DDB Needham Worldwide chairman Keith Reinhard had personally worked on Audi advertising since 1986. And so, it seems, he took it a bit personally when the German automaker, the luxury division of Volkswagen, decided to end the 24-year relationship with the agency.
A note dated March 31 from the chairman that circulated inside Needham outlined the agency’s relationship with the car maker. It includes a skewering of the press over Audi’s version of Pearl Harbor, which was the first airing of the 60 Minutes program that depicted tearful and angry Audi owners who had had accidents, and banded together, to charge the company with an engineering miscue that made the Audi 5000 prone to speeding out of control.
While the note from Reinhard carries a tone of loyalty to Audi, and praise for the company’s product, some also view it as somewhat defensive. ‘Over the next six years (after the 60 Minutes program), we worked long and hard with six consecutive Audi management teams to help them ‘Take Control’ and win back the rightful place their outstanding cars deserve. Last year, while nowhere near the record 1985 levels, Audi’s U.S. sales were up 20% from 1991, and so far this year, they are running 15% above 1992 levels.’ Reinhard went on, ‘Now, Audi of America has chosen to end our 24-year relationship in the U.S. The decision is theirs alone and in no way diminishes our belief in the Audi product, the future for Audi in the United States, nor our absolute commitment to the success of Audi worldwide (DDB still handles Audi overseas). As the new leadership of Audi moves ahead without us, we wish them well as they complete the task of rebuilding U.S. sales and reputation for a remarkable car we have grown to love.’
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)