The Lowdown is Ad Age's weekly look at news nuggets from across the world of marketing, including trends, campaign tidbits, executive comings and goings and more.
Audi is getting into bed with Airbnb. As part of its return as an Emmy sponsor, the automaker is teaming up with the accommodations provider by giving people the opportunity to book a home in Death Valley. The three-day offering includes use of an Audi R8 coupe and VIP treatment from the auto brand, including a professional driving experience. The offering will be plugged in a new TV spot that will run during Sunday's broadcast of the Emmys on ABC. The ad, called "Desolation," is by Venables Bell & Partners. The house, known as the "Rondolino Residence," is on remote land near Scotty's Junction, Nevada. Audi is marking its sixth consecutive year as the official official automotive partner of the Television Academy. "Once again, Audi is honored to support television's brightest stars during its biggest night," Loren Angelo, VP-marketing for Audi of America said in a statement. "What better stage to introduce our marketing partnership with Airbnb than the Emmys."
Olive Garden is giving its Never Ending Pasta Pass quite a boost in its third year. Darden Restaurants Italian chain will put 21,000 of the $100 all-the-pasta-you-can-eat-in-seven-weeks passes on sale Thursday, up from 2,000 a year ago. The bump, it says, is in honor of the 21st anniversary of its Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion. Plus, it handed some early ones out to brand fans to help spread the word. The $100 passes let patrons visit the restaurant for seven weeks of unlimited pasta and Coca-Cola soft drinks plus, as any visitor to Olive Garden knows, unlimited soup or salad and breadsticks.
Adding more passes in the third version of the campaign may help mitigate a little bit of backlash that popped up during the first two years. Buzz was big in both years, for sure. But the 2014 deal generated negative consumer perception scores when the passes quickly sold out and the 2015 version led to indifferent scores, according to YouGov BrandIndex. The tracking firm also said that purchase consideration scores, the tracking firm's key metric of potential sales revenue, barely budged in the past. This year, the chain may get a little extra feel good buzz. Olive Garden said it plans to auction additional passes on eBay, with proceeds going to Feeding America. Edelman, McGarryBowen and Starcom are Olive Garden's agencies on the campaign.
Behold, a vodka bot. Absolut this week announced its own Facebook Messenger bot that will target drinkers in Chicago, Dallas, New York City and Washington, D.C. Users can activate the bot by clicking on an Absolut Facebook ad or sending a Messenger message to the Absolut Facebook page using the phrase "Start my Absolut night." In return, the bot will send digital coupons for Absolut cocktails that can be redeemed at local bars. The brand also partnered with Gratafy, a social gifting platform, to give away a ride with Lyft in Chicago and Denver.
Budweiser is also strengthening ties with Lyft. The beer brand promises to give away up to 80,000 Lyft rides home on weekends and holidays through the end of the year in New York, Colorado, Illinois and Florida. Bud will share a unique code on its Facebook and Twitter channels each Thursday at 2 p.m. that can be redeemed for a $10 ride credit the following Friday and Saturday between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. -- timed for when people are coming home after a night out drinking.
In other booze news, Brown-Forman's Herradura is the latest tequila brand to make a heritage play. A new global campaign called "Luck Is Earned" includes scenes of agave fields and touts the brand's 145-year history. The campaign is by AOR Grey Canada.
Fashion Week keeps getting more non-fashion sponsors, including the Energizer Bunny. And Unilever has hopped harder onto the bandwagon too, bringing one of its food brands – Magnum – into the fold alongside Tresemme, which is in its 17th year as a sponsor. The two brands joined in Rebecca Minkoff's Sept. 10 fashion show on the streets of Manhattan near her store and Magnum's new store on Prince St., the latter serving as a backstage. The pairing "just makes sense," said Alfie Vivian, VP-North American Refreshments at Unilever. "Tresemme and Magnum are lifestyle brands that have fashion in their DNA." Indeed, Karl Lagerfeld made a 2011 commercial for Magnum. And Tresemme stays involved to bolster its credentials as the leading hair styling brand in the U.S. and foster the idea that women can achieve the same styles at home as women on the runways have, said Rob Candelino, VP-marketing and general manager-hair care of Unilever U.S. "You can't make it more democratic than actually taking a runway onto a street in Manhattan," he said.
Retailer Patagonia is taking advantage of the election year to debut Vote Our Planet, a campaign urging Americans to keep the environment top of mind when they vote in November. The 29-unit chain is giving $1 million to the effort, which will help people register and keep them informed about local and national issues. Patagonia shops will host in-store events in September and October to educate their customers. "We can't let the ugliness of our politics turn people away from voting when the future of our planet is at stake," said Lisa Pike Sheehy, VP-environmental activism at Patagonia, in a statement.
This month, footwear brand Ecco is hosting an experiential activation to get consumers to try on its new Shape collection. Working with GYK Antler, Ecco is rolling a 20 by 20 pop-up store to four cities—McLean, Virginia; Schaumburg, Ill.; Houston, Texas and San Francisco—in September. The shop features textured runways made of grass and concrete so customers can walk on different surfaces, a photo booth and TVs showing branded video content.
IBM -- which has been aggressively targeting CMOs over the last few years with its marketing automation and other marketing technologies -- is finally getting its own CMO. The tech giant has named Michelle Peluso VP-CMO, reporting to John Iwata, senior VP-marketing and communications, who has been leading IBM's marketing efforts. Ms. Peluso joins IBM from Technology Crossover Ventures, where she was a venture partner. Before that, she was CEO of online shopping site Gift. She also spent four years as global consumer chief marketing and internet officer of Citigroup. According to Mr. Iwata, "IBM marketing has transformed significantly to be at the forefront of the rapidly changing marketing profession and to support IBM's own transformation. Michelle Peluso is the ideal leader to accelerate and build on this effort." Mr. Iwata will continue to focus on IBM's overall strategy and transformation, as well as building the IBM brand.
Lastly, health insurer Aetna has hired David Edelman as chief marketing officer. Responsible for the research, design, development and delivery associated with the brand's marketing, Mr. Edelman had been at McKinsey; before that, he worked at Digitas.
Contributing: E.J. Schultz, Jessica Wohl, Adrianne Pasquarelli, Jack Neff, Kate Maddox