The New Up!

In this advert for the new up! — Volkswagen’s city car — a metallic yellow up! bathes in sunshine, parked in an attractive cobbled street, outside Cafe Rivas (which one assumes is somewhere in continental Europe).

In this idealised image six people are visible: at first one may wonder which of them owns this vehicle. Then we realise that we — the viewer — most likely own it. The scenario reads like we’ve just parked it and we’re walking away; turning around to lock the doors, and in the process, we can’t help but admire it. The image speaks about the car, and the car's owner — it speaks about us. First of all, like us it’s perfectly at home in this environment, which reflects its chic urban sophistication — but it has its ‘feet on the ground’.

The owner knows where to go for a great coffee, and a pastry to go with it perhaps. He or she is cool, contemporary, slightly edgy (see the graffiti on the wall along from the cafe), but sensible. The location has character, but it's in no way run down; we guess its probably been gentrified at some point, possibly an old district of the city that has recently been developed and is now a sought-after place to own a flat — sorry, I meant ‘apartment’. While the location is likely to be France, it could be any European city. The Cafe Rivas looks like it services meals, and drinks, cocktails even. A person could almost live there, breakfast, brunch, lunch, cocktails, dinner, and late drinks. But the owner of an up! isn't the kind of person who would spend their entire day and night in a cafe/bar — they are far too busy getting on with their life. (And the kind of person who would spend all day in a bar probably wouldn't spend it in that one.) Although the owner has a hip side to their personality, they are also quite wisely cautious — they don’t make rash decisions — and think of themselves as quite traditional (but not old fashioned). The owner might work in the media industry, maybe even for the agency that developed this advert for Volkswagen. Having selected such a scenic spot to park their car, they obviously have an aesthetic eye.
The people around the car echo its character, and again, from that, the car's owner: the person about to exit the cafe, the woman in the bright yellow dress, the couple meeting in the cafe, the woman seated outside the cafe with her coffee and pastry, and the man in the blue jacket who is about to enter the building next to the cafe. The man meeting the woman inside the cafe wears a flamboyant, flowery shirt. Everyone looks like a model.

Why is that man going into the building? He's carrying something under his left arm, a package: a gift, or office files? Judging by the relatively short shadows this could be late morning or early afternoon. Perhaps he is going home for lunch, or visiting his girlfriend? Nothing is explicit. The woman in yellow might know him? It could even be her apartment he is visiting. None of these people are the central character in this story, they are extras with walk-on parts. The car is the hero, and by association, us — the owner. The up! is a fun, city car, that looks good, and is a sensible buy. It's a choice. It's an aspiration. The advertising copy claims it’s an ‘extension of your style’. It comes with all the things that matter: ‘over a thousand potential colour combinations’, and ‘advanced connectivity’, ‘your car is an extension of your smartphone, with music, satnav, and search options at your fingertips’ — ‘It fits seamlessly with your lifestyle’. As sophisticated connoisseurs, ‘we get it’.

We are smart enough to know that there are cheaper options out there, but quality is everything — and buying anything else would be like having coffee in the wrong neighbourhood.