Audi of America Boss Wants Brand to Be Less 'Understated'

New Communications Strategy to Add More Digital, Experiential Marketing

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- The head of Audi of America said the automaker is "frustrated" it hasn't been able to break into the ranks of America's top luxury brands as it has done in other parts of the world. But Exec VP Johan de Nysschen vowed the marketer will be bolder and more aggressive in telling its brand story than in the past.
Audi of America Exec VP Johan de Nysschen said, 'Understatement is inherent in Audi's DNA. It's time for Audi of America to stop being so understated.'
Audi of America Exec VP Johan de Nysschen said, 'Understatement is inherent in Audi's DNA. It's time for Audi of America to stop being so understated.'

Mr. de Nysschen, speaking at the Automotive News World Congress yesterday, said Germany's Audi has identified North America and Asia as its two major growth markets as the Volkswagen-owned brand seeks to reach 1.4 million in global unit sales by 2015.

Too understated
Audi sold 905,100 units worldwide last year, he said, compared to Toyota's Lexus brand, which sold 460,000 vehicles globally. "Understatement is inherent in Audi's DNA," he said. "It's time for Audi of America to stop being so understated."

This year is "really the year of emotion for us," Mr. de Nysschen said, due to the arrival of two sports cars -- the second-generation Audi TT in the spring and the all-new R8 this summer.

Audi's changed communications strategy will start with the TT launch from the automaker's new creative agency, Venables, Bell & Partners, San Francisco, which won the estimated $70 million account late last month after a review. Mr. de Nysschen told Advertising Age that Audi will drop its "Never Follow" ad tagline, developed by incumbent McKinney & Silver, Durham, N.C.

The web's wide-open landscape
The automaker has also challenged its online agency, Factory Design Labs, "to take advantage of the anything-is-possible landscape of the web," the executive added. "Our goal is to drive the digital lifestyle and allow our prospects and customers to be even more involved with our products as well as demonstrate our product superiority."

Mr. de Nysschen made it clear when Audi tapped Venables Bell that the advertiser would use nontraditional methods to connect with consumers.

Scott Keogh, CMO of Audi, told Advertising Age last week that Audi suffers from lack of brand awareness. "We need to get people into our cars," so he's planning to add more experiential marketing. His media mix will mostly be online, public relations, events and traditional advertising.

"This is a company that is brave and takes chances," Mr. Keogh said. "We want to do that with marketing now."
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