CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE: THE MANY FACES OF ... VOLKSWAGEN - On the Web, a brand has a life beyond the control of its marketing department In the first of a new series, John Owen examines how the online personality of Volkswagen is developing.

Key any brand name into a search engine or online directory, such as Yahoo!, and you get far more than the official site the brand owner would like you to see. Volkswagen owners are notoriously passionate about the brand and there is much evidence of this in the 378 sites Yahoo! UK found for Campaign’s 1997 Advertiser of the Year.

Key any brand name into a search engine or online directory, such

as Yahoo!, and you get far more than the official site the brand owner

would like you to see. Volkswagen owners are notoriously passionate

about the brand and there is much evidence of this in the 378 sites

Yahoo! UK found for Campaign’s 1997 Advertiser of the Year.



As you’d probably expect, the best and most enthusiastically updated VW

’fan’ sites come from the US, where the Net is far more widely used than

it is here. The Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Club, for example, was

updated only two days ago. It combines features about club members and

their VWs with more practical services, such as a guide to vintage VW

accessories (rather spoilt by the news that ’advertisements are not

current, you can’t buy this stuff people!’). Still, you can marvel at

the story of the wedding of the VW nut, Larry Kabrick, to his fiancee,

Lori, in his souped-up 1979 Beetle convertible: ’I wasn’t the least bit

nervous about marrying Lori,’ Larry confides, ’just about having my

Volkswagen done in time.’



The UK sites are more disappointing. The enticing ’history of VW ads’

site has been discontinued - apparently because too many people were

visiting it - and Stephen Moggan’s Volkswagen Shrine (left) is in a

state of disrepair and has not been updated for a long while. Even

David’s VW Home Page (above), which boasts the proud address,

www.volkswagen.org, was last modified on 17 November 1997.



The US dealer sites are also superior to the UK’s. Essex Sports Cars Inc

(below), for example, offers users a full list of its used cars in

stock, with e-mail links from each entry. One of the better British

efforts, Monaco Motors of Kensington (right), showcases a few examples

but then pleads that its stock is too ’fluid’ for the available cars to

be listed.



However, it does give you an e-mail link ’for the latest

information’.



At the time of my search (the first week of February), Yahoo! also

offered a curious link to www.vitalwoman.co.uk, which turned out to be

the Vogue site, oddly devoid of any VW branding. This old link for a now

expired sponsorship deal should have been removed after I brought it to

the attention of Carat Interactive, which handles VW online. Perhaps

agencies should be more vigilant in these matters.



More to the point, perhaps Yahoo! should check more regularly that the

sites it lists are still alive and kicking. When the official VW sites

and the good club sites have to jostle for the surfer’s attention among

a host of disabled junk and the odd irrelevance, their presence is

undoubtedly devalued.



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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).