Paul Simons: why VW should teach non-German car advertisers an old but valuable lesson

VW continues to deliver memorable advertising

It is rare for car advertising to sustain a core brand personality over time; the pressure of ‘shifting the metal’ results in tactical advertising featuring new models without any real connection between different executions.

There are a few exceptions and it is interesting the German marques seem better at sticking to their brand ID over time; Audi and BMW being two good examples.

VW’s brand personality is credited to DDB all those years ago when the US agency produced the iconic advertising for the Beetle (below). Over the years the UK agency has managed to develop the style and feel for the brand with many excellent examples.

I have never really understood the lack of continuity with most car advertising given for most of us the consideration of buying a new car is a long process.

I noticed VW are running the range spot again featuring cars with different dogs in the different models from last year. It feels it has borrowed some of the values from John Lewis, not surprising perhaps as it is from adam&eve/DDB, the JLP agency. It is a 60 second montage of different models with different dogs set against the Barry Louis Polisar track, ‘Me and You’. The end line is ‘There is a VW for all of us.’

I’ve seen it a few times on TV and for me it stands out as a fresh and distinctive spot for a car marque. The dog connection is smart; a nation of dog lovers, with the deeper connection of linking the breed to owners and different cars. The track is spot on, something dog owners would get instantly as the relationship between owner and hound is very strong. Also the quality of the production is excellent.

I would have thought the learning Adam&Eve have nurtured with JLP is about leaving the audience with a warm and positive feeling about the brand. JLP advertising doesn’t set out to sell this week’s goods like many retailers; it establishes a ‘positioning’ that connects with the target audience.

The VW work is similar. Most importantly it is memorable unlike so much of the fodder on TV for cars. The current work for Seat for example is banal and instantly forgettable; I have no recollection of what it was telling me about the marque. Also given it is banal it effects how I view the brand.

As I’m writing this a radio spot is on in the background for the Ford Focus. It’s rubbish and 30 seconds later I can’t recall what it was trying to tell me!

I wonder if, in the case of VW, Audi, BMW the top management recognise their brand ID as an asset and therefore protect how it is communicated. Based on observation I would have guessed many others don’t recognise this strength of the German marques.

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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies.
Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.

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