By on February 3, 2008

audi-ad.jpgSo, here it is. Click here for Audi's new Superbowl head. I mean, ad. It's a recreation of the scene from the Godfather wherein the Hollywood producer Jack Woltz refuses Don Corleone's request to cast Johnny Fontane (a.k.a. Frank Sinatra) in his new war film. Woltz wakes up with his favorite horse's head in his bed. In this case, the actor wakes up to a car grill and some greasy bits, courtesy of Audi and the new R8. OK, hang on here. If I read this right, the guy in the bed is a luxury car buyer who refuses to consider the R8 as his new luxury car. The fact that producer discovers a generic grill– not a Merc, BMW, Rolls, Bentley, whatever– is a MAJOR wimp-out from Audi. The fact that Audi is portrayed as a criminal enterprise that terrorizes its own [potential] customers is a MAJOR violation of the old adage "never insult the customer." And what does this do to "redefine" luxury? Nothing. We'll be talking to an expert on commercials tomorrow. But as far as I can tell, this Audi ad shows a lack of originality (ipso facto). Worse, it casts Audi, a German automaker, as a bunch of evil bastards. Still, nice car. I give it a D. Meanwhile, one wonders how much Audi paid TTAC reviewer Jay Shoemaker's boss to inflict this homage on a suspecting public.

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39 Comments on “Audi’s New Superbowl Ad Unveiled: Huh?...”


  • avatar

    This is a really bad advertising idea, and the execution of it also sucks. The fact that this has been cleared for Superbowl airing is a mystery.

    And I’ll put my instincts on the table here, this ad won’t feature on any of the best ads of the ‘bowl lists.

    I wouldn’t go overboard on the “never insult the customer” thing, when it’s done with charm you can create great art and good business communication. This is charmless and silly, which is something else altogether.

    Why not focus on the performance aspects of AUDI. I can still remember the thrill I got when I was on the jury in Cannes and saw the Cherokee Jeep under the snow commercial which we awarded the Grand Prix; or when I saw Audi Quattro’s first ski jump commercial — that’s the territory Audi should be in.
    Why not do something dealing with their spectacular Le Mans car, for instance, which has a drivetrain to die for? Instead we get a mashup of a great feature film scene, with an appeal to what can only be dorks.

    And I do agree, they should have had some guts and gutted a real car … the fact that they couldn’t or daren’t should have told them to bin this idea.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Still, the exhaust note at the end is beautiful.

    -ted

  • avatar
    tommy!

    I’m with you on this one, RF.

    This is money wasted. Duh, we all know Audi is here – but do we really want to think of them as the Godfather, issuing a “message” to us that they’ve got something more to offer? What is that, anyway? From the looks of this commercial, it’s nothing. There is no offer, there is only an idle threat – not even, as the R8 isn’t menacing by any means, it’s speeding away.

    The concept is flawed, as has been discussed here before – “redefining luxury” is empty and vapid. After viewing this commercial, I am not moved, compelled, or changed in any way. And certainly, being the “bad guy” doesn’t help Audi’s image. I can see it now – walking into a dealership and being presented with a cigar and cannoli, an offer I can’t refuse.

    Sure, give me an R8 – but keep the no-necks on the Sopranos, and the memories of The Godfather on DVD.

  • avatar
    turkeey

    They could have just showed the R8 revving and driving away – that would have saved about 2 million dollars by getting rid of the other 30 seconds of Godfather kitsch.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    This ad is going to appeal to viewers who want their expensive new ride to be sinister and threatening whilst building their egos. The target is the 29 year old Wall Street master of the universe type who thrills at knocking the old wealth guard off their throne.

    Call me contrary, but I think the ad is effective at finding it’s target audience. Besides, the R8 is damn cool looking and sounding.

    The message is simple, you Mr/Ms hot shot don’t want the boring luxury sedan of elder rich guys, you want the new sports car that makes a Porsche look dull.

    The ad is about agressive and attractive youth over decadent and aged experience. It’s fascinating that this comes out in the middle of a political primary fight which is playing out some of the same themes. The R8 driver is likely to return to a sparse modern luxury condo with a great view and security monitored parking. Who needs an old world mansion when you have the cash, the car and the girl? Notice that Mr. Old Money is sleeping alone?

  • avatar
    jaje

    It was kinda funny – but the grill looked like a knockoff of a Roles Roice Fantam from China. Is the A8 a luxury car though? I thought it was a supercar – one that a old luxury buyer would never even consider taken that his grill is from a luxury sedan and not a 911, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Maserati, Jag, etc. (you know the A8s real competition).

