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Audi's Scott Keogh Dishes on the 2009 A4 Sedan

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Special to The Auto Channel
By Marty Bernstein
AIADA Contributing Editor

While in Spain earlier this year to test drive the new Audi A4, Johann Van Nysschen, the CEO of Audi USA, told a group of auto journalists “The A4 is our most important car and represents almost 50 percent of our volume in North America.” He added, “An aggressive marketing campaign for the A4 was under development and would be launched later in the year.”

To get a better sense of the parameters of the A4 campaign, AIADA contributing editor Marty Bernstein sat down with Scott Keogh, the brand’s CMO, this fall. Keogh, who joined Audi a couple of years ago after a heading the Smart division for Mercedes, is a focused marketing strategist unafraid of using compelling and unusual advertising to draw attention to a brand’s attributes.

Over the past several months, Audi’s PR department turned up the volume on it’s A4 campaign with an aggressive multi-media publicity program. Jeff Kuhlman, Audi’s public relations director commented, “It’s the biggest public relations project in the brand’s history.” The foundation of the campaign consists of two unique television commercials introduced during the Olympic Games. One, called Living Room, typifies Keogh’s distinctive style. In a 360 degree camera sweep, a traditionally furnished living room is stunningly transformed into a sleek, contemporary space. As the camera pans to the terrace, the Audi A4 appears. To check it out, go here and click on -downloads.

The second A4 commercial is less brand focused and more competitive. A dramatic camera close-up of the A4 in black is seen as letter of the alphabet fly by. Three competitive vehicles appear: a BMW 328xi, a Lexus IS 250 AWD, and a Mercedes-Benz C300 4ormatic as the letters form the words, “Slower. Smaller. Less fuel efficient.”  The scene changes to the Audi, moving at high speed, as text appears stating that the new A4 is the fastest, most fuel efficient vehicle in its class. See it yourself    here.

Audi CMO Scott Keogh

While not controversial, these commercials are drastically different from other luxury brands’ ads and are destined to spark conversation. Read on for Keogh’s take.

AIADA: Before we say anything else, the new A4 spots look great.
Scott Keogh: Thanks. They are getting great response from dealers, from Germany, and others. We’re excited.

MB: There’s an obvious dichotomy between the A4 brand and product advertising – why?
SK: That’s a good point. The spot we are calling “Progress is Beautiful” the living room commercial does a couple things extremely well. First, it uses the metaphor of the living room, but it goes much deeper with a variety of messages being delivered throughout.

MB: And secondly …?
SK: The second reason is the analogy to the interior of our cars. As you know our cars have always had great fit and finish with great materials. And we’ve treated them just like a living room. That worked out perfectly in the commercial.

MB: Can you expand and give me some examples of the how the living room worked for the new A4?Audi A4 Interior
SK: We gave tons of cues to Audi in this commercial. For instance when the viewer sees the old walls go away and the wood come up from the old rug, that ties directly into the same wood we use in the A4. We had the Bang and Olufsen speakers and television screen which is the brand of audio systems in our cars. We had the Apple iPod in a scene which ties to the iPod configurator which we have in the cars. Even the leather on the couches is the same leather used in the cars. There’s even a piece of art in the hallway which is shaped just like the LED headlights on our cars. 

MB: That is certainly subtle; maybe even subliminal in focus … is it working?
SK: We knew this spot was going to be viewed multiple times and people are picking up on these cues. Our dealers and colleagues in Germany love it.

MB: In contrast, the product comparison spot makes several strong points of comparison and is far from subtle … why the difference?
SK: The point we wanted to make in the spot is there are lots of cars that have an efficiency message and fair amount of cars that have a quickness or speed message. But who else but Audi engineers could make the car bigger, quicker, and more efficient – that’s what the 4 cylinder, 2 liter turbo allows you to do. It’s so Audi. That’s why we wanted to get the message across. 

MB: Now that the Olympic broadcasts are over, where are the commercials running. 
SK: Our top 17 markets in the U.S., the usual places on the East coast and West coast our best distribution points. 

MB: Demographically, who are the targets for the A4?
SK:  I think Audi in some regards has gotten a little too tangled up in segmentation, demographics, and all that stuff. We need a broader audience. Obviously there’s a mix male to female, etc., but we want to get the brand more popular. This campaign, the reason we first ran it on the Olympics, the reason we used bold-popular creative, was to attract larger target groups to Audi. That is our number one thing.

MB: What major media buys have you scheduled for the fall?
SK: We’re kicking off the NFL on ESPN with an aggressive buy and have also purchased a big section on their fantasy football section. We have a big ownership section there.  We wanted to keep this concept of competition going so as you go from the Olympics to NFL – the campaign is about being competitive and the media buy is in a competitive environment too. We have national cable, NFL Sunday night, and buys during the new fall programming.

MB: How important are the Internet and interactive in your marketing? 
SK: Very important. We will be heavy in banner ads using the product spot showing fuel efficiency, speed and size comparisons in all the major automotive websites and are using Google search terms in a very aggressive buy. There’s a A4 iPhone experience website that simulates a driving experience. (Click here and go to ‘downloads’ to see.)

MB: Is event marketing part of the plans too?
SK: We established the ADE – Audi Driving Experience – a comparison driving event on closed circuit tracks in 10 cities around the country that allows consumers to drive the A4 and the other competitive cars. Over 10,000 people have already registered for these events.   

MB: Ultimately, what do you want to see the A4 do for Audi?
SK: Move Audi’s popularity, get this brand known, and make a bold impression. I am much more focused on getting the Audi brand out, and getting this product out to a much broader audience to popularize it. Internally, we like to say, “Audi’s always been known as the great unknown brand,” now we want it to be the “great known” brand.