Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What happened to Volkswagen?

@martysg sent me a tweet following the Super Bowl.

“@slprquattro Did you see that Deutsch VW ad last night? They never shoulda dumped CP+B. Terrible.”

While I can’t necessarily say that they never should have dumped CP+B. CP+B isn’t for everyone and I get that but I can say that VW’s work in general has gone down the crapper in my humble opinion. I don't know if the agency can shoulder all the blame though.

First off let me give overall commentary about the SB spots. I do this because it's important to my philosophy about creative. 98% of the work sucked and I'm fine with my manliness, thank you very much. The best two spots in my mind were the Google spot and the Dorito's "Momma" spot. The former seems generally agreed, the latter I would say is highly subjective and a matter of personal taste.

One might legitimately ask, what the hell do I know? My personal top five nor #brandbowl’s were in USA Today's top 50. And I'm going to guess that USA Today is more representative of the country than #brandbowl or me for that matter. Bottom line is that the disparity between #brandbowl and USA Today should register pause in and of itself. There’s obviously an intellectual disconnect somewhere.

One point: We should make a distinction between great, really good and good. Great should be designated as once in a lifetime… we talk about it for years. Really good means it stands out in the category and continually performs well and perhaps is imitated. Good means it basically does its job. And let’s not forget, the company and product have to stand behind the work.

In general, I think really good broadcast requires finding the subtleties or the intangibles. Most spots have a moment to be great but miss it. Most of the SB spots missed it. Some showed hints of brilliance but most missed it by a long shot.

In VW's case, I think that there is a clear desire to appeal more to the mainstream. But does that mean that you have to be GM? OK that might be a little harsh but in my view, advertising needs to inspire and engage, especially when your core customer is less mainstream. Furthermore, just because it’s a :30 spot does not mean that the rules of suspension of disbelief don’t still apply. And based on the most recent Forrester report it doesn't seem ads are delivering as of late.

The reason why the VW spot was such a disappointment to me is because they have a history of greatness. And SB spots are supposed to be great or at least really good.

Now, with regards to VW, as you might gather from my twitter name, @slprquattro, I'm a bit smitten with Audi/VW. Don’t worry I won’t bore you with my ownership history. I've also followed their agency track record, ummm a bit. VW has always flirted with brilliance going back to the days of the DDB Beatle ads.

My all time favorite was the New York Times Magazine ad after Jerry Garcia died. Whoa.

"Driver's Wanted" debuted and put the company squarely back on the map and re-established it in America’s consciousness. DaDaDaDa was the talk of the water coolers. The "Pink Moon" spot quite literally brought Nick Drake back from the dead. I also loved the "Mr Roboto" spot and the "Singing in the Rain" spot was very cool. At the end of the day, the "Driver’s Wanted" campaign was sheer brilliance. It drove sales and clearly showed that VW and Arnold knew the customer.

More recently, VW in my opinion had some nice efforts with "Safe Happens" which were sobering to say the least. And “Unpimp Ze Auto” but admittedly those spots weren’t for everyone. I also liked the “Make Friends with Your Fast” effort. Perhaps less memorable than "Unpimp" and again not for everyone but nevertheless good demonstrations of the sensibilities of the audiences they were trying to reach.

The “Punch Dub” spot perhaps had potential but misses the mark (even with the punch to gramp’s gonads and the Tracy Morgan and Stevie Wonder cameo). I don't think it's the agency's fault. I don't think CP+B could have saved them either. Liz Vanzura and Kerri Martin's impact are missed. I think VWs issues are probably embedded in a client who’s playing it safe and has forgotten about their core customer.

These days that’s the last place I’d want to be.

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