It’s all change at Volkswagen as new marketing boss seeks a new model agency structure

A new CMO usually means a pitch but these days CMOs seem to want a new model agency relationship too.

New Volkswagen CMO Jochen Sengpiehl (VW Group has a new CEO in Herbert Diess too) has announced he wants to move to a more centralised model, built around four big hubs: Europe, the US, Latin America and South East Asia. Accordingly there’ll be pitches in all these regions, starting in the US where VW spends around $400m with Interpublic’s Deutsch. VW spends $2bn worldwide.

Sengpiehl (below), who spent three years at Hyundai Europe, told a German newspaper: “We’ve spent far too much money on paid media in the past, and we want to change that.”

Some things don’t change though: agency holding companies have been invited to pitch; which makes you wonder how VW is going to find enough of them.

Omnicom (whose PHD handles VW media) can field DDB, the long-time VW agency around the world and, also, the rather stronger BBDO in the US. It also owns adam&eveDDB, which handles VW in the UK and, recently, has collaborated with DDB Berlin on some assignments. Clearly the US is an opportunity for Omnicom.

Who else might pitch? Interpublic in the US anyway (where it’s also GM’s main agency) but WPP and Publicis Groupe (Renault’s agency) are surely ruled out by conflicts. Publicis recently won Mercedes from BBDO in Europe – setting up a bespoke agency Emil, which might be instructive – while WPP is battling to hang on to Ford, its biggest single account contributing about four per cent of global revenue.

The Emil agency for Mercedes was a piece of nifty footwork by Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun and some people close to the review expect him to try to provide a similar solution for VW. Publicis also handles Skoda (currently in review) which is owned by VW. If Publicis can do it, why not WPP? Ford may be gone by the time these pitches start anyway.

So it’s all about as opaque as it gets. Key to Omnicom’s pitch may be DDB global CEO Wendy Clark, formerly of Coca-Cola. She’s shown a willingness to come up with new constructs for big clients including DDB’s new Unlimited agency in the US for McDonald’s. She’s also supported adam&eve’s efforts to kick on in New York. Might there be a new DDB construct for VW built around adam&eve?

But don’t rule out another surprise intervention from Publicis.

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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.
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