Electrify America L.L.C.—a unit of Volkswagen Group of America overseeing a multi-year electric-vehicle awareness campaign—is attempting to normalize electric vehicles by drawing comparisons to the earliest days of the internet, cell phones and online dating.
A nostalgia-laden digital campaign, called "Normal Now," launched Aug. 19. It draws parallels between EVs and new technologies of the past that once seemed niche but are now commonplace. The effort is part of a new $42 million education and public awareness initiative.
Electrify America was formed in 2016 as a wholly owned subsidiary of VW overseeing a 10-year, $2 billion investment on zero-emissions vehicle technology and awareness. The spending is mandated as part of the auto maker's legal settlement with government regulators in the wake of VW's diesel scandal in which it admitted to installing devices on cars to cheat on emissions tests. In March, the organization hired San Francisco-based Eleven to handle its campaign, which must be brand-agnostic according to the terms of the legal settlement.
The new campaign includes a website and videos that harken back to the earliest days of the internet. Visitors to normalnow.com will see a homepage that seems ripped out of the late 1990s, complete with a crude visitor counter.
"Remember when websites used to look like this? New technology always seems weird at first," the site states. "Take electric cars. They may seem a little different. But with faster recharging times, longer vehicle ranges, and lots of models to choose from, they' re just like driving a typical gas-powered car."
The site then presses its case with other, more-modern looking web pages that attempt to take on perceptions that EVs are only for the "elite few," or look like "tiny, glorified golf carts." Today, "most EVs look just like normal cars," the site states.
The campaign also includes digital videos that resurface old media clips of people talking about the internet and online dating, when both were in their infancy.
"We believe that fear of change and lack of exposure to EVs in pop culture is making people view electric vehicles as too different from what they're used to, and therefore are striving to normalize EVs with this latest educational campaign," Richard Steinberg, who oversees marketing for Electrify America, said in a statement.
The campaign also includes streaming TV ads, banner ads, social media ads, paid search and streaming audio and podcast ads. It will run through December 2021.
The campaign comes as auto makers continue to pour billions of dollars into EV development. While sales are growing, it remains a niche market, especially in the U.S.
One million EVs were sold globally in the first half of the year, up 44 percent from the previous year, according to a recent report from Sanford C. Bernstein. China accounted for 55 percent of those sales, 24 percent came from Europe and 21 percent from North America.