IDEA: Endorsers needn't be universally loved. They just need to reflect—or better, embody—the brand promise.
Take Ricky Gervais. Some people love him; others loathe him. But he's great for any brand that wants to be seen as uncompromising. For the A3, Audi assembled a group of endorsers who share that unwillingness to make concessions, much like the brand didn't cut corners with its entry-level sedan.
A 60-second spot from Venables Bell & Partners stars Gervais, chef David Chang, photojournalist Lynsey Addario, actress Kristen Schaal, boxer Claressa Shields, street artists Cyrcle and church choir Voices of Destiny, all of whom recite the lyrics to Queen's "We Are the Champions"—signaling that Audi is no longer a challenger brand.
"The level of engineering prowess that went into this car is what inspired this creative idea," said Loren Angelo, director of marketing for Audi of America. "We're a provocative brand, and we stand up for what we believe in. Ricky and the others very much hold true to that."
COPYWRITING: "It's known as this arena rock song, but the lyrics are actually super poetic," said copywriter Daniel Bonder.
The opening scenes show the endorsers each reciting a line.
Gervais: "I've paid my dues."
Shields: "Time after time."
Chang: "I've done my sentence."
Cyrcle: "But committed no crime."
Schaal: "And bad mistakes, I've made a few."
Addario: "I've had my share of sand kicked in my face."
Voices of Destiny: "But I've come through!"
The music swells, as the A3 is seen being designed and manufactured. A red A3 then screeches to a stop on a racetrack, revealing Gervais riding shotgun. As he seems ready to sing the chorus, he stops and says slyly, "You know how it goes." The melody picks up, and the screen cuts to black.
"Whatever you do, stay uncompromised," says the on-screen copy. "The all-new Audi A3. Uncompromised luxury starts at $29,900." The spot ends with the Audi logo and tagline, "Truth in engineering."
ART DIRECTION/FILMING: Director Adam Hashemi had one shoot day with Gervais in New York and filmed the other talent over five days in Los Angeles. Many scenes have a surreal, dreamlike quality, capturing a mindset as much as a lived moment—and lending a cinematic grandeur to the anthem spot.
"We wanted to show them in situations familiar to their craft, but we didn't want it to be a documentary," said art director Alex Rice. For example, as Shields boxes, a giant curtain falls around the ring— isolating her with her thoughts and her opponent. "It's like an inner monologue coming out," senior art director Rich North said of the Queen lyrics.
A subtle hit of red in every scene ties to the vehicle when it pops up later in the ad.
TALENT: It's a diverse group in both looks and disciplines. "We wanted people who clearly lived up to this storyline of perseverance," Angelo said. "They didn't stop when their personal lives or professional lives got difficult."
Gervais, who hasn't done many U.S. ads, was always high on the list. "He was, in our minds, the hero, and we felt like we got really lucky," said Bonder.
SOUND: The song drives the piece. "It's so triumphant. Sound design is definitely there, but we used it more sparingly," Bonder said. The song is only slowly revealed, though, as the talent (except for the choir) speak rather than sing the lyrics. "Sometimes it takes three or four lines for people to recognize the song," he added.
MEDIA: The spot broke during March Madness and is airing nationally. Gervais and Chang star in separate :30s about specific A3 features, and all the endorsers are featured in their own video portraits online.
THE TWO :30s:
THE VIDEO PORTRAITS:
Agency: Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco
Executive Creative Directors: Paul Venables, Will McGinness
Creative Directors: Erich Pfeifer, Tyler Hampton
Senior Art Director: Rich North
Art Director: Alex Rice
Copywriter: Daniel Bonder
Director of Integrated Production: Craig Allen
Executive Producer: Mandi Holdorf
Executive Strategy Director: Lucy Farey-Jones
Senior Strategist: Kasra Saidi
Business Leader: Colleen McGee
Account Director: Justin Pitcher
Account Supervisor: Natalia Montero
Production Company: Reset
Director: Adam Hashemi
Director of Photography: Toby Irwin
Executive Producer: Jeff McDougall
Producer: Pete Vitale
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Eric Zumbrunnen
Sound Design: 740 Sound Design
Sound Designer: Rommel Molina
Music: Search Party
Composer: Judson Crane
Executive Music Producer: George Drakoulias
MIX: Loren Silber / Lime Studios
VFX: The Mill
VFX Artist: Gareth Parr
VFX Producer: Jessican Ambrose
Spots: "Uncompromised Portraits"
Production company: The Academy, Los Angeles, CA
Director: Christian Sorensen Hansen
Exec. Producer: Harry Calbom
DP: Christian Sorensen Hansen
Producers: Jill McBride (NY), Elyciphus Siler (LA)
Where Shot: Los Angeles / New York
Advertising Agency: Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco, CA
Executive Producer: Mandi Holdorf
Editorial Company: The Academy
Post Producer: Mike Holm
Editor: Christian Sorensen Hansen