Over the past few weeks you’ve probably seen the ads for The Naked Ute popping up on the telly and your social media feed. Speculation over just what vehicle The Naked Ute actually is has been flowing freely, with people guessing everything from Ranger to HiLux to BT-50 with even a few Great Walls getting thrown in there. As this magazine lands in your inbox, the big reveal is actually being announced, and we can finally tell you that the no-panels, no-badges, stripped-back chariot is none other than the Volkswagen Amarok.
So why all the mystery? Isn’t an ad-campaign meant to showcase your product and not strip it back and make it almost indistinguishable? Well, yes, but VW Australia had a lot of great reasons for doing things this way and we reckon it’s showcased their belief in the Amarok’s quality brilliantly. After all, it takes guts to remove every panel, badge, alloy wheel or any identifying mark from a vehicle and then give it to four Aussie ute-owners (none of whom actually own an Amarok) and let them rally it through the bush.
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Since it came on the market in 2009, the Amarok has been seen as a bit of a posh ute, owning the high-end space within the market. However, VW Australia wanted to challenge that – the Amarok is more than a good looking ute for city blokes – it’s a capable off-roader, a faithful tradie partner and tougher than it’s been given credit for by some of the mainstream ute buyers. There was a bit of a question mark over whether it could hold up to Aussie conditions, which, let’s be honest, are tougher on a vehicle than anywhere else in the world. They wanted to prove the point that it was more than just a high-spec ute with a Euro badge. In short, VW wanted to shake up this thinking, challenge the preconceptions and press reset for the Australian ute buyer.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Marketing Manager Ralph Beckmann said they wanted to really challenge some of the myths around Amarok and wanted to develop a disruptive campaign to bring this to life.
“If some Aussies couldn’t see beyond the VW badge and the good looking exterior we decided to take it away,” Beckmann said.
“We put into one of the bays at the office and started pulling it apart and what emerged was the bones of the Amarok and all its core strength and engineering was no longer hidden.”
Then they had to find some traditional ute lovers to put ‘The Naked Ute’ through its paces. They were told nothing about it, were put behind the wheel and then took on the tough Aussie environment: hills, terrain, water, mud and bush. They were impressed. It stacked up to their own ute, or out-performed it in some areas. But they still weren’t sure what it was. They were asked to guess. And the answers were diverse – Ranger, D-Max, Navara, HiLux – but not Amarok.
Volkswagen and its agency partner DDB set about to capture all of this and it formed the basis of their latest campaign. But they wanted to tease it a bit before they revealed the badge behind The Naked Ute, so the first week of the campaign had no branding, and just showed the stripped back Amarok off-road and eating it up. Via a website and social media they asked the public to guess what they thought it was.
“We really just wanted to show some people that they were letting their badge-blindness get in the way of seeing the Amarok for what it was – a tough contender to any of the competitors in the segment,” Beckmann said.
The campaign is made up of a television commercial that doesn’t look like any of the current ute ads – there are no shiny panels, no badges – just The Naked Ute. At the end of the spot the Amarok is revealed and viewers are invited to go and find more of the story on Facebook and a dedicated website. Here they find the full story, see the journey the drivers went on, see the fun they had, see how capable the cars are, see it revealed as an Amarok to the drivers, and them admitting to having not expected it. The campaign also came to life in outdoor magazines and online banners as well as on television, Facebook and Instagram.
“We are really proud of the campaign and think it really will make some Aussie ute drivers consider the Amarok when they are looking for their next ute,” Beckmann said.
This is the kind of thing we love to see here at Unsealed 4X4 – no images of their ute splashing unnecessarily through salt water, not pulling stuck B-doubles out of a bog, not entering mud holes at 100km/h or trying to sell a “lifestyle.” Just bare-bones marketing that tells it how it is, because they believe in their product.
Take note, all you other manufacturers.