'Leadership' theme links new Audi models

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Audi of America wants to be greater than the sum of its parts.

The automaker, embarking on its most ambitious string of product launches ever, will use the "greater than" mathematical sign in ads to clarify its "Never Follow" ad theme. The tag really means "it's greater to lead than follow," said Stephen Berkov, marketing director of Audi since Sept. 1. Using the symbol in ads, he said, serves "to crystallize" that leadership positioning as Audi begins launching three models in the next six months, and ties the introductions together.

First up is the redone 2005 A6 sedan, with a base suggested retail price of $41,620. The next-generation of Audi's best-selling model, the A4, arrives in March. But it will be replaced as Audi's entry model by the all-new A3 premium compact hatchback due in May.


The marketer's top-of-the-line A8 sedan adds a 12-cylinder version in December, but that car will sell in small volumes. The brand's first sport utility, the Q7, will be positioned between the A6 and A8 when it arrives in 2006.

The Volkswagen of America arm launched the A6 online earlier this month as the first exclusive sponsor of Gawker Media's auto blog Jalopnik.com and breaks national newspaper and print ads next month, even though the A6 TV won't hit showrooms until 2005.

Audi is also trying more avant- garde out-of-home executions from Havas' McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C. A Manhattan corner-building wrap at Fifth Ave. and 39th St. will carry the simple message that says, using the math sign, that the A6 is greater than corners. In the month of December, the A6 will be the only ad in San Francisco's Montgomery Station, including pillar wraps and step risers.

The symbol will be used as an icon "to help us link all the new products launches," said Jonathan Cude, group creative director at McKinney. The agency didn't pre-test the ads, but since Audi owners are educated they will understand it, he said. "I don't think we want to sell cars to people who don't get this."

Cross-functional duties

Mr. Berkov wanted an integrated campaign for the A6 and for subsequent models. So he reorganized the marketing department shortly after his arrival, giving cross-functional duties to his staffers who before had only special duties in individual areas like events or online. Audi's non-traditional spending is more than 20% of its total marketing budget, he said.

Audi spent $37 million in measured media in the first half of 2004 and $82 million in calendar 2003, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Audi said it sold 57,299 vehicles through September, nearly 10% fewer than a year ago. An Audi spokesman projected the marketer will sell 80,000 units this year; it sold 86,421 vehicles in 2003.

Doug Scott, an auto analyst with consultancy NOP World, said Audi has historically enjoyed brisk sales when it introduces a redone A4 and he expects that model to sell well. The A6's new grill has both fans and critics, but should help Audi increase total sales. The A3, he said, is in a new industry segment-small, premium cars that will get several newcomers in the next year or two.

Audi's trio

Model: A3

Target: 20-to-40-year-olds; family-oriented households with income of $65,000 to $100,000 that want flexibility, not an SUV or wagon

Pricing: Entry-level premium

Model: A4

Target: 25 to 45 years old. Positioned as a pure, authentic German sports sedan

Pricing: Unannounced

Model: A6

Median age: 51; most progressive touring sedan for those passionate about engineering

Pricing: Starts at $41,620

*Source: Audi of America

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