Close-Up: Live Issue - Will a skateboarder give Vauxhall youth appeal?

The VX Collective - a skateboarder, a DJ, a designer and a film-maker - are skilled, but they are not creatives.

What do you get when you ask a DJ, a skateboarder, a designer and a film-maker to create an ad? As part of Vauxhall's bid to target an edgier, more youthful audience, the car manufacturer is about to find out.

It has brought together a group of individuals it has branded the VX Collective. The group is a loose collection of creative talent that includes: Lucia Helenka, an independent film-maker; the DJ Ross Allen; a designer, Sam Buxton, and Pete King, a pro skateboarder.

The collective's most recent project is a 30-second cinema ad, funded by a small slice of the Vauxhall communications department's budget. There was no official brief and no input from the client.

Collette Dunkley, the Vauxhall executive communications director in charge of the collective, explains: "About once a quarter, the group comes in and gives us its perspective on our advertising. And they decided they wanted to have a go. We don't tell them what to do. They come to us with ideas."

The ad features King boarding around a skate park the collective designed and built earlier this year. There are a few shots of Vauxhall's griffin logo and King jumps over a car at the end. Viewers are then directed to a website that tells them about the touring skate park. And, erm, that's it.

Lowe's executive creative director, Ed Morris, is sceptical about the project. It's the equivalent of getting builders to write a novel, he says, adding: "Advertising is a fine craft. I want (the ad) to be great, but I have seen these things cock up."

Meanwhile, Vauxhall's marketing department has been distancing itself from the ad. Despite a press release claiming the film will run on "cinema, online and other digital channels", it is not backing it with any of its media budget. "It's not part of our main campaign. It will not be communicated mainstream," Peter Hope, the Vauxhall integrated marketing manager, says. "It doesn't work to normal ad rules and it's not designed to."

So what, then, are the VX Collective's projects designed to achieve?

Dunkley says the basic tenet is that in return for helping up-and-coming talent on projects, the collective consults and advises Vauxhall on the youth market. Does this mean Vauxhall's creative agencies, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners and Lowe, are failing in this area? Hope says: "We are not using the Collective instead of our agencies. They're different things." Dunckley adds: "We target the youth markets in lots of different ways, and this is just one vehicle."

DLKW cites its light-hearted Corsa TV ad as effective on young audiences.

Youth is a tough market to crack for a brand with Vauxhall's middle-aged image, but jumping skateboarders seem a leap too far.

LEON JAUME'S VERDICT - Leon Jaume, executive creative director, WCRS

It is easy to criticise, so let us not make life difficult: this is crap.

But why wouldn't it be? It's a commercial made by a skateboarder, a DJ, a product designer and an independent film-maker. You might just as well ask them to make an air conditioning unit or an Etruscan pudding. They are talented, but not at everything. And making a brilliant, effective 30-second ad is hard. Most people in advertising can't do it, so why ask these guys?

If we dismiss the initial suspicion that the scenario is actually taken from a forthcoming episode of the new series of Nathan Barley, we are left with the familiar business of a brand trying to appeal to a younger audience than it does at present.

The main trouble is that this commercial lacks anything new, anything exciting, anything persuasive or any idea that might reach them. The under-35s to whom I have shown the ad are more derisive than I am.

And, tellingly, even some members of the VX Collective seem to have doubts about it. Ross Allen, the DJ and founder of Casual Records, said: "It seemed an odd concept to me - the idea of getting involved in big business."

But, unlike us, Allen received a nice big cheque to overcome these misgivings.


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