Rabbit Enthusiasm

The Bitch chases down rumors about VW's new model

There is little The Bitch loves more than the languid days of summer, when there is nothing but lawn darts, Parcheesi, backgammon, shuffleboard, and Wiffle ball to occupy twilight game-time. But one sport captures a canine's heart like no other: catch-and-release bunny-chasing. So the intrepid hound's ears pricked up at rumors of a sleek, new breed of rabbit that will soon hit our every-day-I'm-hustlin' urban streets. Turns out this one is for riding, not chasing.

In a move unprecedented in automotive history, powerhouse Miami ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky basically told the folks at Volkswagen early this year it was time to bag the Golf and reintroduce the Rabbit. The VW people agreed, and a publicity campaign for the return of one of Volks's most famous cars should begin soon.

There has been some muted publicity about the subject in the trade press, but little about CP+B's name-change gambit until this week, when Business Week played a story about the agency on its cover.

Photos Courtesy of Volkswagen


Steve Keyes, Volkswagen's Michigan-based director of corporate communications, said the company had planned to produce just another version of the 22-year-old Golf, but decided on a new-old name. "The decision to rename the Golf to Rabbit was based on the fact that our market was going to receive the new-generation Golf in late June," Keyes continued. "With the introduction, we had the opportunity to change the name as a nod to the passionate North American enthusiasts who have an emotional connection with the Rabbit name."

And Keyes admitted, "CP+B recommended the nomenclature change to Volkswagen's director of brand innovation, Kerri Martin." (Martin is the storied marketing brain who collaborated with CP+B on the ad campaign for the Cooper Mini. She left Cooper for VW in the fall of 2005. CP+B has had the account since December 2005.)

CP+B's creatives are behind innovative campaigns such as the freaky King-character-dominated spate of Burger King television spots, the anti-smoking "Truth" initiative, and the often three-dimensional print ads and billboards for the Mini. Crispin Porter, like the legendary Saatchi & Saatchi, has a reputation for a cultish, hard-driving environment with an emphasis on loyalty and omerta, though dogs are welcome in its Coconut Grove office.

Indeed, even though The Bitch is thrilled at the reinvigorated Rabbit, CP+B gave her the cold flank when she began nosing around. "It would be premature to talk about the Rabbit advertising campaign," Katie Kempner, the agency's vice president and director of communications, tersely told The Bitch. "And we did not have anything to do with the design of the car."

But a Bitch tipster suggested that maybe the agency and VW aren't telling all, saying that the firm contributed sketches of something quite a bit different and unusual to VW. "I've seen some of the printouts of the new Rabbit, and if the car is anything like these drawings, people are going to be blown away," observed a CP+B insider, adding that agency employees are under strict orders not to discuss Rabbit specifics until the ad campaign breaks into public advertising view.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky received hometown recognition of its worldwide ascendancy this week when the 47th annual Clio Festival visited Miami Beach. The six categories of awards were bestowed over four days beginning Saturday with a kickoff party at the Delano hotel on Collins Avenue.

Though the soiree at the Delano featured two hours of open bar and circulating trays of mojitos, the ad biz unsheathed its ultracompetitive, one-upping nature as partygoers showcased their wit and ambition in a series of id-wracking parlor games.

There was the old standby, the dance-class exercise of "trust," wherein one player leans backward to the tipping point, supposedly to be caught by a partner standing at the ready. Then came a second round of sport that involved distributing a sort of "Hello! My name is ..." tags, upon which each player wrote "the adjective that best describes your style," according to the volunteer handing out the labels. This freestyle battle was intense, with creative penmanship battling vocabulary, the word "rockin'" seemingly a favorite of men from the Midwest.

Fortunately James Thomas, a delegate from Delaware who does freelance graphic design for several agencies, did not allow the mojitos to melt away into sugar water, downing a notable half-dozen before trotting up the Delano's terrace steps to its cavernous lobby (where Christina Ricci sat in a modest INC dress). Thomas told The Bitch he's the noncutthroat type, identifying himself as "like a modern version of Michael Steadman from Thirtysomething [the late-Eighties television program about an ad agency run by sensitive, whiny yuppies]."

Thomas, wearing a nonconformist pink oxford shirt and plaid trousers, voiced his aspiration to someday work on a CP+B campaign, citing the firm's work "as the most creative stuff out there that's still widely seen in all markets."

His peers apparently agreed: Clio panels bestowed their favor upon CP+B with gold awards in the integrated media and print/poster categories for campaigns for the Cooper Mini and Miller Lite. One of the memorable Mini ads was a magazine piece that featured a perforated Mini model that could be punched out and folded into a three-dimensional mini Mini.

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