The Audi ad echoing “Imported from Detroit” Chrysler Superbowl ad

I recently came across an Audi commercial that has been touted as a rip-off of the “Imported From Detroit” Superbowl advertisement from Chrysler. Apparently Eminem sued them for plagiarizing instrumental parts of “Lose Yourself” and the settlement was donations to Detroit charities (although the exact terms are a secret). I love that part. 🙂

You can view the Audi ad here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqzsIZ6Qth0

And the Chrysler ad here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKL254Y_jtc

I enjoy well crafted television ads, because they are storytelling distilled: story question, beginning, middle, end, arc, all in a few minutes (both of these ads clock in at more than two minutes, less than two-and-a-quarter minutes) of video, music, and dialogue. Many ads do it in 30 seconds.

I have particularly enjoyed both the Chrysler Imported from Detroit and Jeep Manifesto stories, because they have focused on American themes — humble beginnings, pride of workmanship, achievable greatness. But the Audi commercial…well. I think it’s pretty clear that Audi’s agency copied the look and feel of the Chrysler commercial, but there’s no story.

Seriously, can you tell where it takes place? Bonn? Vienna? Berlin? It wasn’t intended to be shown outside of Europe, so it’s probably less mysterious for the intended audience. But I’m fairly familiar with landmarks of the bigger European cities and I couldn’t tell.

A series of disjointed images of a European city, a driver weaving between columns and spinning cookies in a parking garage all night, a fencing match, a clean shirt in the trunk for going back to the office: these do not make a story. Frankly, they don’t even make sense. There are shots of the car, but nothing connects the pieces together. Obviously, Audi didn’t understand what the Chrysler ad said, so they couldn’t effectively echo it.

Three statements from the Chrysler ad tell the backbone of their story: “What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life…the strongest steel is made in the hottest fire…we’re the Motor City, and this is what we do.” The music (the guitar riff from “Lose Yourself” by spokesperson Eminem, a nice touch) and the images simply underscore that story.

Even the choice of Eminem to deliver the last line is part of the story; a skinny white guy who grew up in a run-down trailer park, found his god-given talent and worked his hiney off to become successful is pretty much a living symbol of Detroit. Who knows that story better than him?

Audi’s story says… this is the new A6 Avant. In a city, with a parking garage. Oh, and there’s fencing. Where’s the story, people? Consumers want the story. Because the story defines the brand, and people define themselves by the brands they use. Your story becomes the story of your customers.

For example, I come from Jeep people. My father drove Jeep products until he rolled his Cherokee on a freeway onramp and stopped driving; he and mom walked away with a few scratches, but the Cherokee gave its all. And mom bought a Chrysler van, LOL.

My oldest brother owns three Jeeps (one of them a 1948 Willys 4×4 in rusted tiger-stripe desert camo) (no, it doesn’t run), and I’m seriously considering a Grand Cherokee to replace my teenaged Subaru Outback in a couple of years. We need something taller, since Spooky Man’s back doesn’t like climbing down into a car. Yo Jeep, make a hybrid Cherokee, okay? Thanks.

Spooky Man likes Ford and Toyota, and Jeep is good too; General Motors products — other than the GMC version of the Suburban — are Of The Devil. I have no idea why, nor do I understand his exception for the GMC Suburban and not the Chevy Suburban, since they’re essentially the same vehicle with different nameplates.

However, I know better than to shop GM models, because we are Not GM People, just ask him. Whatever. (They seem fine to me, but on this occasion, it’s convenient for me to obey. See the bit in yesterday’s post about wedding vows.)

That’s the power of brand. And since brand is defined by story, that’s the power of story — tell it poorly/wrong? Your product suffers, and you end up paying for “selected social projects” for “the revitalization of Detroit.” Poor Audi; you can’t buy that kind of publicity, but it made the company look stupid. At least they make good cars.

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