Despite great work, C-K faces Porsche ad review


Scene from C-K/Porsche “Family Tree” spot

No rhyme. No reason. Ridiculous. Disgusting.  Welcome to the often impossible-to-fathom world of advertising.  Especially the world of advertising as it seems to play out in Chicago.

Just a few days ago, Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago got the stomach-churning news no agency wants to hear:  Porsche North America, one of C-K’s biggest and certainly one of its most high-profile clients, was putting its ad account into review.

The news came not only as the holiday season was kicking into high gear, but also — incredibly, unbelievably — at a time when Porsche North America was enjoying its highest car sales in history.  What client in their right mind makes the decision to start a review just when that kind of sales news is being disseminated?

But — miraculously, incredibly — there have been no shouts of anger from within C-K.  Rather, the agency has said it will participate in the review.

Apparently, C-K executives , including most significantly CEO Peter Krivkovich, believe the shop has as good a chance as any of winning this thing — despite the grim statistics that would suggest otherwise when it comes to incumbents emerging victorious from reviews. 

Review initiated by Porsche global headquarters

We don’t yet know who the other agency participants will be.

Why is C-K hopeful?  Well, sources say one reason is that this review was not technically initiated by Porsche North America executives. 

The decision to conduct the review was made in Stuttgart, Germany, Porsche’s global headquarters. And there in Stuttgart the decision was made to make this a global review — meaning that Porsche intends to conduct agency reviews in every country where it has a presence and an ad agency.

Sources also say that in at least one instance where the review has been completed, an incumbent agency was the winner. Which perhaps provides a glimmer of hope for C-K, but perhaps not much more.

Whatever the reasons for this mandated global agency review, it seems reasonable to assume Porsche North America’s top brass could have mounted a strong argument against such a move in the United States at least, especially given the strong sales figures.

Something about the marketing campaign C-K had developed for the luxury car brand was obviously clicking here.  There was no need to start tampering with success. But this is the advertising world we’re talking about, where, increasingly, little seems to make sense.

C-K’s Porsche 2007 win was elating but not game changing

News of the Porsche agency review prompted us to think back to that moment some five years ago when word first flashed around the Chicago ad world that Cramer-Krasselt had won the Porsche business.

Those were, for the most part, dark days indeed in the Chicago ad industry — perhaps the darkest in history.  Agencies were losing accounts.  Employee rosters were being slashed.  And once-great DDB/Chicago, in particular, looked to be on death’s doorstep, thanks in large measure to chronic mismanagement over a period of years.  And we do mean chronic.

But then came Porsche.

Whoops of joy erupted all over the place. See!  Chicago wasn’t dead. How could a Chicago ad agency attract such a glitzy, ritzy client if there was no hope.  No talent.  Nothing to sing the praises of in the Chicago ad world.

Truth be told, we weren’t among the most ecstatic when the Porsche news first broke way, way back in 2007.  We were certainly glad to see C-K pull in a really nice, important client.

But we also were levelheaded enough to recognize C-K’s good fortune wouldn’t necessarily change the reality throughout the rest of the Chicago ad world even as Cramer-Krasselt celebrated.

Great work insufficient to ward off review

Marshall Ross, C-K’s creative honcho  The most important point in all of this, however, is that Cramer-Krasselt obviously didn’t disappoint Porsche after it won the business.  The shop, to its great credit, went on to produce some lovely, interesting work that obviously has benefited the Porsche brand in North America.

And yet.  All the work the shop produced obviously wasn’t enough to ward off this ugly news.  This unwarranted agency review.

That the agency has opted to participate means there will be little time to celebrate this holiday season. Plans will have to begin soon for the pitch that shouldn’t have been required.

C-K’s longtime creative honcho Marshall Ross, who oversees creative departments at Cramer-Krasselt’s four outposts, will, of course, play a major role in this pitch that shouldn’t have been.  But it also will be a first big test of what Derek Green, the recently-arrived new executive creative director in C-K’s Chicago office, can bring to the table. 

If C-K is victorious, he will be rightly lauded.  If Porsche leaves the agency, well, let’s just say Green will have a little less to crow about going forward.

In any event, this ugly, unnecessary agency review is expected to be finished late in the first half of 2013.  Until then, we all will just have to wait and wonder why.

Why? Why? Why?

Contact Lewis Lazare at