Slug Bug! Volkswagen Gets Punchy on Facebook for Super Bowl

Volkswagen hopes to strike a chord with auto buyers who grew up during the last few decades and remember the childhood car-ride pastime known as either “Punch Buggy” or “Slug Bug.” The carmaker will feature the on-the-road boredom killer during its :30-second Super Bowl ad, while introducing a video game of the same nature on its Facebook “fan” page that day.

The campaign, called “Punch Dub,” features comedic actor Tracy Morgan in the TV ad. The commercial shows people who – in tradition with the kid’s play activity – light-heartedly slug co-riders in the arm after spotting a Volkswagen vehicle.

The video game initiative is designed to entice Facebook “fans” to administer virtual “slugs” to friends. They’ll be encouraged by a weekly prize (a six-month lease on select VW models) and a grand prize (a new Volkswagen CC). The more slugs they accrue, the better chance they’ll win.

The game will also encourage participants to interact with different VW models. They will be able to pick one of 13 vehicles, as well as choose a style of “slug” before selecting a friend for whom to aim the virtual punch.

Deutsch LA developed the campaign. “We needed to find a way to let people know that Volkswagen makes 13 different models, in a way that still felt right for the brand,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO for ad agency, in a prepared statement.

The effort will also include a fictional creator of the car game, “Sluggy Patterson.” The character has a blog, a Facebook “fan” page, Twitter account, and will be seen in a series of videos on VW’s YouTube channel, according to the Herndon, VA-based manufacturer.

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Meanwhile, another brand owned by the Volkswagen Group, Audi, is using a group of fictional, environmentally-conscious police officers – dubbed the “Green Police” – in both its :30-second Super Bowl spot and social media. The carmaker produced a pair of faux PSA-styled “Green Police” videos for its YouTube channel, while creating a dedicated Twitter page as well.

However, due to the historical fact that the term, “Green Police,” was used in Nazi Germany to refer to the Third Reich’s Order Police, the campaign took a PR hit as word began to spread in the blogosphere late last week. At press time, neither Audi nor the agency behind the campaign, Venables, Bell & Partners, had publicly addressed the controversy.

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