Mar 15

Rhetorical Analysis, VW Beetle Site in HTML5

My childhood memories involve riding around Albemarle, NC in my mom’s red 1970s Volkswagen bug.  On a summer afternoon, my mother and I would cruise through town with the bug’s white convertible top down, ballcaps on, and listening to Billy Joel singing “Uptown Girl.”  I drove that same bug as a high school student, stopping every three or four days to replace the fuel filter so I could make it all the way to school. Although I don’t drive a VW now, I still wax nostalgic about our bug. Volkswagen’s Beetle has a long history starting in 1940s and a recent campaign means convincing drivers that any “new” innovations still maintain the integrity of history. This recent campaign as featured on beetle.com illustrates some interesting features of HTML5 interactivity and coding.

Beetle.com: Let’s take a scroll-stroll

Perhaps my favorite feature in the beetle.com site is the scrolling feature. The loading page uses an icon that initially looks like a mouse wheel and later transforms into arrows that replicate an animated driving lane. This site cleverly utilizes a scroll feature that is becoming a part of our culture of mobile and tablet technology culture. As the viewer scrolls, the car drives through the scene. Each section of this site (start, heritage, the return, iconic design, interior, performance, connectivity, let’s rock, news, scroll drive, and showroom) are designed like one continuous page. Clicking the navigation menu at the top can advance a reader to that portion or scrolling through the site gives the impression of one integrated page with layers of images that work together.

cc image from Beetle.com

My two favorite “pages” (more like scenes) of this site are titled “Heritage” and “Connectivity.” Heritage appeals to viewers with interactivity, classic design and cool imagery. As a viewer scrolls through the pages, years advance in the left hand corner. When the shell design changes, the bug transforms using a paneled transition that scrolls off screen while a newer model fades in from the background (above). Allowing the viewer to see the years advance suggests more of a continual development rather than jumping from one year ahead without any space in between. As a viewer, I get the impression that VW advances are less sporadic this way, instead taking place over a period of time. This projects thoughtful innovation.

cc image Beetle.com

The final image in this sequence is titled “It’s Back” which features the new Beetle design. Language and images in several portions of this ad emphasize that VW beetles aren’t just for women. They claim, “The 21st Century Beetle has shed some of its hippy heritage. After all, long hair isn’t particularly aerodynamic” (Performance). Further, images of men are featured driving the VW while women are walking by, glancing at the driver. “It’s Back” claims the VW has a more “muscular body” and still hasn’t “lost its soul” or iconic shape. Still, spoilers, sleek lines, and less hippy shapes certainly appeal to more of a sports car look and less of a flower power appeal often associated with women.

Connecting Today’s Driver with Yesterday’s Class


In today’s market, drivers are mediated to the chagrin of highway patrolmen upset with accidents caused by smart phone use. Our cars have adopted media that connects us with Geolocation services, Onstar protection, Satellite radio, and in-car mobile telephones. We are more connected than we’ve ever been while driving down the road. Realizing this, I find Beetle.com’s “Connectivity” portion of the campaign to be my favorite. (That and the cool use of sprites).



cc image beetle.com

The first image a viewer sees is this one (left) which is blurry and indistinct. Without even knowing what will happen, icons such as a dotted satellite path with fuzzy tweet-like boxes are in the background. Without instructions, a viewer is well accustomed with scrolling through this site which will help to find out where we are or what we are doing on this page.


cc image beetle.com


Scrolling brings up an icon much like a satellite: two nested boxes in a line that extends outward from the dotted pathway. Numbers resembling latitude and longitude appear as the satellite crosses the pathway reminding the participant how VW is connected in the United States. Coordinates cover the US. (Note: this feature changes depending on which version of beetle.com you visit.)

cc image beetle.com


My favorite feature in this scene is as the fuzzy rectangles clarify and icons, text, and Twitter birds are clearly viewed. These tweets intermingle comments about classic beetles with contemporary references and are all directed to @21cBeetle who appears to represent the campaign profile. A tweet commenting on a family shot from the 60s is followed by a tweet that invites viewers to join the beetle community today. It reads, “Here are some photos of the 2012 Beetle shared on our Facebook page” (see image). @21cBeetle implies many things here, among them personal relationships with his (the campaign is aiming for manliness) fans. If Facebook is for friends, @21cBeetle is saying, “We’re friends, come look at the images on my social site.” Previous tweets use references to family and fans of classic beetles as a way of transitioning to an invitation to join the current campaign. Tweets that follow include a comment on a review and a direct address, “what do you think?” to viewers.



cc image from beetle.com

The final image in this series returns to a beetle, firmly grounded below a message that reads, “It roars. And tweets. The Beetle can bring you and your friends together. Even when you’re miles apart.” Working with both a metaphor of geolocation and a scrolling feature that mimics tweets appearing on a screen, Beetle uses social media as a metaphor for their connectivity with today’s drivers. “Everyone” loves a car that has muscle, style, and social appeal. This screen suggests that this car connects people. Although I’m not in the market for a new car, I have to admit that beetle.com has an appealing campaign, one that might even convince my husband that bugs aren’t just for girls.


1 ping

  1. Laura Ray


    I loved how you set the stage for this blog post! I really connected with the personal story, and it was a perfect way to introduce the site your analyzed. I could really picture you and your mom blasting Billy Joel with the top down. :)

    I found your post extremely helpful, because I can’t remember the last time I conducted a rhetorical analysis of a text. You provide very clear and detailed descriptions of each component of the site, so much so that I was compelled to check it out myself. It is a really cool site!! I love how smooth the scrolling feature is – it is so engaging! I don’t really care much about cars, but I could play around with that site for a while!

    I thought the analogy of car as having a “social” appeal was perfect. Think about it – a car literally has an impact on your real-life social network. By tying the social media aspect (Twitter, facebook) into their marketing strategy, they are basically trying to sell you a service you already have! It’s just all how they package it!

    What functionalities have you learned about so far in HTML5? Were you able to point any of them out in the website?

    I wonder how long it would take to develop a website like this one in HTML5 – it’s so complex! It was a really cool example… thanks for sharing! :)

  2. Shelley Rodrigo

    First…WOW. I’m thrilled you shared this site with us.
    Second, like Laura…were you able to “latch” on to any specific functionality associated w/HTML5?

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