05 October 2010

Audi: Giving Virtual Advertising A Whole New Spin

Source: www.fastcompany.com
Talk about seismic shift.

This past weekend, car-maker Audi raised the game to a whole new level, with a trail-blazing article in Fast Company which touts their latest planned campaign.

"Planned" is the operative word -- because the campaign hasn't really run just yet.  But -- in a move resonant with today's bare-all social media generation -- Audi has apparently allowed its agency, a creative shop called the Access Agency, to publicly share the creative rationale behind this admittedly compelling concept: “It is a display of four life-size Audi cars, suspended inside the silver rings of a massive Audi symbol attached to an iconic bridge structure or in front of landmark spaces — the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, Tower Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge. The rings rotate around, light up at night, and move up and down the bridge. Against the backdrop of spectacular urban architecture, the Audi installation reflects Audi’s continuous challenging of the status quo, its capacity to innovate, and its ability to avoid the bland and the ordinary.”

The agency goes on to say that real brand value will delivered by the process of getting the iconoclastic idea built: the “manufacturing and transportation of the gigantic rings, the installation of the rings, the hoisting of the vehicles, the first test of the lights, the rehearsals of the launch.”

Source: www.fastcompany.com
Is the idea compelling?  Pitted against much of the dreck that's out there, I'd definitely say, Yes!  But is it 100% original?  I know, from a previous life spent in Canada, that the Engineering students of the University of British Columbia (UBC) had an annual tradition of hijacking a lecturer's car and installing/suspending said vehicle in all manner of incredible positions (including one memorable year in the early 1990s when I lived there, when they suspended a tutor's car from the Lion's Gate Bridge -- all in the name of demonstrating engineering prowess). Adidas' "Vertical Football" human billboard and Esprit's vertical catwalk show down the exterior wall of an Esprit building are two other well-known examples of the human installation idea and its product installation cousin.

But here's where I think the real genius of this Audi campaign lies: (Did you pick up on it?) Here is an advertising campaign that hasn't yet run, but which has garnered the kind of publicity one should only hope to achieve if a campaign was actually out there.  No actual executions in sight -- yet a few well-timed 'leaks', the offer of an 'exclusive', a well-written rationale, and voila!  Thanks to the wonders of PhotoShop, a launch campaign is yours without having to actually produce an ad. Gives virtual advertising a whole new spin, don't you think?

Source: www.fastcompany.com

Source: www.fastcompany.com
 Access Agency seems to be milking this approach for all it's worth.  Its big idea for the Nike swoosh apparently hasn't seen the light of day -- yet it might as well have done, considering the buzz it's generated and downloads it has inspired.  They've latched on to the insight that people pass on and share stuff they think will awe or entertain their friends -- casting themselves as purveyors of cool in the process.  It's easy to see how this can make sense for a shrewd client and sharp agency -- you get a lot of bang for little buck.

If this trend catches on, I daresay ad agencies will rediscover the lost art of writing a creative rationale.  And as for media agencies?  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

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