Maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. Forty-odd years with the same agency is rarer than an un-hacked A List phone. Perhaps that enduring relationship is why DDB UK has produced some of the best advertising I've seen during my time on Campaign. But it's responsible corporate governance to make a regular (but not frequent) thorough appraisal of your suppliers and what they are adding to your business. So at first I thought the VW review was simply a box-ticking exercise. Turns out, it's rather more than that. There's no doubting DDB's place in the VW heart; the agency has served VW tremendously well for four decades. But it seems the car giant is now looking for a broader range of agency advice and wants a roster of agencies to work alongside DDB.
I suspect VW is also looking for some cost savings. When the company reviewed its US advertising account back in the autumn of 2009, the final rounds of the pitch process had a clear financial focus, though VW insisted it wasn't looking for the lowest bidder. That's sure to be true. VW's values have always been bigger than that - and quality, in everything, will have been a prime force. But you don't need me to tell you that the past couple of years have meant that any car-maker's pursuit of excellence is now more firmly than ever allied to value.
So what VW will be looking for now in Europe is an agency roster that is laser-targeted on selling cars. Which is certainly not always the same thing as a roster of agencies that make beautiful ads in the DDB vein.
Talking of which, remember DDB UK's most recent ad for Polo? A lovely piece of film, mesmerically directed by Jonathan Glazer, and starring a couple of apparently famous tango dancers. Did it help drive sales? I can't get an answer. VW, though, will be making sure it does.
Like a small man who shouts, I'm always telling agencies how they should run their business. I've been telling McCann Erickson for years that it needs a cleaner, more unified group structure that actually means something in local markets. The logic is clear. The Worldgroup group of companies have had no defined collective or collaborative focus in London. And while the rest of the industry has been talking a good game of integration, McCann's siloed structure has resolutely turned its face the other way.
Although Nick Brien hasn't gone all the way with this week's restructure, he has at least created a clear path forward.