The other night I was watching the late news when this new Volkswagen ad promoting its new 2018 Atlas SUV came on.
Dubbed the “Luv Bug” online, the ad shows a young couple alone in their Beetle. The car is clearly in park but is bouncing around, the windows are all steamed up. You get the idea. Then, presumably 9 months later, the same couple with a new baby in tow happily waltz in to their local Volkswagen dealer to trade the Beetle in for a new sedan.
Then, the same couple goes out parking again in the woods. More bouncing, more steamy windows. They go back to the dealer with two babies now for another, bigger car. This happens again and again because of course, Volkswagen conveniently sells cars for each stage of your growing family. Predictably, all of this is set to the soundtrack of “The Birds and the Bees”, a song I hate with the white hot passion of a thousand burning suns.
Setting aside any discussion of birth control (that could be an entire post of its own) after watching this I thought, really Volkwagen? Is this, directing some humor about the ease of procreation into a nice, neat 30 or 60 second spot your latest way of selling cars? Another example of art imitating life? We’re all supposed to laugh along, right?
Well, I didn’t laugh. My husband watched with me and yet again, we felt forgotten. Forgotten because our children were not conceived in the backseat of a car but rather within the windowless walls of the lab inside our fertility clinic.
To a certain extent, advertising becomes effective because of numbers, whether in terms of reach, much like blog posts I might add, and/or relatability, because so many people watch it, take a step back and say, yeah, I get it. They may laugh along because, yeah, I totally relate to that. I know this is just an ad and it’s supposed to be funny and cute and for the estimated 7 and 8 fertile couples it is simply that. 7 in 8 is a large number, apparently large enough for advertisers to take notice and make that cohort the focus of a major market campaign to sell cars for a global manufacturer like Volkswagen.
But if you are part of the 1 in 8 infertile couples like me, you understand where the humor is coming from but know it doesn’t work quite that way. You know that 1 in 8 is not a large enough number for advertisers and popular culture at large. You stay silent, either because the infertility experience is too painful or maybe because you know no one will understand, like your friends and acquaintances who got pregnant just like that after being off the pill maybe a month or on their honeymoon or even before. You don’t want to be the Debbie Downer in the room.
True, my children were not created in a car and certainly not in a Volkswagen, but I would like to enlighten the folks who made this ad that there were scenes that took place during the drawn out process of creating my two children that could have taken place in my car or anyone else’s really. Here are a few for consideration:
- How about a scene showing me with my husband getting back into the car after the first appointment at the fertility clinic? It could show the two of us sitting silently all the way home because our heads are spinning with all we have to do, the medication schedule, the shots, the monitoring appointments just about every day, the procedures, silently realizing that we are pretty much turning over our lives to a group of strangers for at least a few months or more if it doesn’t work.
- Leaving the juice bar with a raw wheatgrass juice drink. Many infertility patients drink wheatgrass because it is supposed to help enhance overall fertility. Sounds great and even healthy right? Well it tastes horrible and the camera could have captured my cringing face or the gagging noises I made while gulping it down in the car on the way home. But taste buds were a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things when I had sacrificed so much more during the process, like finances, sanity and so on.
- There could be a shot showing me and my husband in his car as he is driving me home from the clinic on the days I had the egg retrieval done, me screaming in pain every time he hit a pothole or stopped quickly for a light because the Tylenol they gave me in the recovery room wasn’t remotely enough to take the edge off the post procedure burning and cramping.
- How about me running out to my car, cell phone in hand fleeing my open floorplan office on the days the clinic called with test results? I sat safely in my car and called back to hear about hormone results or the more emotional pregnancy test days. If a good result, I had restrained joy, because everything seems conditional when you are an infertility patient, or if a bad result the sound of tears after being told of another failed cycle. Maybe Volkswagen could team up with Kleenex for some co-branding because let me tell you, during treatment I went through many boxes of tissues whether they were used to stop the bleeding from the needles I used to try to make it all happen or to dry the copious tears shed during moments like those in my car.
Where are those scenes? I know, not funny, not ad worthy. But that was my reality and the reality of countless patients suffering from infertility and secondary infertility. Just because you were able to conceive one kid in the back of the car doesn’t mean you can for the others.
But maybe the worst part isn’t being forgotten, knowing that 1 in 8 isn’t a big enough number to be noticed. The worst part is being reminded that making babies is not as easy as parking in the woods alone except with the birds and bees or snuggling up at home during a blizzard. We didn’t want to end up at the clinic. No one does. We so desperately wanted to believe all of those romantic notions dangled in front of us all our post adolescent lives, that making babies is easy and fun. Thanks to infertility, it wasn’t.
If this is an attempt of art imitating life, it’s time for Volkswagen and their ad team to find another painting.
I’ve written about infertility before, like this post in which I talk about what the fertility clinic is like plus my hatred of “The Birds and The Bees”.
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