VW Gets Lost in the Translation

Volkswagen of America’s review for a shop to handle Spanish-language chores is not expected to have an immediate or a significant impact on its relationship with Arnold.

The search is down to “a handful” of agencies, according to VW representative Steve Keyes. At least three shops in the Southeast and Southwest are participating, sources said. VW plans a selection by month’s end.

Executives at Boston-based Arnold, which has been VW’s lead shop for nearly seven years, are advising the client on the Hispanic agency search, said Keyes.

No broader review is on tap, Keyes said. Even so, senior managers at the agency are concerned about the addition of an outside resource and have vowed to address any dissatisfaction VW may have with the shop’s performance, sources said.

Arnold’s “Drivers wanted” positioning for VW still plays well among diverse market segments, and the client has no problems with the agency’s efforts, said Keyes. VW has determined of late, however, that the campaign does not resonate with Spanish-speaking consumers. The client is opting for original creative in that language, rather than continue adapting Arnold’s ads, he said.

VW, which ranks as Arnold’s largest account, spent $300 million on all U.S. ads through October 2001, per CMR. The client spent $350 million for full-year 2000. The budget for the Hispanic project is undisclosed.

Keyes said it had not been determined if funding for a separate Spanish-language campaign would come out of the existing marketing budget or if new money would be appropriated.

After enjoying sales gains of 44 and 13 percent in 1999 and 2000, respectively, Volkswagen in 2001 moved 355,648 cars in the U.S., up only slightly from the 355,479 vehicles sold in 2000. The automaker however, continues to rank asthe American market’s best-sell-ing European car brand.