Laughing horses go viral after overnight research

by Nigel Hollis | January 30, 2017

Last year Volkswagen launched the all-new Tiguan in Germany with the support of a large scale ad campaign. However, the Volkswagen team was concerned that a funny online video might strike the wrong note in the aftermath of the emissions scandal. Rather than risk a negative backlash or not use the video, they decided to test it. The results were positive and the ad went viral.

You can watch the video here and I am sure you will find it just as funny as I did. However, given the circumstances the Volkswagen team was right to be concerned about using it. Unlike a traditional broadcast campaign focused on the attributes of the new vehicle, a funny online video might spark a negative viral reaction if people do not respond to it as intended. So Volkswagen turned to Kantar Millward Brown to answer this question and two others relevant ones:

  1. “Is the funny approach appropriate at this time?”
  2. “Does the creative idea fit to Volkswagen at all?”
  3. “Does the story overshadow communication of the key benefit?”

From my point of view the second one is particularly important since a video is unlikely to do much for the brand if people do not remember which brand is featured.


The problem for the Kantar Millward Brown team in Germany was that there was not much time before the video went live, so they used our automated Express Pre-Test to ensure the results were available quickly. This is a version of our LinkNow test but which has been adapted specifically for automotive pre-testing, with benchmarking against other automotive ads (now more than 20,000 ads tested in over 20 countries). Confirmation, test material and communication goals were received at 6pm and results were available at 9am the next day, 15 hours from start to finish.

More important than speed of delivery, was the nature of the results. The video proved to be one of the best automotive videos ever tested, scoring significantly above average on key criteria like enjoyment, brand fit and brand appeal. As a result, Volkswagen released the video on where it was watched over 2 million times and uploaded by others. The video’s success prompted Volkswagen to use it on TV, and at last count the video had received over 36 million views across all platforms.

Thanks to Christian Ludwig who prepared the case study and obtained permission from Volkswagen to share it here. I believe the case study demonstrates a great use of automated pre-testing. Why take a risk on what the audience response might be when you can check that response quickly and cost effectively? Yes, you can get a quick read from the ratings on YouTube but if the reaction is negative it is likely too late to put the genie back in the bottle, the video will likely have been copied and shared. Previously it would have been almost impossible to get feedback in less than a day but that is not the case any longer. So, if in doubt, why not test it?

What do you think of the horses ad? Are you surprised it performed so well in the pre-test? Please share your thoughts. 


Leave a comment
  1. Tim, June 06, 2017
    Ain't no DDB-Beetle, but I like it.
  2. Mohamed Saad , March 23, 2017

    Really this brand like gold

    after how many years brand value keep increased

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