Johannes Leonardo is a creative boutique based in New York. It was established in 2007 by creative directors Jan Jacobs and Leo Premutico, the Johannes and Leonardo respectively of the company's name. The pair had previously worked together at Saatchi & Saatchi, first in London, and subsequently in New York, where they created the wildly popular "Talking Stain" ad for P&G's Tide detergent, winner of a Cannes Grand Prix the same year they jumped ship to set up their own shop. WPP provided initial funding for the agency via a 49% shareholding, but the shop has always operated as a standalone unit within the group. It bought back some of its shares in 2018 to reduce WPP's holding to 25%. Jacobs and Premutico remain in situ as joint chief creative officers, alongside creative partner Ferdinando Verderi and president Bryan Yasko. The agency has chosen to remain small, with a compact roster of clients, of whom the most important by some degree (until now) has been Adidas Originals for whom it has developed a series of high-profile campaigns. The agency claimed revenues of $26m in 2017, almost double the year before. In 2019, JL was appointed as lead agency for the Volkswagen USA account, its biggest win to-date, overleaping the collection of previously appointed wholly owned WPP agencies who now play a supporting role on the business, creatively speaking.
Capsule checked 1st November 2019
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Adbrands Daily Update 9th Mar 2020: "The Accountant Part 1". Creative boutique Johannes Leonardo finally appears to have found its feet on the VW USA account with this excellent campaign. It follows a series of slightly oblique, almost deliberately arty films that haven't really seemed to try to shift cars so much as reposition the brand. This new ad is the first of three which are a little more vehicle-centric, helped by some top-notch casting in Paul Giamatti and Kieran Culkin. It's an attractive concept too: Giamatti is a celebrity accountant attempting (with mixed success) to rein in the excessive spending of star client Culkin. Nicely done. We look forward to parts two and three.
Adbrands Daily Update 2nd Jan 2020: "The Last Mile". Johannes Leonardo bids farewell to what is, especially in the US, a cultural classic. This sentimental paean to the original "people's car" was the centrepiece of a lavish New Year's Eve billboard display in Times Square. VW's Beetle was popular all over the world, of course, but nowhere more so than the US where it became a symbol of the free-living Sixties, and also of course helped to cement the fame of newly launched advertising agency Dane Doyle Bernbach. The original Beetle stopped being made in Germany in the 1970s, replaced by the Golf, but its popularity was such that it continued to be sold in America until 2003. (It was imported from Mexico). The new Beetle, introduced in 2002, never achieved the same iconic status, which is probably why it doesn't appear in this film. It too was consigned to the auto scrapyard last summer. So why the ad, and why now? It's another example of Johannes Leonardo's iconoclastic approach to the account. They spent much of last year advertising all-electric VW models that won't be on the road for another year or two. "From the beginning we've set out to break convention with our work on Volkswagen," says JL CCO Leo Premutico. "So what better way to send off the Beetle than to create an advertising campaign for a car VW is no longer selling? We felt any product that's played such a big role in our culture, across multiple generations, shouldn't go quietly."
Adbrands Daily Update 1st Nov 2019: "The Hoodie". Creative hotshop Johannes Leonardo is developing a bit of a reputation as the "fresh start" agency for brands that need to reinvent themselves one way or another. The most notable example is VW, for whom JL has delivered a series of striking, often quite arty films over the past few months, as the German carmaker strives to put its diesel cheat scandal firmly behind it. Latest recipient of JL's creative pixie dust is struggling clothing chain The Gap, whose newly appointed CMO Alegra O'Hare is taking it in a very different direction with this mother-and-son heartstring-puller. Gone are the cool model kids dancing in denim (for now at least) in favour of characters who are arguably rather closer to Gap's actual target market. To be honest, we've seen this type of ad plenty of times before (we were immediately reminded of 'Be The Gift' a spot Mother made for Nokia mobile a couple of years back). But that doesn't detract from the Gap spot's charm or emotional richness. It's a lovely little film; we hope it helps to turn around Gap's otherwise steady decline.
Adbrands Social Media 19th Jul 2019: "A New Mission". Here's the latest submission from Johannes Leonardo for Volkswagen USA. Like the first collaboration between the auto giant and its new US agency, it's big on concept and light - very light - on selling product. That stunning first 30 seconds gives way to text-heavy exposition; the sort of thing that's usually considered anathema in TV advertising. Presumably VW know what they're doing with this approach (or think they do), but it's a risky move indeed to be promoting all-electric vehicles that won't be available for at least another year or two. Still, the company has some leeway. US VW sales for the first half-year were up almost 7% against the prior period, and 10% in June alone. Both were the biggest increases for any of the mass-market car brands. Has advertising played a part? Hard to say, but at least the solid performance gives the company some room to be a little more conceptual in its approach. For now.
Adbrands Social Media 10th Jun 2019: "Hello Light". The first ad from newly appointed Johannes Leonardo for Volkswagen USA is bold... or perhaps brave would be the more appropriate word. American consumers are used to seeing "mea culpa" ads from carmakers - General Motors ran several during its 2008 bankruptcy - but it's odd to see Volkswagen's appear so late in the day. It's now almost four years since the emissions cheating scandal broke, and most American consumers have probably forgotten about the whole thing. Yet the new ad chooses to put it front and centre once again as the motivation for VW's big push into electric vehicles. All that in one of the most deliberately oblique and arthouse ads we've seen so far this year. Darkness indeed. Does it work? Hmmm. Not so sure. We're betting Johannes Leonardo will be expected to come up with something very much more sales-orientated for the next spot.
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