Jaguar takes people for a 'virtual' spin

Jaguar’s "actual reality" stunt – a fake VR experience where unsuspecting punters thought they were in a simulator, but were actually in a real car, going very fast, is part of an attempt by the car maker to banish its old man image.

When a bunch of Jaguar Facebook fans signed up for a 'virtual reality' ride at the Big Boys Toys expo in Auckland earlier this month, they didn't expect to get the real deal. But when they watched the video after the event, they realised they'd been tricked and had just spent the last few minutes going really fast round a track.

The reason for the stunt? It's all part of Jaguar's attempt to refresh the brand and wash away its image as a car for rich, white, old men. James McKee, Jaguar’s New Zealand marketing manager, says ad agency Y&R has an open brief to come up with unexpected campaigns.

“It’s part of a strategy to allow customers and potential customers to reconsider the Jaguar brand by making them see the brand in ways that interest and surprise them – to give them something they didn’t expect from Jaguar."

Now the video of the stunt has gained over 150,000 hits on Facebook.  

With the company’s “refresh” and the launch of the F-Type model, Jaguar hopes to double the number of cars it sells in New Zealand this year, up from 120 in 2014.

Interviewed immediately afterwards, several of the participants said they were surprised at how ‘real’ the experience was. Only once the ride was over, was it revealed they had actually zoomed around the Big Boy’s Toys Milwaukee Action Arena. The G-forces they had felt were real.

“These people are genuinely tricked by quality, [and] clever production – they are genuinely surprised," McKee says.

Jaguar's rebranding started in 2008, when the company was sold to Indian car manufacturer Tata Motors in 2008 and brought on British car designer Ian Callum, who designed the F-Type.

“The launch of the F-Type was a catalyst,” says McKee. “It has won awards, and is continuing to win awards.”