VW makes a movie

The car company enlists its agency Red Urban to create a half-hour documentary to air on Bravo and Discovery Channel.

Red Urban is the latest agency to get into the movie business. Volkswagen and the Toronto shop are taking a trip in time with Once More: The Story of VIN 903847, a documentary directed by Oscar-nominee Hubert Davis.

The half-hour doc, created by the agency, will air on Bell Media’s Bravo and Discovery Channel at 7 p.m. on Jan. 5. It’s a paid media buy, handled by MediaCom, with no commercial breaks.

In February, the doc will be posted on a microsite where viewers can immerse themselves in the story with additional historical footage, photographs and diaries culled from the research.

The idea stemmed from the desire to share Volkswagen enthusiasts’ stories on Facebook to create more social content, says Christina Yu, EVP/CD, Red Urban. While doing research, they stumbled upon a photo of a man and his car in Africa. Then another in Thailand. And another in South Africa.

There was a simple explanation for the man’s global travels: in the pre-Facebook era, 1955 Volkswagen Beetle owner Wolfgang Paul Loofs wanted to connect with his brother, who lived in Australia and worked as an archeologist. The pair planned to meet up when Loofs’ brother was on digs in remote and exotic locations, with the former loading his Beetle onto a boat.

“It wasn’t as easy as it is nowadays where you can text message or email each other,” Yu says. “They would say ‘I’ll be on this stretch of road for weeks, and hopefully I’ll bump into you.’ Believe it or not, they bumped into each other each time.”

After his final trip, Loofs sold his car back to Volkswagen in exchange for a plane ticket from Ontario to B.C. But the car was not destined for the scrap heap – between the ’60s and now, it changed hands more than four times, before being refit for racing condition. It still runs on the road today.

Yu can’t put her finger on exactly when the idea went from creating social content to something bigger, but the story kept growing and it just made sense as a documentary, she says.  “It’s such an amazing story about people, their families and the relationships they have with objects,” Yu says. “[It's] a bigger story than just the Beetle.”