Six Questions With Volkswagen's Kevin Mayer

VP-Marketing Dishes On Deutsch, the Super Bowl and the Interactive Beetle

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There aren't many marketing executives who would advertise a convertible as the perfect ride for a freezing winter day--or a sunny night. But that's what Kevin Mayer, VP-marketing for Volkswagen Group of America, is doing in a campaign for the all-new Beetle convertible.


Mr. Mayer and his agency, Deutsch, created a new spot showing a young woman awakened in the wee hours by her boyfriend. But as they tool around town in his Beetle convertible, we see the sun is up, but the streets are deserted. The reason? They're driving around Fairbanks, Alaska, so-called "Land of the Midnight Sun." The tagline: "Perfect for a sunny night. The all-new Beetle convertible." The spot follows one that has been running for some time showing a masked man walking into a convenience store. The cringing cashier fears he's about to rob the joint. But when the oblivious masked man returns to the car, viewers can see that he and his friends are wearing masks because they're driving the Beetle convertible on a winter day.

Marketing spending for the Volkswagen brand has shot up in recent years, jumping from just $200 million when Deutsch won the account in 2009 to more than $360 million in recent years. The company, which also operates Audi, Bentley and Porsche among other brands, ranks as the country's 58th largest national advertiser, according to Ad Age's DataCenter.

You've been advertising on the Super Bowl. Will we see VW during Fox's telecast of the first cold weather Super Bowl?

Mr. Mayer: It's a perennial consideration. For us it always goes back this -- what can we do in that entire quarter that really parlays the Super Bowl? So now we're looking at 2014, and seeing what our priorities are.

Tell me about the iBeetle, which interacts with the iPhone 5 and was introduced at the Shanghai Auto Show last month.

Mr. Mayer: It's pretty cool...we're working toward next year. It's a fully integrated, interactive Beetle. ...It goes back to the way they've set up the infotainment system and some of the features there. The team's still working out those details.

Will we see more cars with iPhone technology in the future?

Mr. Mayer: I think we will. We call it the 'Dummy Screen' in the industry. The dummy screen's already here in that the phone is still the device that we all have a deep engagement with. It's got everything from your life on it. The idea is: Can we create vehicles that amplify that phone experience within the car? It's more about bringing your phone to life within your car, whether it be your apps or your Pandora. So I think that's where a lot of the industry is going behind the scenes. You don't have to necessarily create all the hardware when you've got such powerful phones now. If you can create a screen that actually better integrates with your phone, and again, brings to life in the car and on the screen what's in your phone, then ultimately that's a better experience for the customer.

Are you happy with the Deutsch relationship?

Mr. Mayer: Those guys continue to bring us great work. Rarely do you hit home runs out of the gate with every ad. But I would say, in my career, they're one of the two top agencies I've ever worked with in terms of the quality of ideas we get on a weekly basis. ...We've said in the past, our goal is to do human stories told simply. Deutsch is very good at bringing us ideas that are right in the brand's wheelhouse.

You named Deutsch one of your two shops for great creative ideas. Name the other.

Mr. Mayer: I would say we had some great success at Subaru, with consistent ideas. And that was Carmichael Lynch, back in the day.

Is VW in the market for any new agencies?

Mr. Mayer: No. We have a pretty good group of agencies. We work with Edelman right now in the social and PR space. We're really starting to get our groove there in terms of not only maintaining conversation engagement in the social space, but also developing what I call 'social first' type of ideas. That's a big push for the back half of this year and into 2014. COD is our Hispanic agency. They do great work for us consistently.

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