June 9, 2014

The Volkswagen Commercial That Depicts a Backwards Workplace

It’s only a 30-second commercial, but it rubs me entirely the wrong way.

Volkswagen_5I suspect the advertising agency for Volkswagen wasn’t thinking about the backwards way in which they depicted the workplace (or life) throughout the commercial, but the evidence is as clear as day to me.

I have a few observations:

  1. Dad is stuck at work, whereas Mom is gleefully sitting in at the auditorium, watching her son’s violin recital.
    • Does this suggest Mom doesn’t work? Or does she simply have a more lenient employer? Did she have to take a day off to watch?
  2. There is an empty seat to the left of Mom.
    • Does this imply Dad was supposed to attend but couldn’t? If he couldn’t, what were the reasons? “Emergency” meeting? Did he forget about the recital? Did his boss say “no” when he asked that morning?
  3. Dad excused himself from the meeting to listen to the recital via the Passat mobile phone sound system, but he didn’t attend in person.
    • Will there ever be another moment like the one where he missed his son’s recital? What type of employer is he working for that doesn’t permit him to excuse himself for a short period of time? How will it affect the son, over time?

Yes, there are rebuttals to each of my questions.

Mom is a teacher at the school. Dad is away on business, in another city. There are other men in the auditorium. He did ‘hear’ the performance, Dan.

That being stated, the commercial rubs me entirely the wrong way.

It’s Dad who’s at work.

It’s Mom who is watching the performance.

It’s Dad who can’t get away from the office.

It’s Mom who is holding up a phone so Dad can partake.

It’s Dad who works for an organization that clearly doesn’t demonstrate life-work flexibility.

It sends a message, a signal, a doctrine that is tiresome, over-played and rooted in history.

Our workplaces can do better.

Our lives can be lived better.

That father should have been at the recital.

Our workplaces need to become more humane.

2 Replies to “The Volkswagen Commercial That Depicts a Backwards Workplace”

  1. Thank you Dan – for highlighting the persistently warped doctrine that pervades our screens – as you say – and why there are not more women in the boardroom?
    However I would read it slightly differently. Isn’t this about men’s inability to prioritise their time? Is it really down to the way our work places treat staff – or the set of priorities that separate a man and a women when it comes to family and why our workplaces can’t make progress with gender equality?
    Work places are full of men and women – perhaps his boss was a woman who was at the concert in person?
    Who knows? A great read that made up for the terrible Ad. Thank you

  2. I’ve seen this ad many, many times and it never struck me as anything sexist or backwards. I am a woman in business and believe it or not, there are times when one can be stuck in a meeting and you can’t make it home in time for the recital (or whatever) – male or female. This doesn’t mean the company is bad or backwards – it’s a fact of life.
    If it had been a woman at work, and the man in the recital hall – would that have been better? I doubt it – she is still missing the recital. And having a man shown as being in the office does not make the ad sexist because it doesn’t state or even imply that it couldn’t have been the woman in the office. Men work, women work – this ad, this time shows the man in the office. Is the ad homophobic because it shows a hetero couple?
    Sorry – I’m a strong believer in equality – for all. And that means accepting that sometimes it’s the man in the office and sometimes it’s the woman.

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