So that was a Hell of a Super Bowl. Yes Tom Brady is (fill in list of glowing superlatives here). Now, on to the commercials. Quite a few pundits are talking about how Alfa Romeo won the day with its sponsorship. I disagree. The winner is Audi. The loser is Alfa. Here’s why.
For those of you who have not seen it already, Audi’s Super Bowl piece took the automotive day. It’s a spot where a father, in voice-over speaks in indignantly lyrical terms of the disparity in pay between men and women while his brave daughter competes in the world’s most super-bowl commercial-esque soapbox derby. Go daughter! Go equal pay and opportunity! Go buy an Audi!
Is this a cheap piece of issue-association used in the service of selling upper, upper-middle-class Volkswagens? Or is it something more?
First of all, we are talking Super Bowl so we are still telling a story set in what remains the pinnacle of all things advertising. No one can wholly extinguish all cynicism. But let’s just put that aside and enter the two, make that three car companies (Ford was there too) that sought our car-buying dollars on World Brady Day.
First Alfa Romeo. Oh to be new. Oh to be so beautiful, so soaked in heritage, so marinated in Italian passion and so baked in association with Ferrari. And oh those ads were crap. Why on earth are we subjected to a hectoring voice-over and a freighter-load of car clichés? There is a rule in storytelling, and it holds true in advertising: Don’t tell people how to feel, give them a reason. Yet armed with so many gorgeous reasons, Alfa erased what could have made its introduction astounding and instead acted like a pathologically insecure B-list actor who interrupts a party to loudly enumerate his own qualities. Riding dragons? Really?
Now, Audi. Here’s the company that, like Subaru, grew its market share right through the Great Recession. Audi did that by being an inherently useful and focused brand – the only all-wheel-drive luxury vehicle that comes in handy for upscale adventure heads and adventure-head hopefuls. These cars are, like so many (too many) brand, aspirational. Yet instead of stating that somewhat obvious and incredibly hackneyed luxury car advertising sentiment, Audi took the idea of aspiration and applied it to something many people care about – equality. Audi didn’t get on a soapbox to talk about a political issue or demean it by association. Audi just took the common thought of aspiration and made it “equal opportunity aspiration”. It said, “We want a world where anyone can afford our cars.” Sure it was commercial, but it was true. Sure it was a hi-jacked value but it was relevant. I’m willing to bet that very few shared Alfa’s advertising efforts from the big day. Views on one posting of the Audi 2017 Super Bowl spot are now at over 8,500,000. Alfa’s effort is in the low 600 thousands.
Oh yes, then there’s Ford who ruined a lovely montage with a bunch of declarations about how Ford is working to build stuff that everybody else is way ahead of them on – like self-driving or electric cars or… Bicycles!!?