Cluetrainers Need To Get A Clue

One of the blogerati’s heavyweights weighed in today on how amazing the Cluetrain Manifesto is, and how clueless VW is for not understanding its inner most workings.
“If I were you, VW, I would hold a contest to get people to create the best damned VW commercial anywhere and promise to spend big bucks to air it on, say, the Oscars. You don’t have to pick the terrorist commercial. You’ll be making clear that the thing was not made by you. At the same time, you will learn a lot about new messages that truly resonate and reverberate from your customers — because your customers are creating them. How’s that for market research?
This is the Cluetrain economy, guys: Markets are conversations. Join in the conversation, don’t try to muzzle it.” –Jeff Jarvis
Again, I’m baffled. I find myself–a Cluetrain fan–being turned off by such Jarvis-like jargon. VW does not need its customers to make its advertising. Arnold Worldwide is doing quite well on that front, having delivered some of the most memorable ad campaigns for the German car maker for several years running.
Should we involve the customers in the making of the marketing? Sure.
Should we accept whatever crap comes along and say it’s great because we didn’t make it? Please! This is lunacy, and now I’m ranting.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I see your point.
    I was researching commercials tonight, mostly the 1984 one, and found some good clues. The viewer, and I’ll extend that to the user or customer can complete their own narrative (beginning or end), but they don’t get to dictate the narrative at any or all costs to the company, right?

  2. Being controlling and protecting your trademarks are two very different things. VW needed to vehemently protect their trademark.

  3. No brand should turn over complete creative control to consumers.
    However, I think the point being made by most of these “cluetrainers” is two fold:
    1.) Brands like VW need to embrace the spirit of the web, which happens to include consumer created content.
    2.) VW isn’t going to make friends by suing people that make such content.
    Suing these people doesn’t appear to consumers as trademark protection… To consumers it feels like picking on the little people. Little, and “creative” people…
    What’s worse? The damage to your trademark from the work itself, or the damage from the “trademark protection” lawsuit?

  4. In this case, VW needs to act against these “little people,” if for no other reason than to prove they had nothing to do with the ad’s creation.
    Understand, if a creative team makes a spec spot for their reel, in order to raise their profile and find work in the business, I’m all for it. What I’m against is all this confusion in the marketplace. Have we heard from Lee and Dan, as to their motives? Have they made it clear that this is a spec spot for self-promotion purposes only? If they have made it clear, that message is not coming through, and that’s a problem.

  5. I agree… the goal for VW is to let people know they aren’t responsible for the ad.
    But is a lawsuit the best way to do that?

  6. Ideally, we would have fewer legal actions in all areas of life.
    Now, it appears (see link in comment above) the makers of the ad were indeed seeking work (by improving their reel). Thus, we know their motives were genuine and that the press and blogosphere simply ran away from the real story in favor of platitudes about “the almighty conversation.”
    No law suit necessary.