2009 Detroit auto showEnlarge Photo
Audi is making possible limited advertising on ABC, CBS, and NBC evening newscasts during Obama's inauguration next Tuesday. They're also doing an 8-page (!) "Progress is Beautiful" newspaper insert in the USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Boston Globe. They're doing Web promotions such as bringing the inauguration speech live online as the exclusive sponsor of streaming broadcasts on ABCNews.com, CBSNews.com, Msnbc.com, and WashingtonPost.com. Finally, they will be buying full-day sponsorships of Slate.com and sole sponsorship of TheAtlantic.com on January 20th. All told, their web efforts should bring inaugural coverage to over 30 million individuals in real time.
So why is the decidedly Germanic Audi bending over backwards to paint itself red, white, and blue? Well, Audi had its best sales year to date in 2008, delivering over one million units worldwide in 2008. So they've got the money, and it would seem wise to do all they can to maintain momentum in a tough market. Second, it is Audi's 100th Anniversary of automobile production. And third, it seems some savvy advertising and marketing folks at Audi saw quite a bit of synergy between Obama's mantra of change and their own focus on progress. After all, their tagline is Vorsprung Durch Technik, or advancement/progress through technology.
Side view of 2008 Audi Q7 quattro 4dr RedEnlarge Photo
If you're a Wagoner, a Mulally, or a Nardelli, watching Audi spend big must be tough. Not only are they making a big media splash with the inauguration of Obama, but they are continuing the assault all year long, spending big on Super Bowl advertising and sponsorships, and featuring one Audi advancement per month to mark their 100th anniversary of building automobiles.
Said Johan de Nysschen, President of Audi America: "Throughout this year, Audi will explore what progress means to the American public and demonstrate how we define that concept. Regardless of political preferences, the inauguration represents a unique moment of progress. That’s why we wanted to share this experience and begin a conversation about innovation, technology and the path ahead."
2010 Audi S5 CabrioletEnlarge Photo
Nysschen proves himself an adept public speaker, delivering an address that is pointed and patriotic. "Later this year," he continues, "Audi will officially mark its 100 years of innovation and progress in our field. As we begin this new year, never has public interesting in progress, in the environment, in innovation, and in the American Culture been as apt." The address does a good job of painting Audi as a technological leader and quite pointedly states that Audi is "THE luxury automotive brand for these times."
The address concludes with this assertion: "America is the land where anything is possible, even if it once was thought unattainable." Audi is seeking what would seem unattainable, namely the re-emergence of the diesel engine as a viable mass-market powertrain that will bring high-efficiency and driving pleasure to the masses. They're unleashing the Q7 3.0 TDI, the Q5 3.0 TDI, A4 3.0 TDI, and eventually the A3 2.0 TDI to the U.S., but at this juncture with both public opinion and emissions hurdles to overcome, it looks as though diesel passenger car engines face a climb about as steep as the face of K2. Then again, who would ever have thought that a junior Senator from Illinois would quickly rise to the highest office in the land?