VW ROUTES ATTENTION TO INFOMERCIAL

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Volkswagen of America isn't waiting for a new ad agency to begin rebuilding its image.

The German importer has begun airing a 30-minute infomercial on select cable systems in 27 markets, designed to convey the history of the automaker and to call attention to both current and future products, such as the "Concept One," an updated version of the Beetle that will be marketed before the end of the decade.

Done in a documentary style, the VW brand's first infomercial was created by Gary Stock Co., a Croton Falls, N.Y., marketing agency that specializes in producing training and sales promotion materials for the auto industry.

VW last week named Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot, Boston, as the ad agency for its $90 million account, succeeding Berlin Cameron Doyle, New York. But the infomercial is a strong indication that executives believe there is still plenty of brand equity in VW's heritage, especially in reference to the Beetle.

"Volkswagen's nostalgic past generates warm feelings," said Gordon Alexander, VW's manager-owner communications. "The program positions ourselves as staying true to our course."

VW will make the program available to its 225 owner clubs and to readers of Volkswagen World, an owner magazine. Also, 430,000 VW owners are being offered the video as part of a direct marketing effort put together by Rapp Collins, Chicago, touting a leasing program for the VW Jetta.

VW is spending more than $2 million on the cable effort, including tune-in spots that air on cable channels other than the one where the infomercial is airing.

The format presents the VW story as if it were a documentary show, carrying the title, "In Our Time." The infomercial includes interviews with automotive historians and journalists.

The show itself is interrupted for "commercial breaks," in which current VW advertising appears. An 800-number appears at the end, for interested viewers to call for a copy of the video or other information.

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