Embracing the 1980s: Volkswagen TV commercial pays homage


Could the 1980s be cool again?

Advertising agency Deutsch LA thinks so and has created an ‘80s-themed commercial for Volkswagen.

The spot, “Feeling Carefree,” is a playful homage of the classic 1985 music video “Take on Me” by the Norwegian pop band A-ha. The music video, which blended pencil-sketch animation with live action, was hugely popular on MTV.

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The Volkswagen spot employed some of the same imagery and techniques as the original video: still shots, live action and a method of pencil-sketch animation called rotoscoping. The production crew filmed the actors and the cars, and then animated the results.

A-ha’s “Take on Me” provides the musical track.

Coincidentally, some broadcast networks are also looking back to the 1980s for inspiration. Next week, ABC premiers its own version of ‘80s nostalgia with “The Goldbergs,” a Tuesday night comedy from writer Adam F. Goldberg that delves into the dynamics of his family, and growing up during the Reagan administration. On the CW, “The Carrie Diaries” (the “Sex and the City” prequel) also takes place in the ‘80s.

And on NBC, an ‘80s heartthrob -- Michael J. Fox -- is back with a family sitcom.

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“There is a bit of cultural momentum with the ‘80s,” Mike Sheldon, chief executive of Deutsch LA, said in an interview. “We took a nearly 30-year-old idea and produced our spot in the same way. We stayed authentic to the production methods of the day, but then we grafted on Volkswagen’s modern day message of living a more carefree life.”

Today’s common method of animation, CGI, was not used.

Instead, the rotoscoping animation was provided by Passion Pictures in London. The live action sequences were shot around Los Angeles.

The spot, which rolls out on broadcast television next week on such shows as ABC’s “Castle” and CBS’ “NCIS: LA,” promotes Volkswagen’s car maintenance program that covers the first two years or 24,000 miles.

“The idea was to take Volkswagen’s message of ‘carefree maintenance’ and do it in a way that would make people stop and pay attention,” Sheldon said.

What’s next? Maybe poufy hair and shoulder pads.


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Follow Meg James on Twitter: @MegJamesLAT