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May 2019

Eleven Wins Big Electric-Vehicle Awareness Account

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“Electrify America—a unit of Volkswagen Group of America overseeing a multi-year electric-vehicle awareness campaign—has named Eleven as its agency of record as it begins a 30-month, $62 million marketing effort.


The San Francisco-based shop came out on top of a competitive review that included several agencies, including Deutsch, which handled the group’s first campaign that debuted last year. ‘It’s a really big win for us,’ says Mike McKay, partner and chief creative officer at Eleven, which has about 110 employees. ‘We are really trying to break onto the national stage and this is a win that will enable us to have some really visible work.’


Formed in 2016, Electrify America is a wholly owned subsidiary of VW overseeing a 10-year, $2 billion investment on zero-emissions vehicle technology and awareness. The spending is mandated as part of the automaker’s legal settlement with government regulators in the wake of VW’s diesel scandal in which it admitted to installing devices on cars to cheat on emissions tests. So-called ZEV’s include battery- electric and hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles. According to the terms of VW’s court agreement, the awareness campaign must be brand-neutral.


A TV spot by Deutsch that began running in August included zero-emissions cars from several brands, including Chevy, Honda, Nissan and VW, although the spot was noticeably devoid of branding. The ad—which used music from ‘The Flintstones’ and ‘The Jetsons’—portrayed gas-powered cars as being behind the times. The ad was part of Electrify America’s first $500 million investment phase ending in June that included a $45 million carve-out for an awareness campaign, including media, agency and production costs.


The next phase—which includes Eleven—begins in July. It calls for spending $62 million over 30 months on a series of campaigns plugging zero-emissions vehicles and infrastructure. Electrify America is building a nationwide network of electric-vehicle charging stations that so far includes about 484 sites across 42 states.


Deutsch had been VW’s U.S. agency of record before losing the account late last year. Johannes Leonardo won lead status on the account last month. Electrify America is run separately from VW, however, so the group ran its own pitch that included about eight agencies, according to Richard Steinberg, Electrify America’s senior director of marketing.


He says Eleven stood out because the shop focused on the ‘demystification and normalization of driving an EV [electric vehicle].’ That was favored over other agency pitches that were ‘more about rally-behind-the-cause [or] join the EV movement,’ he says. Electric vehicles remain a tiny part of the U.S. auto market. But automakers have outlined ambitious investment plans in recent months. For instance, Audi—which ran a Super Bowl ad touting its electric-car plans—projects that nearly 30 percent of its U.S. customers will go electric by 2025.”

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