In the Post-Driving Era, Audi Shows How Quickly We’ll Become Nostalgic for the Wheel

A view of the near future from VB&P and the director of 'I, Tonya'

In this futuristic spot, a man thinks back to the days behind the wheel. Audi
Headshot of David Griner

When the time of self-driving cars truly arrives, our lives are sure to be safer and more leisurely. But humans thrive on thrill and restlessness, so will we soon find ourselves too relaxed?

That’s the question at the heart of Audi’s new spot from Venables Bell & Partners, which looks into the near future to show a man whose life seems to have it all—big house, successful career and, of course, a self-driving car.

But on this day, his Siri-esque personal digital assistant, Clara (voiced by Selma Blair), notices that he seems a bit forlorn and wistful. “David, what’s on your mind” she asks. He describes the days of his youth, spent driving and exploring as friendships grew and romance bloomed.

“Driving wasn’t just about being taken from place to place,” he says, “but going somewhere…feeling something along the way.”

Directed by Craig Gillespie of “I, Tonya” fame, the spot feels eerily accurate in its prediction that we’ll all soon long for the days of being behind the wheel—even if we appreciate the extra time and reduced accidents.

While his AI assistant comes off a bit too motherly (and somewhat reminiscent of HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey” asking, “Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?”, and suggesting the astronaut take a “sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over”), the ad walks a careful line of celebrating driving without attacking the idea of autonomous cars, which makes sense given that Audi is one of the industry leaders on integrating self-driving and responsive tech into popular models like the A8.

In the ad, David’s autonomous car isn’t clearly branded as an Audi, though we’re left to assume from his brand loyalty that he’s stuck with the luxury automaker over the years. As a result, we end up with a classic “have your cake and eat it too” solution: Why own just one Audi when you can own two?


Client Name: Audi Of America
Brand: Audi
Spot Name: Driver

Agency: Venables Bell & Partners
Founder, Chairman: Paul Venables
Executive Creative Director: Will Mcginness
Creative Director: Justin Moore
Creative Director: Matt Miller
Art Director: Aisha Hakim
Senior Copywriter: Jake Reilly
Director Of Integrated Production: Craig Allen
Producer: Gabby Gardner
Head Of Brand Management: David Corns
Group Brand Director: Cara Watson
Brand Director: Jon Phillips
Brand Supervisor: Justin Wang
Brand Supervisor: Casey Warendorf
Brand Manager: Hope Stadulis
Group Strategy Director: Uli Kurtenbach
Senior Strategist: Mike Riley
Director Of Business Affairs: Quynh-an Phan
Business Affairs Manager: Sametta Gbillia
Business Affairs Manager: Susan Conklin
Senior Traffic Manager: Jermelia Holling
Creative Resource Manager: Jessica Youssefia
Director Of Lumberyard: Raquel Bedard
Mcr Operations Manager: Jeff Saunders

Production Company: Mjz
Director: Craig Gillespie
President: David Zander
Executive Producer: Emma Wilcoskson
Line Producer: Michaela Johnson
Director of Photography: Philippe Le Sourd
Production Designer: Jamie Vickers

Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Rick Russell
Executive Producer: Suzy Ramirez
Producer: Barbara Healy
Assistant Editor: Dillon Stoneburner

Music Company: Human
Producer: Kamela Anderson
Composers: Ed Dunne And Craig Deleon
Creative Lead: Craig Deleon
Sound Design & Mix: 740 Sound
Mixer: Chris Pinkston
Sound Designers: Chris Pinkston, A Josh Reinhardt, Rob Marshall
Executive Producer: Scott Ganary
Producer: Jeff Martin

Vfx/finishing: The Mill
Executive Producer: Anastasia Von Rahl
Producer: Dan Love
Production Coordinator: Jalisa House, Jasmine Singh
Shoot Supervisors: John Shirley, Ben Smith, Matt Bohnert
Production Creative Director: John Shirley
2-D Lead Artist: Ben Smith
3-D Lead Artist: Matt Bohnert
2-D Artists: Dylan Streiff, Jake Alberts, Katerina Arroyo, Patrick Heinen, Elliott Brennan
3-D Artists: Annie Zhao, Ziming Liu, Jason Jansky, Juan Salazar, Katie Yancey, Samantha Pedregon, Sharlene Lin, Freddy Parra, Elizabeth Hammer, Michael Lori
Matte Painting: Gillian George, Marissa Krupen
Design/Motion Graphics: Greg Park
Additional: Shane Baxley (Concepting)

Telecine: Company 3
Colorist: Tom Poole
Color Producer: Alexandra Lubrano
Color Assist: Jenny Montgomery

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@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."