• Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019
Music Notes
Groove Guild Lands Iconic Songs For VW, Wins Music Clio
Al Risi
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Volkswagen, an automotive brand known for its masterful use of music in ad campaigns, recently launched a brand campaign with new spots featuring classic songs by rock and roll royalty. The brand’s new agency, Johannes Leonardo, tapped independent New York-based music company Groove Guild to supervise the ads, “Hello Light” and “A New Mission.”

The songs featured were Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “The Sound of Silence” and a previously unreleased live demo version of David Bowie’s 1969 breakthrough single, “Space Oddity.” 

“Hello Light” was honored with a Silver Clio in the Best Use of Music category by the Clio Music Awards jury. (“A New Mission” will be Clio eligible next year.) The awards were presented at a gala in New York last month.

Groove Guild’s founder, Al Risi, said the company was tapped to supervise music for the high-stakes campaigns thanks to its long-standing relationship with the agency. “Volkswagen is a brand known for its advertising and its inspired use of music,” 

Risi explained. “Johannes Leonardo came to us because the Groove Guild team has a track record of making memorable sounds for their clients’ brands. So far this year we’ve collaborated with them on seven spots for Volkswagen.”

“Al and Groove Guild have been a long trusted resource for Johannes Leonardo” said co-founder and co-chief creative officer Leo Premutico. “VW has a storied history when it comes to music. And for this rebirth moment, arguably more than any other, we knew we really needed to strike the right emotion. So we tried something unconventional during the creative process, and searched for a feeling that would inspire the story rather than the other way around. Ultimately it was a story we could only tell with one track, and one we would not have been able to tell as powerfully without a strong partner like Groove Guild.”

Jan Jacobs, also co-founder and co-CCO, said, “We had to be strategic about music to get the message across in a way that taps into the nostalgia surrounding the brand. Groove Guild is one of our secret weapons for all things music, and they definitely came through for us on this campaign.”

“Hello Light” was Volkswagen’s first tease of its I.D. Buzz electric Microbus, as well as a direct acknowledgement of the company’s 2015 crisis over emissions standards and a pledge to focus on sustainability going forward. The ad opens with an audio track from news broadcasts recounting headlines from the scandal, while a lone designer works in the dark on a new vehicle, the I.D. Buzz. “The Sound of Silence” plays and, as the vehicle is revealed, a title card reads, “In the darkness, we found the light.”

“It was a perfect song for this ad in many ways,” Risi said. “It taps into what the brand and agency wanted to communicate--which was acknowledging and owning past mistakes, and using those missteps to clarify values and motivate positive change. It also had tremendous appeal as an iconic, multigenerational song. We knew it would strike just the right chord if we were able to secure it.”

In the “A New Mission” commercial, “Space Oddity” plays over archival photos of people held spellbound by TV coverage of the moon landing. Vintage late ‘60s Volkswagens can be seen in the background of some of its shots, then a title card is revealed that reads: “In 1969 the world united behind a mission,” followed by, “Now we have a new one” as the POV shifts back to reveal a view of the earth from space.

The spot landed its soundtrack through serendipitous timing, Risi noted: “A friend at the company that represents David Bowie’s estate, as well as his publishing and master assets, alerted me to an unreleased demo version of ‘Space Oddity,’ which would be released around the song’s 50th anniversary. The song was perfect for this campaign on several levels, the lyrical theme being the most obvious but also because it shares a 50-year legacy with the moon landing. The fact that the song feels new and different, yet still very familiar, made it even better.”

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