  • avatar
    Mervich

    I spent 30+ years in radio/television advertising. While I don’t particularly care for the concept of the spot (or the Audi), the ad does its intended job. It takes a memorable actual scene from a very popular 1972 movie and skillfully draws the viewer in for the :20 seconds prior to the audio/visual candy presentation of the R8. Good editing…it leaves one wondering, “how in the hell did they do that?”…which contributes strongly to the recall factor of the spot, which is what it was intended to do. Personally, I can never get past the Audi image from the mid to late ’80s; a rolling electrical fire that had an odd habit of putting itself in gear.

  • avatar
    phil

    i think the ad is riveting and effective. how often have we (enthusiasts) carped about Audi being the ugly sister, also-ran, never quite there brand. well, this ad says they’re serious about kicking butt. and they couldn’t choose a specific brand to attack because they were intending to attack the “old guard” of all german/british luxury marques. i also thought the grill looked like something off a Rolls and felt it was effective in conveying old, stodgy, out of style, etc. so audi does have balls, and they’re called the R8!

  • avatar
    mastermik

    i’m with jhorner on this one.

  • avatar

    @ Mervich

    Audi image from the mid to late ’80s; a rolling electrical fire that had an odd habit of putting itself in gear.

    A good friend of mine would nod at that description. :-) He had the expensive Audi from Hell which put the Lord of Darkness Lucas lighting systems of Jaguars to shame. Takes eons to erase that kind of image.

    Afraid I don’t share your opinion as to the execution of this spot. It is old fashioned, stilted and the man in the bed has a very badly directed reaction to what’s happened. Worst of all, there’s no cue that this is a send-up of the original, you’d be excused if you thought you were watching a promo for a re-release of the Godfather cycle.

    Whatever – zillions are being spent in bland ways on “moving the metal” as a GM executive once wrote before our amazed eyes across an expanse of whiteboard. “We’ve got to move the metal.” I ventured that communication should move hearts and minds, and was identified as a trouble-maker who didn’t understand the business realities of the industry. He-he!

    The metal moved, alright, to Rüsselsheim.

  • avatar
    kornjd

    I found the ad quite effective. The Godfather theme is used playfully, and for recognition. They did a great job.

    I think it would be helpful to peruse the http://www.truthinengineering.com website. It expands on the marketing in the ad.

    I love it!

  • avatar

    kornjd:
    I think it would be helpful to peruse the http://www.truthinengineering.com website. It expands on the marketing in the ad.

    CONTENT WARNING! In spite of the name, it’s an Audi web site. What role explaining marketing schtick plays in “truth in engineering” (or truth in anything else, for that matter) escapes me completely.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Holy moley. Or perhaps, better: holy moolah?

    They call it “The Truth in Engineering” and they show a long interview with David E. Davis that sounds like a Fox TV interview with POTUS. I guess it’s the best truth that money can buy.

  • avatar

    “I’m lovin’ it!”™

    Just thought this might be useful:

    Shill

    A shill is an associate of a person selling goods or services or a political group, who pretends no association to the seller/group and assumes the air of an enthusiastic customer. The intention of the shill is, using crowd psychology, to encourage others unaware of the set-up to purchase said goods or services or support the political group’s ideological claims. Shills are often employed by confidence artists. In the UK the term plant is used.

    Shilling is illegal in many circumstances and in many jurisdictions because of the frequently fraudulent and damaging character of their actions. However, if a shill does not place uninformed parties at a risk of loss, but merely generates “buzz,” the shill’s actions may be legal. For example, a person planted in an audience to laugh and applaud when appropriate (see “claque”) or to participate in on-stage activities as a “random member of the audience”, is a type of legal shill.

    ‘Shill’ can also be used pejoratively to describe a critic who appears either all-too-eager to heap glowing praise upon mediocre offerings, or who acts as an apologist for glaring flaws. In this sense, they would be an implicit ‘shill’ for the industry at large, as their income is tied to its prosperity.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I don’t agree with most of the commenters above. I think the ad is weird and hostile. It may attract adolescent mentalities with more dollars than sense, but it will make most of the folks who could actually afford to buy one of their dramatically overpriced automobiles, queasy about being within 5 miles of one of their dealerships.

    P.S.: If Audi is ripping off the TTAC name for its web site, it shows TTAC must be getting some traction.

  • avatar
    Mervich

    Stein X Leikanger

    Yep, a friend had one…caught fire in the driveway. After he and his wife finally doused the flames with the garden hose, the wife questioned, “so, we put it out…why?”.

  • avatar
    kornjd

    Frank Williams:

    CONTENT WARNING! In spite of the name, it’s an Audi web site. What role explaining marketing schtick plays in “truth in engineering” (or truth in anything else, for that matter) escapes me completely.

    I think I should expand on my thought. What I meant was that the website explains and expands on the brand they’re trying to create. More of an explanation.

    I’m very much into online technical detail in web design, so I have to admit that they half win me on presentation alone.

