VW Moves Forward With Goodby, Deutsch; Reading Between the Lines on CP+B

By Matt Van Hoven 

Volkswagen has moved Goodby and Deutsch to the next, leaving Tribal DDB and Wieden & Kennedy out. You can read the full story here. However, we have some insight into why Crispin may have left the automaker behind &#151 which may not have had anything to do with their rule about not defending work.

There’s more to every story, and in the case of Crispin leaving VW very little has been said publicly. This is speculative, at best, but based on things said by Alex Bogusky, it’s safe to assume that Crispin had ideas that VW did not feel comfortable implementing &#151 and proof of this is pretty much everywhere.

Clue 1: This one’s easy, but overlooked. Sure, Crispin didn’t defend the work, stating that it’s their policy not to defend. Fine. But this is Crispin Porter + Bogusky we’re talking about, and furthermore, VW. These are arguably two of the strongest brands in the advertising realm, and both know it. It’s a safe bet that whatever Crispin had in mind for VW was either too risque for them or too short-sighted &#151 meaning CP+B probably wanted to do a number of small things that would all individually build toward brand harmony, but could appear disjointed and sloppy to the nervous marketing executive. Bottom line: Crispin doesn’t defend, feeling that their ultimate goals for the brand don’t align with VW’s &#151 at least when it comes to the road they’d take to achieve said goals.

Clue 2: Bogusky’s speech to Best Buy employees in early September, just weeks after AgencySpy broke the news that his agency would not defend the account. During the talk he mentioned that Toyota doesn’t know what their customers want (but thinks they want cars). Later he mentions that GM should be developing a bike-sharing program. These are not-so-subtle hints about what Bogusky thinks the auto-industry should be doing, and at no point has he mentioned Nissan (or Kia/Hyundai, to be fair). And, oh, haven’t you heard they’re vying for Nissan. Last point: we hear things are rough at Chiat.

Clue 3: Baked In, Bogusky and former CP+Ber John Winsor’s new book, has an entire section on automotive communication, relating specifically to the idea that the most successful products (today) share something with the consumers who love them. That relationship begins at product development, and spurs from previous products. “As organizations,” the pair write, “the Big Three just didn’t know how to innovate anymore. It was as though it had been bred out of their corporate DNA. So they missed the chance to have fuel-efficient cars when the public wanted them. At the same time, many of the tools they relied on so heavily, like traditional advertising, had lost their power, and they didn’t have any news any of us wanted to spread among our friends.”

Read: Crispin Porter + Bogusky will never, ever work for (or attempt to work for) Toyota, Ford, Chrysler or GM. Or VW, obviously &#151 because these companies appear incapable of thinking of themselves as anything other than what they are, and since Crispin’s job is to remold everything, companies that seem immovable will never be their clients.

So, is this proof that Crispin never intended to stay with VW? Of course not. But we’ve heard that in light of the Big Three’s current situation, VW and other once-small market car companies are planning major advertising pushes in the U.S. &#151 something CP+B would disagree with out of the gate, we’d bet. That leaves one option: a CP+B treatment the likes of which has never been seen.

“If you don’t have what they want,” write Winsor and Bogusky, “they’ll either get it from a competitor or somewhere else in the world or perhaps build it themselves.” And though the final method, building it yourself, may seen far-fetched &#151 we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Crispin’s thinking about auto-advertising deals more in that realm. Whatever that means.

Note: The fine print on this story is that we have to ask ourselves whether or not we care what the winning agency does with VW. Auto-advertising sucks as a rule, and if VW’s break-up with Crispin is any indication of the kind of work they’re looking for, we expect it to be (on some level) boring. Even if the work is award winning. Here’s my point: don’t you want to know what CP+B had in mind for VW? If they could build a car company, what would it look like?

More:First on AgencySpy: VW Up For Grabs; Crispin Will Not Defend