Why VW picked outside agency for 'Wings' spot

Making a Super Bowl TV commercial is the biggest assignment an advertising agency gets. So why did Volkswagen of America skip its agency of record, Deutsch, when it came time to create this year's spot?

Making a Super Bowl TV commercial is the biggest assignment an advertising agency gets. So why did Volkswagen of America skip its agency of record, Deutsch, when it came time to create this year's spot?

VW instead inked a one-off contract with San Francisco agency Argonaut to produce "Wings," which shows a German engineer growing wings every time a VW vehicle reaches 100,000 miles on the odometer.

Michael Horn, the new CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, says Deutsch's contract is not up for review. But the decision to work with Argonaut suggests that all options are on the table to help VW regain momentum.

"We thought it was a good idea to have a change," Horn said in an interview last week. "We don't just have one agency and cling to this agency for its own sake. Sometimes we pitch in for specific projects. We take other agencies and look at what they're doing. This is good, as far as the competitive challenge goes."

Deutsch remains in the picture. The agency's Los Angeles office is flush with VW assignments. It is producing a batch of Tier 2 commercials that regional dealer groups will pay to air on TV. It is also leading a redesign of vw.com and is benchmarking popular Web sites from outside the auto industry, such as match.com, to do it.

VW's new marketing chief, Vinay Shahani, recently told Automotive News that he likes the brand's advertising formula of cute, funny and relatable stories. He said he doesn't intend to change it.

But to keep Horn and Shahani happy, it's likely the formula will need to be remixed.

"The objectives are different compared to last year," Horn said. The marketing "has to be much more product-driven with more sales activation. So now the agency has to move into a different perspective."


You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com

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