‘Never Follow’ Leads McKinney’s Charge for Audi

David Baldwin mixes ephemeral imagery and hard-charging racing riffs in his newest campaign for Audi.

“Never follow” is the theme line that flows through the McKinney & Silver executive creative director’s television and print ads for the German automaker.

” ‘Never follow’ intersects the point where customer and company values come together,” said Baldwin, speaking from his Raleigh, N.C., office. “Audi does things differently; its customers share that value.”

Three 30-second TV spots broke on NBC, CNBC and in spot cable markets last week. A fourth execution, a two-minute documentary-style promotion, traces Audi’s “absolute passion” through its 100-year racing history.

Print advertising is appearing in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Magazine buys include The Atlantic Monthly, Details, Vanity Fair and Men’s Journal.

In the “Guggenheim” TV spot, an Audi TT pulls out of a “garage” that turns out to be the famed New York art museum. A voiceover intones, “All great works of art belong in a museum.”

“Leonardo,” built around school girls visiting a museum, cleverly blends da Vinci’s drawings with components in Audi’s new “multitronic” transmission.

The most evocative TV piece, the 60-second “Spirit,” will break by the end of the month. Recapturing the visual poetry of Baldwin’s critically acclaimed “Rain” spot, a boy moves through a field of surreal images, grounded by a voiceover that exhorts: “Do what hasn’t been done … Look everywhere … Don’t be afraid …Never stop dreaming … Never follow.”

“We’ve created a siren song to Audi drivers,” said Baldwin, “even if they don’t yet know they’re Audi drivers.”

Though off from its double-digit growth of the past six years, sales of luxury Audis were up nearly 4 percent in 2001, more than triple the category average.