted “social distancing” for an ad, complete with a cutesy “distant” VW logo. Struggling to sell cars amid coronavirus-related factory shutdowns, the company seems to hope corporate virtue will find more buyers.

Appealing to its customers to “follow the rules of conduct and hygiene with a lot of discipline,” the car company posted a 55-second spot earlier this week, glossing over exactly whose rules the viewer ought to follow in the spartan-looking ad. The company began shutting down its factories in Europe last week, and its Chinese plants are only now coming back online, so it’s not clear what the ad is supposed to be selling other than good behavior - Volkswagen’s, and presumably the viewer’s.

Volkswagen may have been trying to reassure drivers and investors with the spot - “we have stood strong through more than one crisis,” read one screen of white text on blue background. But the curiously lackluster boast (seriously? just “more than one”?) came off more like cynically mouthing the buzzwords of the day to grab some of that coronavirus goodwill.

A few winking references to human proximity as the source of Volkswagen’s success - “standing shoulder to shoulder,” “being close to each other” - plus the corporation’s new, social-distancing-approved logo (the “VW” cowering in opposite sides of the circular trademark) were unlikely to inspire investor faith in a company that has already warned 2020 will be a “difficult year.” CFO Frank Witter warned “unknown operational and financial challenges” and “sustained economic impacts” could put further pressure on the company.

Also on rt.com Global automakers halt production at US plants as part of virus containment effort

At any rate, Volkswagen - whose most iconic product, the Beetle, is too small to allow the proper six-foot social distancing medical authorities have recommended for people trying to avoid infection - is far from the only company that has seized on the marketing potential of the ubiquitous pathogen. Audi - owned by Volkswagen - and Mercedes also promoted cars they were unlikely to sell using corona-themed messaging.

And everyone from financial investing companies to Nike, McDonalds and Big Tech have given a nod to the suddenly-omnipresent concept of social distancing, either altering their logos for the occasion or creating themed ads.

The German brand is far from the only automaker affected by sweeping factory shutdowns. Cars of all brands were one of the earliest projected shortages as far back as January when the early stirrings of the epidemic in China began forcing the closures of factories that make key parts, though CEO Herbert Diess told reporters last week that most of VW’s Chinese factories had reopened.

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