'I, Robot' tie-in: Audi effort features nonexistent vehicle

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Audi of America, aiming to boost both brand awareness and sales, breaks a multi-media U.S. ad campaign today to promote Twentieth Century Fox's upcoming futuristic "I, Robot" film starring Will Smith.

Working with its German parent, Audi AG, the marketer designed and built a special car, the RSQ, just for the movie-a first for the automaker. Movie clips of the sleek RSQ appear in the advertising from Havas' McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C.

new for 2035

The :30 TV commercial introduces the car as "new for 2035," although the narrator directs viewers to "get a part of the future today."

The agency created a second :30 TV commercial that co-brands the movie with Audi's RSQ but without a sales message, said Jonathan Cude, group creative director, McKinney. That spot will also air in Europe and likely other parts of the world to promote the film for its debut later in the year.

It's an unusual tactic to promote a car that doesn't have wheels-it travels on spheres-and won't even be produced to sell. But Michael Lembke, marketing director, Audi, said the car "speaks to Audi's strengths," which include cool styling, sophistication, sportiness and cool interiors. The movie tie-in will also boost Audi's brand awareness, one of his goals in the U.S.

Unlike most partnerships with Hollywood, the campaign is tied to a sales event (called "See Your Future") and the TV buy will only air regionally. Executions for radio, newspapers and online also arrive today. The campaign will be Audi's main ad push in the period leading up to the film's opening July 16.

Audi sales were off by 4% through April to 24,149 units vs. a year ago, according to Automotive News. That decline isn't too steep, considering the industry's ongoing hyper-competitive climate. The marketer spent $75 million in measured media last year and $1 million in January 2004, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

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