No Rest for Audi on Seventh Day

Automaker Opts for Big Ad Blitzes on Sundays

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LOS ANGELES ( -- In the heyday of "Seinfeld," "Friends" and "Survivor," Thursday was the best night to reach mass audiences. But Sunday has snuck up as the new mass-reach day for live awards shows and major sporting events, so much so that one major marketer, Audi of America, is aligning its entire 2011 TV marketing calendar around the seventh day.

Scott Keogh, Audi's chief marketing officer
Scott Keogh, Audi's chief marketing officer
As part of its self-dubbed "Sunday Media Strategy," Audi will concentrate nearly 70% of its media budget for its A8 model on TV during 2011 with its ongoing sponsorship of the National Football League, its upcoming buy on Super XLV and an increased investment in Sunday-morning news programming (NBC's "Meet The Press," CBS' "Sunday Morning") as well as Sunday prime-time programming (ABC's "Brothers & Sisters," CBS' "Amazing Race"). Scott Keogh, Audi's chief marketing officer, said Nielsen research showed that the automaker would be able to reach 84% of its target affluent audience on just a total-day Sunday media schedule vs. 88% reach across a comparable, incrementally expensive five-day weekly schedule.

"We analyzed where Americans consume media and asked, 'Where does luxury pervade?' And it turned out we could get as much from our media plan on Sundays vs. Monday to Friday," he said, speaking to Ad Age from the Los Angeles Auto Show. (Audi will also continue advertising during NCAA football, which typically airs on Saturday.) "This will allow us to stretch our launches and reach a higher percentage of our target audience."

Despite being outspent as much as four-fold by upscale competitors like BMW, Mr. Keogh said Audi will finish 2010 with record sales (over 100,00 vehicles sold), record manufacturer-suggested retail prices and record media spending (it is expected to top the $81 million it shelled out on measured media in 2009, according to Kantar Media). Heading into 2011, Mr. Keogh and his agency partners at WPP's MediaCom are looking to boost the Audi media budget by as much as 20% with a heavy reliance on traditional media and big events to do the heavy lifting.

Audi's embrace of TV is on trend with much of the industry, which has been looking to DVR-proof, big-event programming to get a big bang for its buck. In the case of Audi, that means a return to the biggest event of all -- the Super Bowl -- which is, of course on a Sunday. Audi has bought a national spot during the first pod of the game airing Feb. 6 on Fox.

Mr. Keogh is mum on creative strategy or vehicle plans for Audi's fourth Super Bowl (and third time in the opening pod), but said the spot will be produced by long-time agency Venables Bell & Partners.

He noted that the Big Game has done more to help the company position itself as a challenger brand than any other media vehicle, citing research that showed Audi's national consideration level among prospective auto buyers before last year's Super Bowl buy was at 40%, but jumped to 58% after the game.

"We had 1,300 to 1,400 more people in our showrooms than we did before the Super Bowl," he said. Just like Americans don't go to unknown restaurants or country clubs, they go to known brands."

One investment that's gotten Audi a lot of attention that is far less measurable is its investment in Marvel Entertainment's "Iron Man" movies, with the R8 Spyder vehicle receiving a co-starring role in this summer's "Iron Man 2."

"We've seen awareness spiking, and our dealers did 160 screenings with over 300 to 400 people at each screening," Mr. Keogh said. ... If you look at Iron Man, he really embodies the spirit of our brand, and that association is just as important to us as anything in our media plan."

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