Audi Goes to the Replay

DETROIT Audi took the tarp off of its new “Truth in engineering” campaign with two 15-second spots for the TT sportster that launch today and run for a week.

The spots will be followed by a 30-second ad that will launch May 14. Print ads in national newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, will also launch next week. There are no initial magazine buys.

The spots are the first hint of Audi’s effort to reposition itself as a major player in the luxury car segment, which it acknowledges it has not yet achieved. The campaign is also the first for new agency Venables, Bell & Partners, San Francisco, which signed on with Audi in January.

“We want to grow this brand and it’s going to require America to see us differently,” said Scott Keogh, CMO for Audi of America. “We know we need to get ourselves up the food chain. Buyers in this segment do not buy unknowns.”

The new campaign starts with the TT, but will also gradually expand with ads for the A4 and A6 sedans and the Q7 SUV during the year.

The TT teasers are sped up and will be shown exclusively during national prime-time shows that play to a large audience of “appointment watchers” who use DVR technology. The shows include Desperate Housewives, 24 and House. That technology will allow viewers to play the ads back in slow motion in order to comprehend the content. The move is similar to past campaigns from Coca-Cola and GE, which contained hidden messages or scrambled entertainment in an effort to entice watchers to pay attention.

The first TT ad, titled “0.2 seconds,” is named after the length of time it takes to downshift on the model. The second, “Moment,” asks the viewer, “Do you have a moment?” before clicking through a series of images and ends with “Missed it … rewind.”

Another spot, for the A4, takes a shot at Lexus and its parking technology that assists the driver to ease into a tight spot. The A4 ad shows a leafy residential street and an open parking spot between two cars. An A4 rips down the street and tears into the spot in a screech, and then the tagline, “The luxury car for people who can park themselves,” hits.

The campaign also features a safety spot, a positioning that is becoming mandatory for almost all brands.

The campaign is all geared to driving consumers online, said Keogh, who came to his position in May from Mercedes, where 88 percent of all Audi customers begin their purchase. He said that the brand would increase its ad spend this year, focusing on the Internet. Audi spent $67 million last year on ads.

Through April, Audi sold 29,134 vehicles, 15.2 percent ahead of last year. Audi sold 90,116 cars in 2006, an 8.5 percent increase over the previous year. The brand is in the middle of a spate of new issues and revamps, which will total 19 since January 2005.