Yet another agency review for Volkswagen. After DDB, Arnold & Crispin, where do they go?
August 19, 2009
VW advertising: Inspired vs. Inspired lunacy
Volkswagen is in review. Either the churlish magicians at Crispin Porter & Bogusky ran out of spells (doubtful) or VW’s brand managers ran out of patience (more likely). Here is a quote from their VP of marketing, Tim Ellis pulled from Adweek:
“The Volkswagen brand needs to inspire our base of enthusiasts as well as reach out and captivate those in mainstream America. Therefore, we are re-evaluating all areas of our business, and after careful considerations have decided to take the necessary steps to ensure we have the right agency partner in place.”
For their part, CP&B provided a polite good-bye, citing their policy not to defend in reviews. Bully for them.
Forgive me the following cliché’ but “Yada, yada, yada.”
This is not the first time a red-hot agency came, made its mark on VW, then left. We all know the history. Doyle Dane Bernbach changed advertising forever by calling the VW Bug a “Lemon” in an advert. Dozens more iconic print and TV ads followed. This was a big deal for both parties but mostly (and somewhat secretly) it was a big deal for the agency. When the buzz died so too did sales. And so began a rollercoaster ride for the automaker that has continued to this day, of dizzying highs and demoralizing lows.
VW has got to be the most underachieving car brand in the world. Always flirting with being great but never achieving it. VW is like someone’s troubled big sister: sexy, beautiful, well heeled, but she just can’t get her act together. Always in the conversation but never in the driveway. What’s her problem? She has everything going for her. Poor girl. What a shame.
You’ll notice I keep referring to Volkswagen as a “she.” That’s because it’s a female brand, unmistakably feminine. And that just might be the problem. VW is German. And Germany is masculine…very, very, very masculine. How does the brand reconcile the two? My opinion, it doesn’t. Hence the metaphor of one’s confused big sister. Can you say bi-curious?
VW has always adored creativity. Hence all those fun ads from DDB, Arnold and CP&B. But America has trepidations about this girly German. The ads draw us to her but then we, too, get confused. Guys won’t (can’t?) buy Jettas and Pissots and certainly not the Bug, with that silly flower holder by the dash. Das Auto looks like a lady! Clearly, not enough women buy VWs either. I think they’re just as puzzled by the brand.
Whichever agencies participate in the review better not get hung up on the brand’s notorious advertising past. They and Volkswagen would be better served delivering a message of stability and integrity. The hipster stuff is just making everybody nervous.
While you’re musing on the sexual orientation of Volkswagen, check out the fascinating anthem below. Somewhere inside it lurks both VW’s problem and solution.