VW Rabbit Meets ‘Playboy’ Bunny

LOS ANGELES As a part of its “Rabbit is back” campaign for Volkswagen, MDC Partners’ Crispin Porter + Bogusky said it arranged for the three Playboy Bunnies on the magazine’s September front cover to appear in a reverse angle shot on the back cover ad sporting the Rabbit icon. Polybagged versions of the magazine ship this week, the agency said.

Clad only in their panties, one of the models, Holly Madison, has the red VW Rabbit icon, which has been used in guerrilla outdoor postings in the campaign, as an apparent tattoo on her bare lower back. The copy, including the Playboy logo, is in reverse type, suggesting transparency to the front cover, and reads, “The Volkswagen Rabbit. It’s Back.”

“The original idea was to replace the actual the hidden Bunny icon on the cover,” said Rob Strasberg, vice president and creative director at the Miami agency. “But Playboy said no one messes with that rabbit. So we went back and threw this other option at them.”

Strasberg said the Rabbit is “one of the most youthful cars, and we definitely wanted to keep the male promiscuity of the rabbit in there, so the rabbit made sense and the target matches Playboy.”

The campaign had already suggested the connection between fast-reproducing bunnies and the Rabbit, including a 60-second spot in which black-and-white Rabbits are driven around a city as if in a mating dance. After they emerge from a tunnel, other Rabbits, including ones with paint jobs suggesting the mixed genes of both parents, emerge; dogs chase them down the road; and finally the streets are clogged with Rabbits.

The wild postings have appeared in major cities in unexpected places. Each posting has a specific connection to the city in which it appears. For example, Miami postings show an alligator, mosquito, and rabbit. New York’s have a pigeon and cockroach. Los Angeles postings, however, show a Chihuahua and a Playboy Bunny icon as part of the promotion.

Strasberg said the original idea for the Playboy cover came from Jeff Steinhour, a partner and head of account services at the agency. “The big thought was getting VW to bring Rabbit back, because we love it. It’s playful and fun. It wasn’t a leap to go from rabbits to fornication and multiplying. But when you can play with another brand’s icon, it raises both brands,” he said.

The Auburn Hills, Mich.-based company spent $340 million advertising in 2005 and $130 million through May 2005, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

VW unit sales were up 6 percent in June over the same month last year and increased 20 percent to 116,000 units in the first six months of 2006, according to Car Concepts in Thousand Oaks, Calif.