An ode to the wheel by Volkswagen: Records the evolution of mobility


With an artsy, layered advertisement called “The Wheel” Volkswagen celebrates one of the greatest human inventions in history. The carmaker’s cinematic ad walks audiences through how the groundbreaking concept influenced the world of transportation and beyond, much like the classic visual showing the long journey of humanity from primate to Homo sapiens.

The 90-second spot chronicles the genesis of the wheel and its future uses in bicycles, buggies, video, and animation, culminating this spring with the first Volkswagen electric vehicle debuting. The new ID.4 electric SUV appears under a new tagline just before the ad wraps, “History is made when it’s made for everyone.” According to Jono Flannery, creative director at the Johannes Leonardo agency, which created the campaign, the line was planned to express Volkswagen’s goal of democratizing electric vehicles (EV) with its new model and getting them into the mainstream. Even as Volkswagen is far from the first car brand to invent an EV, its lower price point ($40,000) makes it is a model more available to the average consumer compared to competitors.

The Wheel, aptly named, premiered during the NFL playoffs on Jan. 8 and will run on TV and social media ahead of the release of the vehicle this spring. Premiering the campaign months before the car hits dealerships offers Volkswagen a solid runway to tease the new model through major television events such as sports playoffs while giving prospective clients time to learn more, arrange a test drive, or pre-order.

Although the campaign is the first of the year for the carmaker, it harkens back to the Volkswagen Beetle’s farewell in 2020. A TV and social media advertisement and a 90-second animation coupled with a cover of The Beatles’ “Let it Be” youth song and cameos from celebrities such as Andy Warhol, Kevin Bacon, and Andy Cohen were part of the final chapter of the classic model last January. To honour the Beetle, Johannes Leonardo developed the “The Last Mile” campaign and set the stage for the next generation of Volkswagen automobiles.

Just before last spring’s coronavirus pandemic shut down most of the world, the carmaker debuted a Johannes Leonardo video series starring actor Paul Giamatti as the celebrity accountant for Kieran Culkan. The playful spot, entitled “The Accountant,” was timed for the tax season and showed how the Atlas Cross Sport SUV from Volkswagen was a modest luxury vehicle worth investing in. That ad series was part of the “Drive Something Bigger Than Yourself” platform of the brand that promotes sustainability and social responsibility and, according to Flannery, marked an entry into the push against wealth culture by Volkswagen.

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