VW, Crispin Split Despite Increase in Market Share

Automaker Seeks New U.S. Agency of Record for $200 Million-Plus Account

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Despite a rise in market share and a comparatively soft sales decline vs. competitors, Volkswagen of America is bidding auf Wiedersehen to Crispin Porter & Bogusky after a four-year run.

VW is reviewing to find a new U.S. agency of record for its $200 million-plus account despite seeing its market share climb to 2% from 1.6% through July, according to Automotive News figures, the result of a 13.5% sales decline as the decimated auto market as a whole fell 32%.

But despite those U.S. numbers, VW has been experiencing significant change at the global level, where it has been gaining ground on the likes of Toyota and General Motors of late. In addition to winning a long-running takeover battle for Porsche, it recently added former Fiat marketing chief Luca De Meo as its new global marketing chief.

"Our goal of rapidly increasing our volume in a mature market requires the Volkswagen brand to evolve into a more relevant mainstream choice," Tim Ellis, VP-marketing at Volkswagen of America, said in a statement. "The Volkswagen brand needs to inspire our base of enthusiasts as well as reach out and captivate those in mainstream America. Therefore, we are re-evaluating all areas of our business and after careful considerations have decided to take the necessary steps to ensure we have the right agency partner in place."

Search consultancy Roth Associates will run the review.

In a statement, a Crispin spokeswoman said the agency would not attempt to defend the account despite being invited to do so. "We have been privileged to have had the opportunity to work with Volkswagen for the past four years and are extremely proud of all that we have accomplished together. As a rule, we do not participate in reviews for our current accounts, and this will not be an exception. We wish Volkswagen the absolute best."

Crispin's work for Volkswagen was often controversial and occasionally bizarre, with characters such as the lab-coat-clad Helga and taglines such as "Find your fast," and "Unpimp mein auto." One series of jarring ads meant to emphasize safety showed a serene conversation in a car jolted without warning by an unforeseen collision. Another featured a painfully awkward German hip-hop singer. The agency also enlisted Brooke Shields as a narrator supposedly perturbed about families having children just to have an excuse to buy a Routan minivan, which VW also sold to soccer fans with a viral campaign mocking soccer moms. More recently, ads have featured a vintage VW Bug hosting a late-night-style talk show.

VW spent about $205 million on U.S. measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

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Michael Bush contributed to this report.

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