Social Marketing is Great. Mocking Your Female Market – Not So Much

routan-mls1113082Volkswagen recently produced a series of webisodes that can be found on the Major League Soccer website. Their goal is to create a loyal relationship between soccer moms and their Routan minivan as well as instigate a viral impact on the Internet. An article that highlighted this release ran in Advertising Age a couple of days ago and the reporter noted:

While it’s perhaps not surprising that VW used a soccer platform to sell minivans, a pairing as timeless as Thanksgiving and turkey in suburban America, the somewhat mocking portrayal of soccer moms might raise a few eyebrows.

They are the, uh, target audience, after all.

And the ad agency’s assistant creative director who helped produce the campaign made the following comments to substantiate the rationale behind their concept.

Mr. Farhang believes Ms. Collins’ portrayal of a soccer mom as an overeager, close-talking scatterbrain, who, in the first episode, drives off without her soccer-playing kids, will wind up being more endearing than derisive. “As people start watching, they’ll make a deeper connection,” he said. “She takes intense pride in motherhood, even if she crosses the line sometimes.”

Well…maybe by men who find those traits “endearing.” But I am pretty sure that my husband would have been a little put off if I drove off on a 2,300 mile cross country trip leaving the kids on the side of the road in the rain. And I KNOW the other soccer moms would have thought less of me. I would have been given no chance for a deeper connection. I would have been tagged, “unfit”.

Time will tell how successful the campaign will be, but below are excerpts from some of the Comments the day the article was released (the first one is mine)

  • My guess is that these were ads developed primarily by men for women. Men who “know” they need to reach women because the numbers say they do and men who “think” they understand women. I have heard nothing but negativity or indifference about VW’s “How Women are Having Babies to get German Engineering” spots but it appears VW has decided to take the “offend your target audience” direction to the next level. VW may very well sell some minivans, but I believe the number they will NOT sell now, will be even higher. In fact, I’ve already heard that some people are cancelling their One Sure Insurance with the intention of selling their minivan ASAP. Take that VW!
  • I believe the whole mocking approach that Volkswagen is taking lately (first the “having babies for German engineering” spots, now the web series mocking soccer Moms, will more likely backfire than work.
  • As a 42 year-old female with 4 kids (boys) I think both the Brooke Shields (who looks great) ads and these new Soccer Mom ads are terrible. They do not resonate with me at all. In fact, I think that any of these negative campaigns by VW will simply make the viewer TUNE OUT.
  • I’m not sure that having a signature style is a virtue for any agency — especially if it alienates the very audience they are trying to reach.
  • These spots are the equivalent of a PK sailing 10 feet over the crossbar. The attitude may work selling cars to 20- somethings, but I don’t think they’re exactly the minivan buying crowd.
  • I think CP&B (agency who conceived the webisodes) is starting to lose it.
  • To say that this campaign in any way is going to go viral like Subservient Chicken for Burger King is setting yourself up for major failure in not managing expectations. To say that and not have the material to back it up is just silly and bordering on irresponsible. And unfortunately, in this case, this is not the material to back it up.
  • The minivan as a ‘mom-mobile’ is being shunned by moms precisely because of the “mom” status it confers on the driver.
  • Yes, probably more men made these spots than women did, but VW decided it was going to be a male brand. Not a brand just for males, but it would act like a male. This is in line with their thinking.

The last comment was positive toward the ads, but with women being responsible for 65% of new car sales, to risk offending this audience simply should not be an option. And if they are trying to go after men…I have to ask, why? I agree with one of the other comments. It is downright irresponsible.

Volkswagen may be able to afford to take such a risk, although in these trying economic times, I am not sure who is really able to afford to take such risks. They have spent millions and I just have to wonder, how much would they have saved by looking at it from a woman’s point of view?

I must I admit, I love to watch Mo Collins on MadTV as Stuart’s mother. But please trust me on this, unless you have money to burn, it is not advisable to mock your female target audience.



Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

5 Responses to “Social Marketing is Great. Mocking Your Female Market – Not So Much”

  1. I think people are taking these ads to seriously. They are funny in a dry way and for once an appropriately aged and gorgeous woman, Brooke Shields is being used. It’s fun to see her go against her natural earnestness.

  2. I have to say this is a risky campaign. Although after watching the first run.. I did as a mom see the humour in it.

  3. Really? I’ve viewed the 5 videos that are currently up on the MLSnet site, and they all seem to be in very good taste. I don’t think the pieces “mock” soccer moms anymore than car mechanics or the MLS all-stars, themselves.

    In fact, I’m looking forward to checking out how the whole thing wraps-up, tomorrow!!

  4. Excellent post. As always I enjoy reading your posts…

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    She-conomy » Social Marketing is Great. Mocking Your Female Market – Not So Much

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