Video: What Does the 'A' in Audi Stand For?

March 21, 2011
Pop quiz: What does the 'A' in Audi stand for? OK, time's up. Put your iPads and iPhones and Blackberries down. If you said it's the Latin translation of the founder's surname, August Horch, then you found the answer on Wikipedia faster than I did. I don't care because that isn't where this article is going. It will probably end up in a small train wreck at the bottom of the page with a great new ad from Audi that helps set them apart form other car manufacturers currently.

Everyone in the automotive universe knows that Audi is on a colossal roll, selling millions of cars, SUV, and crossovers, all drawn with a hint of modernist architecture, some Bauhaus reserve, plus a few luscious curves mixed in for good measure, and of course exquisite, sumptuous interiors that are the envy of the industry. You could call these vehicles -- from the tiny and image conscious Audi A1 all the way to the super-luxury A8 and Q-wagons -- 4-wheeled sculptures. Or better yet, call them rolling art. Maybe that's what the 'A' in Audi should stand for -- Art. Which is the none-too-subtle lead-in for the ad I want to dissect.

Let's start with the basics. Audi sells a lot of expensive cars that make their owners look smart, tech-savvy, on the leading edge of coolness and ahead of the curve. They shoot for a BMW-demographic, meaning rich, well-educated, and not afraid to show some wealth. It's the thinking man's BMW. Just as high-performance, almost as much cachet, and just ever so slightly snooty without being brash about it. Audi backs this up image with vehicles that are very high-tech, things like clean diesels, quattro, direct injection and very importantly, the use of lightweight materials to make the cars more efficient and dynamic. Specifically aluminum, or as the Brits say, aluminium.

The A6 is a fine looking car, it recently won a comparo in Auto Motor und Sport with its chief rivals, the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes E-Class. Not bad. How did it do this? One thing that helped was the use of the 'A'-word, aluminum. Replacing heavier steel bits with this metal added lightness as Colin Chapman was claimed to have said. So what does this have to do with the ad covered here? Simple - aluminum IS the message.

It's called "Manipulation", which has negative and positive connotations for the purchaser. But the ad is all about the visuals. You watch a sculptor take a hunk of hard aluminum and shape the frame of of Audi A6 with his bare hands. Yes, it's all CGI, but it's well done, very convincing. And it drives home the message that the A6 is rolling art, not just some mass produced hunk of German metal. The ad tells the viewer quite subtly, that if you buy this car, it's proof you have mastery of the left AND right sides of your brain, and a bank account big enough to let the neighbors know too. And very interestingly you don't see the sculptor's face, just his hands at work, shaping passionately as would a clay sculptor. Not to mention the voice-over driving that message home in the 45-second ad.

On the minus side, the music while nice is highly unoriginal. Audi marketing found another Leslie Feist sound-alike and said, Ja, zat sounds gut. Light und fluffy. I can think of better ways to use music to accompany an ad, like the Toyota Scion ad I just saw. That worked. This here tune was unoriginal and a bit of a dud.

On the whole, I give the ad an A-. Oh look, another use the letter 'A' in Audi. Enjoy the ad.


Audi A6 "Manipulation"

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