Unabashedly competitive, Audi’s new anthem tells us you are what you drive.

June 18, 2010

What’s under your hood?

Audi is running a new anthem TV commercial that unabashedly takes on its competitors in the luxury car market. Mercedes, Lexus, BMW and, somewhat oddly, Ferrari are all given the business by agency of record, Venebles & Partners in San Francisco.

I admire V&P and Audi. And I kind of like this commercial. I say “kind of” because competitive advertising has always left me, and many of my peers, a bit put off. It is “kind of” an unwritten rule that advertisers, particularly those representing leadership brands, refrain from taking shots at their competitors, overtly anyway. Audi certainly qualifies as a leadership brand, with a fleet of vehicles that’s unsurpassed. So, one wonders if duking it out with those other nameplates is even necessary.

Yet take them on Audi does. We’re shown a series of vignettes featuring various upscale persons –seemingly brainwashed- proclaiming their devotion to one or another luxury vehicle. As they approach their Mercedes sedans, two yuppies mumble something about status symbols being the “goal.” An older gentleman deadpans he “was told this is the way to retire” while loading golf clubs into his Lexus. The most striking jab comes at the expense of BMW: a pudgy, middle-aged man, donning a Members Only leather jacket, claims he “was told (the BMW) captures (his) essence.” His fake-boobed trophy wife adds “I was told it will make the neighbors jealous.” After each proclamation an Audi enters the frame removing all doubt about good choices and bad.


Hardly played for laughs, this well-produced film aspires to satire, with gloriously painted vignettes reminiscent of American Beauty or the The Stepford Wives. In other words, things look great on the surface (the actors, their wardrobe, and the locations) but simmering just below are dark secrets and missed opportunities. These shiny, happy people are anything but. They are slaves to the status quo, to keeping up with the Joneses, to false American ideas of success and happiness. They were “told” how to live and blindly adhered. For this they are fools.

That they were all “told” these lies, is what I find most interesting about the commercial –the copy anyway. Told by whom exactly? Their neighbors? Their colleagues? Family? Even if these were real people and not actors the answer is the same. Essentially TV commercials “told” them which car to drive. Is not BMW the “Ultimate Driving Machine” and Lexus a believer in the “relentless pursuit of perfection?”

I love the irony that Audi, claiming “truth in engineering,” is now using its own form of brainwashing to un-brainwash us! By telling us not to listen to the other guy’s messages but to listen to their messages instead is basically a mind fuck. When advertising assumes other advertising into its lexicon it flirts with post modernism. Which I think is pretty cool for a TVC. But I also find it a precarious place for arguing about “truth” of any kind, like when one politician accuses another of falsehoods, like the pot calling the kettle black.

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3 Responses to “Unabashedly competitive, Audi’s new anthem tells us you are what you drive.”

  1. I’ve always found advertising that pokes fun at other advertising to be really disingenuous.

    It’s like a monk bragging about humility.

  2. Van Gould said

    I’ve been told that competitive advertising like this doesn’t work.

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