Audi Defends Its Super Bowl Ad About Equal Pay After It Quickly Becomes a Flashpoint

'Daughter' gets strong support as well as a lot of criticism

Audi's 14-member U.S. executive team consists of 12 men and two women.
Headshot of Tim Nudd

Audi was looking to spark a reaction with “Daughter,” its politically minded Super Bowl spot advocating equal pay for women, and it undoubtedly got one.

But along with a lot of positive reactions, the automaker is also dealing with a deluge of negative comments about the ad in social media—with many viewers pointing out that Audi’s 14-member U.S. executive team consists of 12 men and two women.

The 60-second spot, posted Wednesday to YouTube and Facebook and closing in on 5 million views as of noon Friday, has a remarkably high ratio of negative sentiment—almost 40,000 dislikes to just 4,000 likes. There are two separate criticisms—one, that the ad is simply leftist propaganda; and two, that it is hypocritical because of the company’s heavily male leadership team. (Audi AG’s board of directors, too, has six men and no women.)

“EITHER Audi practices gender discrimination, or the most qualified people happened to be male more than 85% of the time and the ‘gender wage gap’ is nonsense. Which is it, Audi?” one commenter wrote on YouTube.

Others praised the ad, created by Venables Bell & Partners—either unreservedly or because they felt it sends a good message regardless of Audi’s progress on the issue internally. The spot has also received support from other brands, with Keds and even auto rival Buick tweeting about it.

Citing data from Networked Insights, the Wall Street Journal reported that 25 percent of the comments about the ad on social platforms have been negative, 13 percent have been positive, and the rest have been neutral.

Loren Angelo, vp of marketing Audi of America, told Adweek on Friday that the automaker was expected a strong reaction and remains committed to the ad and it message.

“We knew this would spark a conversation, especially on a stage as large as Super Bowl, and we remain up for the challenge,” he said. “Pay equality has been a part of the public conversation for some time now and we believe the message deserves a platform.”

It was perhaps inevitable that Audi’s advertising message would prompt scrutiny of its own practices when it comes to equal pay. Adweek asked the brand about it on Wednesday, before the criticism gathered steam.

“There is a lot that goes into calculating pay—individual performance, experience or tenure in the job, etc. But we are confident in our processes for evaluating pay equality and can confirm equal pay for equal work between men and women,” Angelo told Adweek at the time.

That somewhat convoluted answer, even as it asserts a real commitment to the cause, has not done much to assuage critics.

To its credit, Audi is responding directly to dozens of comments, positive and negative, across its social footprint. Audi has been pointing people here for more information about its efforts in equal pay.

Creative credits for the “Daughter” spot are below.

Client Name: Audi Of America

Agency: Venables Bell & Partners
Founder, Chairman: Paul Venables
Executive Creative Director: Will Mcginness
Creative Director: Justin Moore
Associate Creative Director: Allison Hayes
Copywriter: Mike Mcguire
Copywriter: Kathy Hepinstall
Director Of Integrated Production: Craig Allen
Senior Producer: Matt Flaker
Head Of Brand Management: David Corns
Group Brand Director: Chris Bergen
Brand Supervisor: Justin Wang
Brand Manager: Abu Ngauja
Group Strategy Director: Tonia Lowe
Director Of Business Affairs: Quynh-Ahn Phan
Project Manager: Leah Murphy

Production Company: Somesuch + Anonymous Content
Director: Aoife McArdle
Executive Producers: Nicky Barnes, Sally Campbell
Ep / Production: Sueellen Clair
Head Of Production: Kerry Haynie
Producer: Grace Bodie

Editing Company: Work Editorial
Editor: Stewart Reeves
Assistant Editor: Josh Sasson, Erik Vogt-Nilsen
Executuive Producer: Marlo Baird
Producer: Lynne Mannino

Music Company: Human
Music Composer: John Christopher Barnes
Creative Director: Craig Deleon
Executive Producer: Jonathan Sanford

Sound Design/Final Mix: Lime Studios
Sound Designer: Matt Miller
Mix: Matt Miller
Assistant Mixer: Peter Lapinski
Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan
Associate Producer: Kayla Phungglan

VFX Studio: Electric Theatre Collective
Creative Director: Adam Watson
VFX Supervisor: Adam Watson
2D Artists: Adam Watson, Tommy Smith, Dave Damant, Jessenia Nauta
CG Lead: Corinne Deorsay
CG Artists: Corinne Deorsay, Nate Lapinski, Remi Dessinges, Steve Beck
EP: Kate Hitchings
VFX Producer: Catherine Yi

Color Correction: Company 3
Colorist: Stefan Sonnenfeld
Senior Producer: Katie Andrews

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@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.