The risks Volkswagen took with two Jetta TV ads that put viewers in the car for high-impact crashes seem to be paying off in shopper interest. Volkswagen says that since the ads touting Jetta’s crash safety began on April 10, requests for brochures are up 37% at call centers and 56% on the Web compared with the first 15 days of March, and Internet requests for dealer price quotes are up 58%.

In one ad, viewers are along for the ride as a driver is chatting with a friend. A truck suddenly backs into their path, causing an air-bag-inflating crash. In the other, two couples are discussing a movie they’ve just seen, when a truck hits them broadside. In the aftermath, viewers see the passengers shaken but uninjured, then the screen quickly reads: "Safe happens."

The crashes seem real because they are. The agency had stunt drivers at the wheel for the one-take shoots.

Despite the spike in Jetta interest, one auto marketing expert thinks the jarring campaign will dampen sales in the long run. "The vast majority of consumers are going to be turned off by it and they will take VW off their shopping lists," says Art Spinella, president of research firm CNW Marketing.

VW admits reactions vary, but says the ads have gotten people to think about the brand and safety.

Dealers say the ads are working. Bob Grace, president of the Volkswagen Dealer Council and owner of Baton Rouge’s Southpoint Volkswagen where Domangue bought her car, says, "We’ve seen a real uptick in traffic. Dealer feedback is that it’s working."

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