The verdicts are in for Johannes Leonardo's new Volkswagen work

Industry folk dissect the highly-anticipated creative that's design to put the auto brand back on track.

It’s here: the rebirth of Volkswagen, brought to you by ad agency Johannes Leonardo.

"Hello Light" is the auto brand’s attempt at drawing a line under the emissions scandal and clawing back our trust. It’s also the first major piece of work to come out of JL since it bought a significant portion of itself back from WPP.  

The apologetic spot sees VW owning up to its wrong-doing without really saying sorry, and while introducing its new era of electric vehicles.

But is this flashy creative enough to turn the juggernaut around? Here’s what the industry thinks:

Simon Francis, CEO, Flock Associates

It’s a really stylish bit of film isn’t it? But, will consumers trust what VW says, I don’t know. What I do know is that when Toyota had their crisis they turned to their loyalists, their advocates, and their workers and gave them "the microphone."

They featured the real people, with real stories, with truth and honesty in social, in spots, and in print. I guess people trust real people, and when you’ve been caught being dishonest, maybe stylish ads may not be enough?

I don’t know whether this campaign is backed with a heap of VW loyalist social, or whether it will generate it or how the campaign will build. But, I hope VW can rebuild its mojo because when they are on form they make everyone better.


Nancy Hill, Founder and CEO, Media Sherpas 

This video is an amazing piece of storytelling and the choice of music is inspired. Just what our industry does best. For anyone who loves a good comeback story, it gives the viewer hope that VW "hitting bottom" brought them some clarity and ultimately, redemption.

That said, it begs the question: "What took you so long to own up to this, VW?"


Deacon Webster, Co-Founder and CCO, Walrus 

The notion that the emissions scandal is what led a lone Volkswagen designer to the revelation that they need to make an electric car, 15 years after the launch of Tesla, does not exactly paint Volkswagen as an innovative company.

It also seems like a pretty heavy way to announce a brightly colored electric micro-bus.

The footage is undoubtedly beautiful, but I don’t know if I like the tonal shift for a brand that has such a long history of simplicity and humanity in its marketing.


Craig Elimeliah, Executive Director, VMLY&R 

I have been a massive fan of JL since the first day they opened their doors. We actually did some amazing work together a long time ago on a shared client. With VW JL had a tall order. This is NOT an easy assignment to crack.

Given the fact that the company has had a long string of consecutive PR nightmares and its friendly veneer horribly tarnished, how do you come back from something like that in a world where cars are no longer beloved objects?

The spot felt a bit too broody for my taste. There was way more dark than there was light and that is all I walked away with. It felt like an empty promise because the light wasn’t something that felt tangible, it was a concept vehicle. Simon and Garfunkel didn’t help either, it kept the mood really flat rather than taking us to someplace renewed. 

The ambition was there, and the tension and the storytelling were nice, JL are masters of the craft, but I think they created too big of a mountain to climb. It was way too dark of a spot to be called "Hello Light."


Sandy Greenberg, Co-Founder, CEO, Terri & Sandy

I respect honesty in advertising, but in this case, it feels too late for VW to be referencing the epic betrayal of their customers. Some viewers might be left scratching their head thinking: 'Why are they putting this in an advertisement two years later?' In my mind, it would have been smarter to just move forward with optimism, cleverness and wit, the hallmarks of the VW brand.


Jason Sperling, Chief, Creative Development, RPA 

I think it’s a brilliant restart. Smart of them to address the scandal, albeit without issuing a formal apology. Smart to hitch their flag to a vehicle that people are nostalgic for and doesn’t bear the stink of the scandal. And really smart to have the first vehicle they’re touting be electric, not diesel.


Libby Brockhoff, CEO, Odysseus Arms

I think this work is superb creative. And their atonement will change their fortunes — primarily for consumers who paid close attention to VW committing the millennial cardinal sin of a brand cheating and lying. They'll actually relate more intensely with VW now, recognizing 'we're all fallible' includes corporate giants. They know what they did, they celebrated their FAIL, they're on the right track going forward. Expect to sell a lot of electric buses.

We're not quite to the place where we are recognizing 'Climate Criminals' but this situation was a warning shot. It's coming.

Greg Paull, Principal, R3

It’s a delicate balancing act for the company to start again. Potential car buyers have long memories and this won’t be a band aid fix.


Nick Miaritis, EVP, VaynerMedia

What I love about this work is that they didn’t just come out with the typical mea culpa spot telling everyone "we’re committed to doing the right thing" - they showed that they are actually doing the right thing by putting the focus on the new Bus concept. The spot is meticulously crafted and the song choice is perfect.

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