Home > marketing ramblings > How to ruin a brand

How to ruin a brand

Of all the enduring advertising legacies – and there are surprisingly few remaining – surely the proudest is DDB’s work for Volkswagen. In an industry that likes to pride itself upon its creativity, yet by the same token is responsible for inflicting Webuyanycar.com on an unsuspecting television audience, VW’s advertising has exhibited a commitment to creative excellence and lateral thinking since Bill Bernbach’s “Think small” Beetle ad.

That ad, from 1959, has been the inspiration, more or less, for every VW campaign since. That’s 52 years of advertising linked by a commitment to creativity, craft skills and a respect for the intelligence of the general public. Advertising that has sustained a consistent tone of voice and refused to conform, patronise or dumb down.

Apart from the considerable number of cars this philosophy has enabled VW to sell, the company’s marketing heritage has also permitted advertising professionals to feel better about what we do. Even the worst VW ad tries to do things differently, and when they get it right – as with the recent Polo ‘Tango’ ad by Jonathan Glazer – they allow people like me to feel that sometimes, what we do does contribute more to the world than simply trying to sell stuff. At the age of 18, I decided I wanted to write TV commercials for a living because I liked the idea of trying to create 30 seconds’ worth of funny, engaging, original words and pictures. I still do.

That’s why my heart sank when I saw the new VW Passat commercial. If you haven’t seen it, take a look here . Then think of all the witty, memorable, iconic VW ads of the last few years. Remember the brilliant press campaign for the small but tough Polo, or the ads for VW automatics that featured all those discarded left shoes. Brilliant, brilliant work; the result of hours of sweat, intelligence and inspiration. The very best of our industry. Now this: an apparent attempt to do some serious damage to an advertising legacy that has been nurtured and lovingly created over 52 years. I assume VW wanted to create something that could be easily translated into 25 languages. Well, on that level they’ve succeeded. It’s universally shit.

I was watching TV with my eight-year old daughter on Saturday morning. She saw this spot, and said “Stupid ad”. If only you knew, Maddie. If only you knew.


Here’s the new Passat commercial from the US, which will be appearing in this year’s Superbowl. I would wager a few quid that this spot will sell more cars than the Euro-scheisse VW are running in the UK.

Categories: marketing ramblings
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: