DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Audi wants luxury-car buyers to know its in-car technology enhances driving -- and doesn't complicate it like some gizmos in competitors' models.
In trying to popularize and energize its brand with its first ad campaign from Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco, Audi of America is taking aim at rivals, though Scott Keogh, Audi's chief marketing officer, said the effort doesn't target a specific competitor. "We have a point of view about technology -- that it complements the driving as opposed to having some electronica doing the driving for you," he said. The new campaign is much more about Audi's "philosophy about how technology should be used in a car."
BMW system too complex
Germany's BMW was broadly criticized for its iDrive system, an eight-way controller knob for 700 functions that rolled out in 2001 on BMW's top-of-the-line 7 Series. The feature was simplified three years ago. The latest S-Class from DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz is equipped with an adaptive cruise-control system that automatically keeps a specific distance from the vehicle ahead. Mr. Keogh, incidentally, is a former Mercedes marketing manager.
Mr. Keogh said Venables Bell did research with owners of competitors' models, auto bloggers and Audi owners before landing on the new brand ad approach, which carries the tagline "Truth in Engineering." Venables Bell won the $70 million account last year.
His aim is to dial up Audi's emotional level. "Truth is emotional," said Mr. Keogh, citing research findings that Americans want to get back to truthful, uncomplicated messages. "We're not false luxury ... we are not old luxury," he said.
The 15-second spots break tonight on national TV and online to launch the second-generation TT roadster and hard-top coupe. The work is part of a broader, umbrella brand campaign that will continue in about a month for the Q7 SUV.
Beefing up online
Since 88% of Audi buyers spent a significant amount of time on audiusa.com before purchase, Audi is spending dramatically more online this year, Mr. Keogh said, though he declined to reveal details. Audi is shooting for a viral pass-around of the online portion of the campaign, handled by Factory Design Labs, Denver. The agency created a microsite for the TT launch, TT-truth.com, and overall ad messages aim to drive traffic there.
The company, a sibling of Volkswagen of America, is outspent by other German luxury rivals.
Audi, which reached record U.S. sales in 2006 with 90,000-plus units, wants to sell even more vehicles this year, said Mr. Keogh. "Audi, it's been said, is a best-kept secret," he said. "We want this campaign to break that secret."
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Audi's new tagline would be "Truth in Technology." In fact, the new U.S. tagline is "Truth in Engineering."