Screencap from Volkswagen's 'Shoot the Gap' adEnlarge Photo
A couple of weeks ago, Volkswagen launched a new campaign to promote its "Autobahn for All" summer sales event. One of the ads for that campaign featured a conservative-looking couple out for a test drive, talking to the salesman about nice, normal things, when all of a sudden, the wife began screaming "Shoot the gap! Shoot the gap!" Her husband dutifully plowed the Jetta up the interstate between two big rigs, then all three resumed talking about nice, normal things. It was unexpected and funny in the same way that grandmothers playing poker is funny, or maybe nuns shooting hoops. Perhaps you saw it?
If not, too bad: Volkswagen was blindsided by a wave of negative reaction to the ad (not unlike the way gap-shooters are often blindsided by 18-wheelers). VW has now pulled the spot from TV and its YouTube channel due to complaints that the commercial encouraged reckless driving.
Not surprisingly, the outcry was loudest from truckers, who spoke out on a number of forums and blogs. On truckdriversnews.com, for example, one member said, "Cutting off another vehicle in order to drive between two tractor and trailers is plain out stupid. Truck drivers have limited visibility even though they sit up high. Passing a truck on the right-hand-side is a very dangerous move and should not be done – ever." According to metrics, the biggest outcry took place on Twitter, although a Facebook page was also launched to encourage VW to remove the ad.
That's not to say that the clip isn't still out there. Some people took it upon themselves to download the video and upload it to their own YouTube channels. We've posted one of those here -- but be quick about watching it, before someone sends them a takedown notice: