A blockbuster film association is seen as a significant investment from both a brand and product perspective, said Sebastien Auguin, Marketing Director at Audi Middle East to Communicate. Auguin added that with traditional advertising, the company would “never reach” such a large audience for such an extended period of time.
“An important factor is the very high reach – sometimes a blockbuster is watched by hundreds of million movie goers. The longevity of product placement is another aspect and usually extends over decades,” he added.
We spoke to Auguin to understand more about Audi marketing strategy in the region.
Why did Audi associate itself with Marvel characters?
Audi’s connection to Marvel stretches back to the dawn of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008. The first movie in the series was Iron Man and it was a game-changer as it was set in the real world. The technology was believable and even the locations were familiar.
Stark, the hero character and billionaire tech genius would naturally be cast with a desirable and sporty ride, so rather than build one bespoke, Marvel partnered with Audi and the two-seater R8 Coupé was chosen and quickly shot to fame as Stark is seen on-screen driving it to glitzy parties and air force bases.
The connection with Audi accelerated in 2010’s Iron Man 2 as an R8 Spyder features in one of the most memorable scenes where Stark makes full use of its open top by driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with a massive life-saving structure sticking up from the passenger seat.
For Iron Man 3 in 2013, the partnership had really achieved a worldwide following as automotive enthusiasts posted reports online about the scenes featuring Stark’s car collection which, this time, included the Audi R8 e-tron. The coverage drove traffic to the movie and Audi, which was of course our aim.
It is a win-win-situation. For us the movies are a perfect possibility to present our brand values and models to a large global audience in an authentic and exciting way.
The Avengers: End Game and Spider-Man: Far From Home films this year have given us an ideal opportunity to stage Audi´s electric offensive in a spectacular environment for a highly engaged audience.
We use global “digital first” campaigns to promote our blockbuster product placements using short clips and images of the actors with our cars on social media. In addition we usually sponsor the World Premiere of the films and have key talent arriving in Audi cars. The large global reach of the Marvel Studios films helps to achieve our communication goals.
Of course, these global activities are activated and leveraged locally for best effect in market. For example, Audi Middle East recently welcomed guests for an exclusive movie screening of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” in Dubai. The guests include key media in the region as well as influencers, who were able to take pictures and post their impressions about the film, the cars, and their hospitality experience with Audi Middle East.
Is this the most effective way of marketing in the region?
The Middle East attracts many customers who appreciate the luxury, performance and technology our cars offer. Our large premium sedan sector, which includes the Audi A8, A7 and A6, is very successful here, as is the Q8, which is the halo car of the Audi SUV range. The Q8 is our biggest selling model so far this year in the region, with 20% of the volume. Indeed, the Q range (including the Q8, Q7, Q5, Q3 and Q2) accounts for over 50% of the Middle East sales. The Audi e-tron is scheduled to arrive in the Middle East in 2020, so in terms of promoting awareness of the Q8, A7, Q5 and e-tron, both the Avengers: End Game and the Spider-Man: Far From Home films have an important relevance.
We like to think of it as story telling in an environment that our future customers enjoy and want to engage with.
Creating a story around characters with our cars definitely gives us great engagement. Our recent “Audi is Middle East, Audi is ME” campaign for instance has been scripted to give the family characters a preference and a lifestyle that fits to the model they are driving, but at the same time linking all family members together in an authentic way that is relevant to the Middle East Market. This has been especially successful with our customer audience this year.
How else do you talk to your Middle Eastern audience?
We are currently in a long term partnership with Dubai Design Week with the Audi Innovation Award. Now in its 4th year, the Audi Innovation Award roots its themes in Audi’s brand values and vision for the future. One of those is the development of smart cities and the connectivity that helps to anticipate the needs of drivers. Each annual theme honors this focus, and challenges designers across the Middle East to put their minds to imagining how innovation might improve daily lives.
Every year the three shortlisted candidates are given $2,500 to present their concepts at Dubai Design Week (11-16 November 2019). The overall winning design will include a trophy and a trip to the Audi factory in Ingolstadt, Germany, to experience the automotive design journey at the company’s headquarters. In addition, Audi Middle East will award $25,000 worth of consultancy to the winner to cover items such as IP registration, legal counselling and business development. Audi Middle East also works closely with our partners at Dubai Design Week to provide design advice and mentoring to develop and protect the winning idea. Further information regarding the Audi Innovation Award can be found at https://audiinnovationaward.com/
Every year, we also exhibit at Dubai Design Week to promote the theme and the Award. This year, the AIA theme is simplification and the Audi e-tron will be our show car on display.
What is the voice of Audi as we get closer to 2020?
We want to play a major role in shaping new mobility and even to be at the forefront of this change. This requires a vision. To unleash the beauty of sustainable mobility.
Sustainable mobility must be CO2-neutral. Our customers are responsibly mobile only if they are CO2-neutral. Our core product, the car, should contribute to the progress of our society. This requires safe, comfortable and above all clean vehicles. And we are doing everything to achieve that: everyone at Audi, every day, with integrity and courage.
At present, there is a lot of talk about the soul of a car. Emotion is important and driving a car must continue to be fun and appealing in the future. When we say unleash the beauty of sustainable mobility, it is more than just a vision. This is a promise to our customers for a unique customer experience.
In the future, credibility and trust will be essential for people’s purchasing decisions, as well as strong, emotionally fascinating brands. We want to embody both credibility and fascination. We want to be the most progressive premium brand. The car brand with the greatest appeal: with the best customer experience, with exciting customer-relevant innovations, and with breath-taking design. Our customers should have a good feeling of being sustainably mobile, supported by assistance systems such as autonomous driving, with a seamlessly integrated digital offering, and one day accompanied by the power of artificial intelligence.
Our mission along this route is “Consistently Audi.” That is what we have called our new strategy. The pace of change requires consistency in our strategic orientation more than ever. And consistency in implementation. Doing something consistently means doing it purposefully, systematically and with full efforts. Consistent action means that we do without all activities that distract us from our goal. First focus, then consistently implement. That is consistently Audi.