As far as I can see there are only two TV campaigns out there that I want to watch over and over.
I’ve talked about both of them in previous posts.
Two of the best agencies- according to Ad Age- and according to me: Wieden + Kennedy and Crispin Porter Bogusky, and two very different clients.
When you say “Nike” – you are really saying “Wieden + Kennedy”- the agency has been there almost from the start. All the emotions, all the brand karma – come from this long, sacred relationship between marketer and agency. The latest spots for the “Jumpman” brand- are beautiful. They’ve taken Michael Jordan and made him fresh- they’ve also introduced another classic tagline- “Let your game speak” which may not be “Just do it”- but it’s what Adidas, Reebok and others should have come up with long ago.
It’s also what good advertising should do- let the product speak by itself- without that announcer voice telling you what to think about what you are looking at.
The fact that this “2nd generation” spot has no spoken words in it- yet works- moves it to the top of my list. That they can just take a scene from it- and run it with the logo as a 5 second break- says even more. Granted- we had at least a dozen years of watching Michael Jordan do things on a basketball court that made highlight reels over and over.
In :30 seconds, W+K evokes my emotion- it makes me feel, it moves me, and I’m not even a huge basketball fan. I’ll never buy basketball shoes- just like I’ll never palm a basketball, but, if I did- I’d think that there was some bit of magic in those soles that would move me the way Jordan could.
VW is another story. I grew up loving VW’s – I learned to drive in a ’72 Beetle. This was the brand that helped launch modern advertising- with Bernbach and his “lemon” ad. Then the eighties came- and VW ignored everything that made them what they were- and lost their market share and their brand position- that of inexpensive, reliable and not being a slave to fashion. They also started going through ad agencies like babies go through diapers. Then they landed with a smaller agency out of Boston called “Arnold.” Their “Drivers wanted” started to reconnect the idea of a car as something fun to drive- instead of being about displaying your ___________ (insert ego, machismo, status etc.). The campaigns were simple, they didn’t have the VO saying “with it’s 2.4 liter, double overhead cam drive blah, blah, blah” (Detroit, take note), and they created positive emotional ties between you and your VW- be it driving around town picking up old furniture or taking a drive with friends with the top down on a star lit night.
The campaign did the job- VW didn’t. The cars quality wasn’t there, and these aren’t tennis shoes with a 6 month shelf life- it’s a car- the second largest purchase people make. After years of screwing their customers, they hired a new marketing chief- and said screw you to the agency that bought them a second chance.
Now we have Crispin Porter + Bogusky telling us to “Unpimp your auto.”
From an entertainment standpoint- I love these spots- I laugh at tuner cars all the time. For as much as these kids put into a Subaru WRX, Honda Civic, Dodge Neon, etc- they could have a lot more car. I’d take a used Boxter over a hopped up Civic any day- and I imagine most women would rather say “My boyfriend drives a Porsche” than “my boyfriend has an Eclipse” or- a “Mark V GTI from VW- pretuned by German engineers.”
These spots stick in my head like a bad song on your clock radio that wakes you up from a deep sleep- and then doesn’t go away all day- think “My Sharona” by “The Knack” and then some. That says to me they are good advertising- they cut through the clutter- especially car ads- which as a category are more formulaic than a Big Mac (two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickle, onion on a sesame seed bun- and yes- that tagline has stuck with me for over 30 years).
But, while the Jordan Next gen ads leave me with a feeling of love and awe- the UnPimp spots leave me feeling – well, entertained and that’s it. Yes, people will talk about the spots, and some may now think about VW again- and may go out and look at one- but, in the grand land of automobile choices- I’m not sure I want to own a car that is unPimped- or even associated with that entire genre of transportation.
Granted, I’m not in the tuner car demo- but the VW base price is at least $5K more than the cars they are making fun of. Not only that- the ads local dealers are running in the papers don’t connect at all with this new “campaign.” While this kind of entertainment may work for something like Burger King- where franchises don’t run their own ads- and proudly display anything that is sent down from corporate- the dealers have to be part of the entire buyer experience. Are we going to see lab coats on the sales floor next?
So- as much as it makes me chuckle, and that I enjoy watching it- CP+B need to go back to the drawing board- “Drivers Wanted” beats doing what ever it is with your “fast” any day. And W+K deserves a second shot (they has Subaru for 2 years) at a car account.
My question is to CP+B- can you let your VW speak?
The brand had a voice once- understated, honest, cool- bring it back. Please.

What do you think?