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Crispin Porter: Is Boutique Advertising Dead?

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Crispin Porter + Bogusky has long been an anchor of Miami business. Coconut Grove-cool and booming. But now it's on the decline, and this smells bad for the South Florida economy. Indeed, as the recession cools off spending among high-end consumers, the falling fortunes of this leader in boutique advertising world might have broader implications. 

Tuesday it was announced the company lost its staple -- and coolest -- account with Volkswagen. The reason is unclear. VW, it seems, wants to go mainstream and so decided to review its advertising generally. Like a girl who doesn't attend the dance because she might not be invited onto the floor, Crispin declined to compete against others for the $220 million contract and issued this statement: "As a rule, we do not participate in reviews

for current accounts and this will not be an exception."

In the past few years, Crispin has picked up big business, including Microsoft, Old Navy, and Burger King, and shifted some of its focus away from Miami to Boulder, Colorado. All of this doesn't seem very Coconut Grove-cool to me. I mean, Apple has made Microsoft famously uncool. And I recently bought a pair of socks at Old Navy in a strip mall for 50 cents. (I am decidedly not cool.)  

What does it all mean? The recession has hurt everyone -- and it was the Volkswagen ad campaigns designed by Crispin (the latest feature Brooke Shields and a talking Bug) that made the firm one of the nation's hottest several years ago. Last year, there were senior management layoffs at CP+B, and early this year, the agency dispatched 60 of 900 employees.

The loss of Volkswagen is sure to cause more problems.

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