Audi Back In Bowl, This Time With Laughs

Audi A3 TDI

Audi is back for the third year in a row to advertise on the Super Bowl. This time, however, the automaker is taking a different approach, using humor to promote the new A3 TDI (turbo-direct injection) as a fuel-conserving and environmentally friendly luxury car.

Audi is using its media buy in the fourth quarter to run an ad that introduces a fictive Green Police who have little patience for anything but Audi's A3 TDI, which gets around 43 miles per gallon, and which won Green Car of the Year at the Los Angeles Auto Show last year.

The ad, via Audi's agency Venables Bell & Partners, also doesn't give away the fact that the spot is a car ad until the very end, when a guy driving the car is allowed through a Green Police highway checkpoint because he's driving an A3 clean-diesel car.

The ad begins, innocently enough, in a supermarket with a checkout girl asking a shopper if he'll be using paper or plastic. "Plastic," says the man. "That's the magic word," says a guy in a green-hued cop uniform. "Green Police. You've picked the wrong day to mess with the ecosystem, plastic boy."



From there, things go downhill as squadrons of the Orwellian Green Police dig through peoples' garbage, storm houses where owners have thrown a battery in the trash, arrest a guy who's in a Jacuzzi with the water setting adjusted too high, capture a guy who has attempted to throw away an orange rind rather than mulch it, and shackle an affluent guy who proudly admits to having installed an incandescent light bulb instead of a fluorescent one. The soundtrack for the spot is "The Green Police," a riff on Cheap Trick's "Dream Police."

The spot ends with another quick vignette in which a Green policeman makes an arrest of a real police officer who is drinking his coffee from a Styrofoam cup.

Scott Keogh, CMO of Herndon, VA-based Audi of America, tells Marketing Daily that not giving away that it's a car ad until the end is important in a Super Bowl buy. "We think that's crucial because in the Super Bowl, the instant consumers read that it's a car ad, the mind turns off and it's into the nachos," says Keogh. "This draws them in."

Keogh says that if the ad gets a thumbs-up from viewers, the campaign will continue in other forms. "There are a lot of things we could do on a social media front. We will read the market and buzz after the game. The response so far is great, and dealers are really pumped," he says.

The company has been talking about diesel -- albeit with a more serious tone -- since last year when it launched marketing initiatives that explained how, if 30% of American drivers drove TDI diesels, the U.S. could cut 1.5 million barrels per day of imports. Audi first used the campaign to support the launch of the Q7 TDI SUV. "We think diesel is a solution and the story needs to get out that the A3 is not just fuel-efficient, but also green," he says.

Keogh says the green theme isn't at odds with the luxury market, which is usually about horsepower, performance, handling, quiet, and lots of leather. "If you look at more and more new luxury consumers, environment, fuel economy and packaging and size are more and more important."

Keogh says a more humorous approach also makes sense because sermons are a turnoff, especially during the Super Bowl. "For the Super Bowl, you need to bring humor into the mix, and we hadn't done that before," says Keogh. "But we thought this was the perfect environment and opportunity."

Keogh says Audi will also advertise during NBC's broadcast of the Winter Olympics and follow that with new ads under its "Truth in Motion" banner set to air Wednesday after the Olympics.

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