Audi A8 gets lavish launch

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Germany's Audi AG is giving its second-generation A8 sedan a global ad send-up, with a lavish first spot shot on location in Germany and Spain that involved 600 people, including the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra.

The Volkswagen of America unit launched its top-of-the-line car a few weeks ago in Germany and five other European nations, said Hans-Christian Schwingen, marketing communications chief, Audi. Since then, the TV and print effort from Tandem DDB, Barcelona, Spain, has arrived in the rest of Europe and other parts of the world, including Russia, Greece and the Canary Islands.

The campaign is expected to appear in as many as 70 countries, although some tweaks may be necessary, said Katrin Schoneberg, Audi's project manager for the car's launch. "This is also a step toward more global branding and image-building," she said.

Using the same basic creative is more cost effective than developing different executions for every region of the world, Audi executives said. The marketer maintains it will save money with this approach, which it started in 1997 to launch the A6. That was the first time the marketer's five major agencies vied for global ad projects. At the time Audi was spending roughly $180 million annually just for advertising in Europe. In the U.S., the brand spent $40 million in measured media in the first eight months of 2002, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

The A8's launch overseas was preceded by a TV and print campaign, also by Tandem DDB. The :45 pre-launch commercial, dubbed "Today" internally, was an arduous project that took almost a year to produce. American actor Donald Kimmel was chosen from 500 applicants to portray an Audi expert who travels through the brand's 103-year history touting its sporty and progressive nature.

Audi said roughly 600 people were involved in producing the pre-launch commercial, including its own employees, actors to handle 500 minor roles, agency creatives, production staff and directors. Fifty musicians of the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, which plays the spot's background music from composer Zivot, are also included in the tally.

Director Julio del Alamo, of production outfit Alamo Films, Madrid, shot the commercial in six different locations in Spain and Germany. For the spot's final scene, the crew reconstructed a turn in Berlin's defunct Avus Ring motorsports track using similar-looking old bricks from a German horse farm. Computer experts spent 340 hours integrating original historic footage with new film using a pair of 80-year-old hand-crank cameras.

adapting for the u.s.

Audi of America is considering adapting the "Today" pre-launch spot for the U.S. to use just before the second-generation sedan goes on sale here in mid-2003, said Mary Ann Wilson, national advertising manager. She's working with Audi's U.S. agency, Havas' McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C. to develop launch plans.

The A8 is a low-volume model. Audi sold just 105,000 units globally of its first-generation, aluminum-bodied car since its launch in 1994. Still, Ms. Wilson said the high-end car is "important for the brand overall. It stands for what Audi is all about-advanced technology and innovation."

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