You probably love or hate Crispin Porter + Bogusky. You may not know them by name, but you've seen their advertising work. Think the King, Big Buck'n Chicken or Whopper Freak-out from Burger King. Or Windows Mojave, Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates or I'm a PC from Microsoft. And for the last four years, anything that you have seen from VW.
Volkswagon has had a storied advertising past, from their iconic "Think Small" from DDB in the 50's, through the cultural phenomena that was the VW microbus in the 60's. They were early venturers in product placement in the 70's with the Herbie the Lovebug films, and through the 80's and 90's expanded their Jetta, Rabbit, Golf and Passat lineups with advertising that was way above par. In the Early 2000's, Arnold Worldwide was doing extremely interactive and fun things with the brand, starting with the launch of the New Beetle and extending that buzz across their entire brand. I remember the "There's a yellow one." ads off the top of my head.
But in 2005, something that happens quite frequently, but isn't talked about much, happened. A marketing executive from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, left to change jobs. As a matter of happenstance, she went to work for a "small" car company called Volkswagon. And when it was time for an agency review, guess what agency she favored. Goodbye Arnold, hello CP+B and more personally, goodbye to my College plan to work for Arnold here in STL.
Anyway, you may remember the "My Fast" campaign, featuring a little humming creature sitting in the passenger seat of thos drivers that find it hard to control their fast. That was one of the earliest CP+B VW campaigns. Subsequent campaigns have featured extremely realistic and often unexpected car crashes, a lot of lame but funny usage of "Germa-nglish" like "Unpimp Mein Auto", and recently a talk show-esque set of spots, featuring a pristine vintage Bug as the host.
No more. C'est la vie.
VW is looking to become more mainstream, and they don't feel that Crispin Porter + Bogusky is the right agency to get them there. I can't help but agree with them. Look, people love to hate CP+B, or at least root against them, but they have done a good job, especially with VW. Adage.com sites that VW's market share climbed:
"to 2% from 1.6% through July, according to Automotive News figures, the result of a 13.5% sales decline as the decimated auto market as a whole fell 32%"
But, I describe Crispin as a "Underdog" shop. Their style and marketing sensibilities cater to clients that have nothing to lose in gaining ground in the consumer conscious and pocket book. Look at Burger King, Dominos and Sprite as examples of that. All of which are chasing giants.
Even their Microsoft Vista stuff screams, "We're not as good, but...
So, for VW, if they want to become a more mainstream choice, and yet maintain their immaculate brand, I don't think that CP+B is the right agency for them.
Many VW lovers are worried about their beloved brand trying for the mainstream, especially as so many mainstream automakers are failing. But, I don't see how wanting a larger market share does not require cannibalizing your niche brand or charm. There is no reason why when someone is shopping for a Honda or Toyota (which are a lot of people), they shouldn't also be thinking VW (which is not as many people). And Honda and Toyota's public perception, brand and quaity hasn't been compromised. At least not as I see it.
VW will find an agency that will do them right. And now is the time when market share is up for grabs as we come out of the recession. I don't fear that they will go the Krispy Kreme route, and toss their brand and let quality suffer for short term profitability. Plus every ad man and woman has dreamed about this "holy grail" of accounts. Anyone who gets their hands on it will handle it with the respect and creativity it deserves.
Here's a look back ad VW ads from the past (Stolen from this blog):