Ever since the days of Fahrvergnugen, Volkswagen could be counted on to occasionally integrate its German heritage into its U.S. marketing, usually with a knowing vink.
That tradition continued this week as the German automaker launched a contest to give fans tickets to the Kraftwerk retrospective at the MOMA in April in exchange for homemade GIFs.
Kraftwerk, the pioneering 1970s synth-pop band from Dusseldorf, will perform for eight straight nights at New York's MOMA in April, accompanying a month-long retrospective of the band and its influence. The shows sold out within minutes of going on sale, thanks both to the popularity of the band and the coziness of the venue.
(For those unfamiliar with Kraftwerk, the most obvious pop culture homage is probably Autobahn, the fictional band of musical nihilists from The Big Lebowski - whose lead singer is, coincidentally, played by the same actor who appeared in VW's 1996 "Unpimp your Auto" ads.)
Knowing ahead of time that the tickets would be a tough get - and already having a marketing partnership with MOMA - Volkswagen U.S.A. and its creative agency, Deutsch LA, decided to hold a contest to help fans gain access.
But how to make it uniquely Volkswagen?
"We wanted to give tickets back to the people," said Audrey Eden, EVP of experiential marketing at Deutsch, "but we didn't want to just ask people to give us their e-mail addresses and names. We're Volkswagen and this is Kraftwerk. We wanted to find a nontraditional offering."
The result is the "VW Gifaway." Fans can go to VWGifaway.com and submit their homemade GIFs for a chance to win one of 50 tickets to each concert, or one of 500 tickets to the retrospective. (Users can enter without submitting a GIF - all they must provide is a name, phone number and email address - but submitting a gif allows them to enter more than once.)
Since the site went live on Monday, almost 2,500 people have submitted GIFs, according to Eden - including the one at left. But VW will not be choosing favorites. Winners will be selected at random, and entrants will not be penalized for not submitting a GIF, which are a short digital animations created by stringing together still images (think of a flipbook, but digital).
But VW does plan to project the GIFs onto buildings in New York to coincide with the Kraftwerk retrospective, and may find other uses for them during the campaign.
Eden said that a Rolling Stone tie-in was forthcoming, though wasn't at liberty to provide specifics ahead of the official announcement. For now, VW and MOMA are promoting the giveaway on their social media feeds.
"The idea of music is something that's very inherent to Volkswagen," said Eden, "and the nod to our German heritage is obviously one that bodes well. We love the idea of creativity, we love the idea of design, all those things kind of form the perfect union for everything we want to do. It’s the perfect melding of fan strategy to let people see something they really want to see."
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014