Rolls-Royce turns to KBS for US sales but don’t expect a David Ogilvy-style big ad campaign

Rolls-Royce was the campaign that made legendary adman David Ogilvy ultra famous (‘At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock’) and now US agency Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners (KBS) has been handed the tricky task of carrying on the great man’s work.

Ogilvy produced his ads at Ogilvy & Mather in the 1950s for the then proudly-independent UK luxury carmaker. Rolls is now owned by German giant BMW, which recently appointed KBS to handle its account after moving from GSD&M Idea City.

The US is the biggest market for Rolls although China and the rest of the Far East are catching up fast. With the cars costing up to $500,000 each it hardly makes sense to run a big mass media campaign so Rolls says its activities will be focussed on relationship marketing.

According to Steve Thibodeau, chief digital officer at KBS: “It won’t be with a postcard or a No.10 envelope. It will be more like hand-made artifacts; give somebody something of value, something that makes them want to pick up the phone and make an appointment.”

This sounds ominously like the dreaded ‘goodie bags,’ giving people who are already rich yet more expensive freebies.

But Rolls is on a roll, despite these straightened times, with sales 60 per cent up this year. It would be nice if they could find a bit of money (two cars’ worth maybe) to give KBS the chance to match Ogilvy with some snooty but nice advertising.

Apropos the Ogilvy ad, the sub-head is even more defiantly Ogilvy-ish than the headline: ‘What makes Rolls-Royce the best car in the world? “There is really no magic about it – it is merely patient attention to detail,” says an eminent Rolls-Royce engineer.’

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.