I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again – the Vespa is my dream vehicle. And I’m usually not a fan of putting post spoilers right in the title, but now that I’ve said it, let me go on elaborate on the ‘why’ bit a little more.
Vespa officially launched in India earlier this year (in April). Realistically, it will be a little while before I can buy one, but that doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm one bit. I’ve audibly squealed everytime I see one of those gorgeous, shiny scooters on the road, much to the chagrin of whoever I’m with. I’ve followed every bit of Vespa news like a true enthusiast, through their social media channels & more old fashioned ways like email newsletters.

So when I got an email earlier this month their new tv commercial (their first in India!) I was excited. I didn’t particularly like their print ads, mostly because of the decision to focus on the Vespa purely as a fashion accessory rather than the lovely-looking but also powerful scooter that it is. I hoped the commercial would be a little better in that respect.
I’d comment further on the ad right away, but maybe you should see it for yourself first?
OK now that you’ve seen it, we can talk. The ad is just over 40 seconds long- The main protagonist wears a 70s style clothes in yellow & black to match his Vespa. He then stops at various stores where garishly dressed, overtly-made up girls stop what they’re doing to stare & sigh at the Vespa. Oh & you can tell they’re so retro-chic by their accessories: one girl carries a rotary-style retro handset, if you’d like to grab something like that you can find them on any Chinese online store, mass produced & available for under $10. Another one of the girls exits a store wearing a fascinator made of a red vinyl record, because we all know that’s what they did with those ridiculously large CDs back in the day, right? Throughout this visual torture we are forced to endure a jingle that mixes 40s style swing music with some very bad disco-wannabe female vocals (maybe someone should lay off the auto tune?). Finally gaudy yellow & black boy meets gaudy yellow & black girl, she squints to check out the vehicle & they proceed to zoom off together. Finally we’re getting to the end, there are a few shots of the happy matchy couple doing mild stunts before we hear the singer croon ‘let’s go ride into the night…’, we see the words vespa, fashion unchanged on screen & it mercifully ends.
I know that every (expensive) lifestyle product needs a big USP (unique selling point). Everyone who’s ever seen or heard of a Vespa associates it in some parts with the words style & retro. So yes, we can expect Piaggio India to highlight these things. The Vespa is currently the most expensive scooter on the Indian market, but it also has some bitchin’ features (great mileage, large fuel tank etc.)
Did the makers of the ad mention any of those? Nope. Seriously, there is not one single action or written line that even suggests that this pretty thing has any features.
I suppose there’s nothing wrong with even choosing to highlight only the fashionable & heritage aspects of the vehicle but people need to know something else- in reality, vintage style is truly lovely. The ‘fashions’ featured in this ad are nothing but loud, tasteless parodies of what the clueless members of today’s generation associates with the word vintage.

{Edit: I was curious about which agency handled the campaign so thank you to The Neemly who pointed me in the right direction – the ad was created by the Mumbai-based Meredian Communications. You can read a press release about the ad here, it’s very informative (& amusing!) & effectively answers some of the things I brought up in the previous paragraph. Here’s an excerpt- Commenting on the thought behind the campaign, Samrat Bedi, Head, Meridian says “Vespa is not a mere means of transport with awesome fuel efficiency, wider tyre grip and such. It would have been of great disservice to Vespa had we positioned it on functional benefits. Plus, scooter advertising in India does so much of that anyways. Initially, the brand was launched with Print, OOH, Digital and PR. Given the encouraging consumer response to the campaign, we collectively believed that it was time for more people to get to know and fall in love with the Vespa. This TVC is single-mindedly creating a premium segment in the functional scooter category and pegging the Vespa as a stylish and iconic lifestyle brand.”}

Some may say that I’m taking the commercial too seriously, that it’s meant to be light hearted & funny. I beg to differ- after watching the commercial repeatedly, I haven’t found one single instance where the humor seems to be self-aware. Vespa India is aggressively pushing the commercial on their facebook page, with a contest where you need to answer question after watching the TVC. Again, not a smidge of humor.
All that I know about advertising comes from a very basic mandatory college class, so I don’t consider myself very knowledgeable about the ad world. I do however, consider myself an avid (& aware) consumer. In recent years many myths about advertising have been debunked on Indian television – you do not need a celebrity in your commercial for it to become successful or get your product noticed (innovation does it). A a good product does not necessarily mean a good commercial, & vice versa.
To me, one horrible ad is probably not enough to reconsider buying a Vespa, but the number one thing I take home from this ad is who the company thinks their target demographic is. As an Indian consumer, this ad indirectly reflects on me, because when I finally get one, people might actually think I found this mindless, garish drivel stimulating / attractive & that’s what made me go for it. Sad.

PS– I thought this was worth adding to the post- the team that’s managing social media for Vespa India seems to be doing a shoddy job too, they put a photo of a model with slightly pouty lips & said it was Angelina Jolie (the model looked nothing like her!) & only changed it after multiple people pointed it out.