    :)

  • avatar
    jpc0067

    The biggest issue with this ad is that it’s boring. And derivative. and boderline non-sequitor (for a Ferrari, maybe this would work).

  • avatar
    Pch101

    If Audi is ripping off the TTAC name for its web site, it shows TTAC must be getting some traction.

    Audi’s “truth in engineering” slogan is a rough translation of “Vorsprung durch Technik”, which is the slogan that Audi uses in both German- and other English-speaking countries.

    As a side note, I don’t understand why they believe that Americans are in need of an English-language slogan, when other English speaking countries don’t get one. If anything, it would communicate the message that this is a German car, and one that has technology. If VAG could explain to VW buyers what “Fahrvergnügen” was, then surely they could explain another German slogan to a more upscale audience of buyers. Perhaps they believe that American buyers of German cars aren’t so smart?

    If you want to see an automaker ripping off TTAC, then check out Ford’s webpage “The Truth About Trucks.” Argh.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “Fahrvergnügen” my favorite translation of that bit of German was on a bumper sticker: “F***ing Grooving”

  • avatar
    kornjd

    I think that was FükenGrüven…

  • avatar
    ajla

    They could make a whole series of these if they were willing to name brands:

    1. Scene opens on a smoldering, destroyed M3 next to a toll booth. Camera pans out to show a bunch of RS4s surrounding the blown-out BMW. The RS4s slowly roll away on the fade-out.

    2. Scene opens on a guy holding his Lexus key fob in the morning. He walks on to his garage to see that his car is gone, and only a bent Lexus emblem wrapped in a damp newspaper remains. Cut to outside the house as a Q7 speeds away.

    3. Scene opens on a guy with a S5 and a CLK on a transport ship. He talks to no one in particular (or maybe to the cars themselves) about how the CLK had given him troubles in the past, but since it was his first luxury car, he decided to forgive and keep the car. He pats the Audi as he walks away into the cabin area of the ship. The commercial then just shows the man’s face through a window as a splash is heard. The scene cuts back to the deck where only the S5 remains.

    Audi: Leave the gun…. Take the Quattro.

  • avatar
    BKW

    The “generic” grille-What is it?

    Looks to me like: RR Corniche header panel and headlamps, 1960’s Jag Mark XI grille.

  • avatar
    kornjd

    AJLA,

    I actually laughed out loud at the S5 one. Nice!

  • avatar

    Vorsprung durch Technik
    A competitive edge through technology..
    Can’t see how that connects with Truth through Engineering.

    In the UK they didn’t bother with translating the German tag. Audi spots out of Bartle, Bogle & Hegarty would all end with “Vorsprung durch Technik as the Germans say” pronounced in a most un-German manner.

    Audis have improved significantly. I was sorely tempted before opting for my Alfa Romeo. But they did manage to disappoint a lot of customers during the 90s, and are paying a price for it still.
    When I told my friend I was thinking of an Audi, he launched into an invective filled retelling of all his woes – and his was the top model back then.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Vorsprung durch Technik
    A competitive edge through technology..
    Can’t see how that connects with Truth through Engineering.

    My German is sorely limited, but from what I know:

    -“Technik” can translate as either “engineering” or “technology”, but in this context, probably translates more closely as “engineering.” (If the focus was on technology, they could have said “Vorsprung durch Technologie.”)

    -“Vorsprung” translates most closely as “advantage,” “head start”, or “progress”, but there are nuances that don’t allow for a direct English equivalent. I gather that “Vorsprung” is a bit loftier than the English-language terms here, hence the use of “truth” as a synonym. Of course, “truth” could be stretching things a bit…

  • avatar

    Yes, truth would be stretching things quite a bit.

    Technik is an abbreviated form of Technologie – and does mean engineering or technology.
    But in the German language families Vorsprung unequivocally means a competitive advantage or edge.

    I just watched the interview mentioned above, through the Truth through Engineering website. Having worked with large corporations and being quite familiar with their absolute fear of ever not saying only positive things about themselves I could only sense that this was a quite rehearsed bit of truth …

    But – to be honest – I feel that Audi has done an enormous job of turning things around and that they are giving both Mercedes and BMW a cold, hard stare.
    Only wish they’d figure out what exactly it is they should do with the brand itself. This commercial is down market.

    BTW – Audi have a spectacularly effective behind-the-scenes e-marketing programme to select customers in the US. And they have been extremely sensible when it comes to selecting which regions/cities to focus on.

  • avatar
    mrcknievel

    +1 jthorner.

    It’s aimed at “new money” types that have the money, but not the “pedigree” to be called “wealthy” rather than “rich”…and have heard it enough times to not give a damn anymore. It works for the target audience.

