Volkswagen puts the squeeze on DDB Needham

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WOLFSBURG - Volkswagen is putting pressure on DDB Needham, holder of its $400m creative account outside the U.S., with the admission that it is looking for greater creativity in its advertising.

Rumours that the DDB business across 28 countries is up for review have been circulating in Germany with increasing regularity over the past three years. But now VW itself is publicly not discounting the idea.

"We are thinking about many possibilities for strengthening the Volkswagen brand, but have not yet decided how to cope with the matter," says VW spokesman in Germany Fred Baerbock. "This is to say no decision has been made about inviting other agencies or creative groups for a pitch." He adds: "We've been working successfully with DDB Needham for the past 30 years." DDB Needham lost the U.S. account to Boston-based Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot in 1995.

VW also refuses to confirm or deny reports that Marketing Director Dieter Dahlhoff -a supporter of DDB Needham - has been off work for three weeks and will not return to his office. Rolf Koerner, chairman of DDB Needham in Germany was uncontactable as the Daily World Wire went to press.

The German VW brand is leader in its home market with a 19.5% share of car sales, but ranks third in Europe with 11.4%, behind Ford and the top-ranking Vauxhall Opel brand. VW faces intensified competition from new rivals such as the planned Mercedes-Benz A-class, plus its joint venture car with Swatch, the Smart two-seater city car.

Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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