Earlier, I linked to a darkly amusing advertisement for the VW Polo in which that vehicle's structural integrity and strong moral sense combine to cause a terrorist, in true Wile E. Coyote fashion, to blow up only himself, leaving the auto and other innocents unharmed. Almost immediately, I updated that post to link to the unsurprising, if disappointing, revelation that the ad was a fake.
[Insert obligatory self-satisfied "we webloggers correct ourselves right away so take that Dan Rather and all you other scheming minions of the old guard liberal/conservative/ossified (choose one) mainstream media establishment" remark here.]
Sadly, Volkswagen is not so easygoing as I and, as the Guardian reports, is threatening the responsible parties with a sizable lawsuit:
After a week of prevarication, the car giant has decided to go ahead and sue the people behind the advert on the grounds that it was damaging its reputation around the world and falsely linked the VW with terrorism.
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The short film is made in the style of a TV advert and shows a man hopping into the car wearing the distinctive black and white kaffiyeh scarf commonly worn in the Arab world and made famous by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
In the advert, the man drives around London streets before blowing himself up outside a restaurant - apparently killing himself but leaving the car intact. Then the slogan, "Polo: small but tough", appears.
* * *
[I]n a new development, MediaGuardian.co.uk has tracked down the director of the spoof advert, Stuart Fryer, 35.
Breaking his silence for the first time, he said he was horrified by the reaction to the ad and had only ever meant it to be used on a showreel and never seen by the public.
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"I don't want to offend people, I just want to make advertisements.I wanted to show it to the Saatchis and BBHs of this world.
"Little did I know that the advert that I made would be sent out on the internet and create such a fuss - it's shocked me."
If Volkswagen is not amused, Jeff Jarvis is unamused by Volkswagen's lack of amusement: "Sorry, guys. That VW has already left the barn. You are no longer in control of your message, advertisers. You can fight it or you can embrace it."
The kerfuffle has reminded any number of people of VW's outrage over the print ad parody created for the National Lampoon Encyclopedia of Humor in 1973. That piece is described in the November 2002 obituary of one of its creators, Phil Socci:
Socci, along with future "Saturday Night Live" writer Anne Beatts, created a Volkswagen ad parody that produced a huge stir when it ran in the early 1970s. The copy in the satire read:
"If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagen, he'd be president today. It floats!"
The words appeared with a photo of a Volkswagen floating in a murky lake.
The ad referred to a 1969 incident in which an aide to Kennedy drowned when the senator drove a car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island.
According to Socci's sister, Volkswagen was so incensed by the ad that it unsuccessfully sued National Lampoon for $33 million.
Socci was 17 when the ad appeared, and was paid $75, she said.
While VW did not obtain a money judgment against the Lampoon, a settlement was reached in which the faked ad was excised from all future copies of the Encyclopedia, thus making the originals (including my own which I somehow lost track of over the years, dagnabbit) valuable collectors' items.
Gawker, reporting on the latest legal threat mentions the Lampoon parody and adds, wistfully:
We'd link to a scan of this ad, but, well, it's been redacted from the face of the earth.
A Google Image search proves them almost right . . . .
While no one seems to have reproduced a scan of the parody itself -- it was in style, typeface and tone, a pitch-perfect replica of similar VW ads then running regularly in magazines such as Time and Life and picked up a theme (water-tightness) that was also being featured in VW broadcast ads -- some enterprising right-wing zealot saw fit to reproduce the photo and its accompanying text last March in a comment appended to a post at Free Republic.*
* Link does not constitute endorsement, express or implied.