    Godfather references are a bit overdone…but at least they didn’t do what every other advertiser has done this year and use an animal of some sort…if I see another effin’ squirrel commercial….

  • avatar
    ZCline

    Does Audi even have anything at the level of Rolls Royce? I’m sure the A8 is wonderful, but … its a Roller. No matter how fancy or luxurious it is its still “just” an Audi. Audi already makes luxury cars that are probably just as good but … who cares? I guess I just don’t get it.

    Also, the R8 is a sports car, right? They aren’t supposed to be luxury. They’re supposed to be fast and handle well, which the R8 already does.

  • avatar
    gsp

    I liked the ad. Why can’t car ads about good cars be fun? I am also their target market. I am less than 40. There is a market for cars like this. As an owner of a business I can get away with having this type of car in my garage without customers gossiping. Ferrari would be just too much. The fact that it would be more reliable and reasonable to own than Ferrari is just gravy. I have the $ for Ferrari but won’t get on my knees to “prove” that I am worth owning one. As a Bimmerhead I just wonder when BMW will come up with something like this rather than retro crap.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Granted, The Godfather is a classic; however, how do you appeal to 29 year olds using a reference from a movie they likely saw once, and was not anything special to their generation?

    My wife is over 29 and completely did not get the reference even having seen the movie. Nope, it’s not that good of a commercial. It is not well tied together at all.

    I suspect they are going after older people if they were targeting people who would remember The Godfather.

    Most advertising is aimed at the average idiot, but that guy cannot afford one of these cars. A person into classic stuff like the movie would rather have a more classic design. I say they missed it bad, REAL bad.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    I think some of you guys are too negative. I watched this commercial in a packed bar (as one of the maybe 10 people cheering for the Giants in a Boston bar containing 300+ people, the experience was ‘interesting’ to say the least) and it went over extremely well. Although most of the people in the bar were either in college or in their early 20s, and thus not the target market for the R8, it was still a fairly educated group of people who all enjoyed the ad. Sometimes an ad is just a fun way to remind you of the brand and the product, and doesn’t have to be analyzed as something more (I don’t think anybody felt like Audi was trying to ‘insult the customer’)

  • avatar

    I don’t disagree with anyone’s criticisms of the ad concept really, but at the superbowl party I was at, the only thing anyone reacted to was how great the car looked and sounded. looks like mission accomplished.

    the conclusion is obvious though — it’s a good car and it sells itself, audi. a 30 second spot of the car driving around with no other BS would probably have hit it out of the park.

  • avatar
    gakoenig

    Audi is going about this whole “New Luxury” schtick in a way that just sort of makes my stomach churn.

    To me, it seems as if there is no air of humility or cheekiness that might make their campaign palatable. Audi has decided to declare themselves the “New Luxury” and then hubristically buy that market position by blowing money like a 19 year old Russian new money oligarch. Ok, so this whole thing might appeal to tasteless 20 and 30 something hedge fund managers, but there aren’t enough of them to matter, Audi doesn’t really make enough products to serve them and that class of individual has very little crossover appeal to a wider audience.

    I think someone took a rejected concept from Bentley’s marketing people across the hall to Audi. This commercial would work spectacularly for the Continental GT or Flying Spur – a car that is priced for and appeals to the plutocrats who don’t mind looking down a little bit on the proles. As it stands, it is going to be very difficult to fit Audi’s target image across a product line that spans from the R8 to the A3.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    At our SuperBowl get-together, it got an immediate “two thumbs down.” No other TTAC’ers (that I know of) in attendance and I didn’t say anything prejudicial – or anything at all – prior to the ad. Also, no one said anything about the car itself.

    The Bridgestone ads were well received. While people were relieved the squirrel was spared, there was considerable grumbling about missing Richard Simmons.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    Roles Roice Fantam?

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “Does Audi even have anything at the level of Rolls Royce?”

    Sure, they have Bentley. All part of the same company.

  • avatar
    TeeKay

    I think the ad sucks and won’t persuade many BMW/Benz owners to switch.

    Whatever happened to the old adage of “win races on sundays, sell cars on monday.” Audi has invested so much money in Le Mans – and with excellent results – it makes one wonder why it did not use that to its advantage? How about merging images of the R8 and R10 Le Mans winning cars with the street versions of R8 (S4, S5, etc.) revving about town, diplaying their shapes, handling, and engine notes? Tell people that you make fast, winning, race cars. After all, the street R8 is named after the legendary R8 of Le Mans lore, and yet no one from my Super Bowl party even knew about it.

    I’m thinking of something similar to the Ferrari/Shell commercial from last year. Now, that’s a commercial. I still have it saved on my PC.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    I liked the ad. It has the “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” genre, but evil and fun. Toyota did the same thing with their Scion (“Not your parent’s Corolla”).

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