Autobiography of BS©: How Car Catalogs Killed Creatives

VW Scirocco GTI 1976

Three severely camouflaged VW Scirocco GTI 1976 were flown to Los Angeles

Did you ever hold a 70s vintage Volkswagen car catalog in your hands? You know, the ones without a picture of a car on the cover? Just “The Rabbit,” “Der Käfer,” “Le Golf?” One distinct color per model, that’s it? Yes, those were the handiwork of yours truly. Making them was dangerous business. Those catalogs left dead bodies behind. [Continue Reading]

Autobiography of BS©: How I Lied About The Golf

Golf I

The accidental king of the hill: Golf I

1973, at the tender age of 24, I defected to the enemy. BS, the former muckraking journalist, became a copywriter in a hotshot advertising agency. As the saying went, I didn’t sell out, I cashed in: As a junior copywriter, I was paid twice as much of what I had made before as the editor in chief of a muckraking journal.

Raking muck had paid shit. Advertising was paradise. Work was easy, no more nerve-racking and downright dangerous undercover research, just sit and write. Powered by pilsener. Soon, my salary multiplied. Times were good. Until the world nearly ran out of gas … [Continue Reading]

Autobiography of BS©: How I Violated the One China Principle

Parade - Picture courtesy cdn.turner.com

For more than ten years, every word a certain top executive of Volkswagen uttered in public was pure BS. I wrote his speeches. I wrote articles under his name. I even ghostwrote a book for him. I studied his mannerisms, his way of thinking and talking. He slowly but surely slipped into the role for which I wrote the script. He’s retired now, but still is a sought-after speaker on the conference circuit.

He liked to live and work on the edge, and I gladly walked him there. We had a strange symbiotic relationship. His trust in me bordered on the obscene. Even before major strategy announcements, his brief for the speech usually amounted to: “You know what to write.” He rarely did read the speech before giving it. He always delivered it with great aplomb and usually to thundering applause. I could put practically any word into his mouth. Power that had to be used wisely. [Continue Reading]

Autobiography of BS©: The World’s Most Elaborate Duck Trap

Bugattin Ehra Lessien - Picture courtesy Autoweek.com

Years later, on the Ehra-Lessien test track

From 1973 through 2005, my job was to create excitement for Volkswagens in the hope that people would buy them. The job had its ups and downs. We loved facelifts and hated totally new cars. With a facelift, we could travel to attractive and warm places for the photo shoot. “Because of the sun.” Not to mention the beach. And the nice amenities of the Hotel Negresco in Nice. With a facelift, we could tool around in broad daylight, and nobody would bat an eye or even think of snapping a picture. Which magazine would publish the spy shot of a re-designed bumper? Totally new cars were top secret. Not allowed to travel outside the confines of the VW factory. Even there, constantly under tarps. The only places we could photograph them were at the in-house photo studio or at the VW proving grounds in Ehra-Lessien. Wait until the animal rights people will hear this story. [Continue Reading]

Autobiography of BS©: How I Invented Interactive Video

apple II

In the late 70s, after Volkswagen had launched their new worldwide dealer network under the mysterious V.A.G. moniker, the V.A.G. dealers received a strong voice, their own national advertising campaign and a renewed focus on the importance of service. No wonder. Then as now, after-sales is the VW dealer’s number one profit center. The profit contribution of parts alone was often 30 percent or more. In 1979, for the first time, VW invited the service guys to the IAA auto show in Frankfurt. The suits asked me to come up with a spectacular concept for their debut. My first idea: fix cars live, Formula 1 pitstop style. Everybody liked it—until someone found out that the maximum height of the booth was 2.5 meters, way below the heights of the lift. Scratch that idea. Then I had an odd thought: Why not do it virtually? Except that virtual reality had yet to be invented. This was my contribution to the cause. [Continue Reading]