Audi sends in the clowns to highlight vehicle safety features
- Audi U.K. rolled out a new video ad that shows clowns dangerously driving to the tune of Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" as performed by singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan, per The Drum. The spot, created by BBH London, highlights Audi vehicles' safety features, which narrowly save drivers from the "Mad Max"-styled circus troupe as it brazenly ignores others on the road.
- The ad first aired on the U.K. network ITV this weekend and on YouTube and it will also be shown at the British Film Institute on London's Southbank in an outdoor activation. Google Doubleclick's Unskippable Labs video program will use it as a test case to find the "balance of efficiency and storytelling" and how brands can mix longer-form creative with the popular six-second bumper format, The Drum reported.
- The ad is part of a larger push from Audi that includes iconic songs performed by up-and-coming artists. The brand is encouraging viewers to Shazam the songs to learn the name of their performers. Every time a song is Shazamed, Audi will donate to the charity Brake in support of Road Safety Week.
Audi's ad is a funny play on how its vehicles keep drivers safe from the others "clowns" on the road, and Sondheim's tune, sung with solemnity by Hannigan, creates a nice layer of contrast to the circus shenanigans on display. The carmaker takes the musical tie-in a step further with the Shazam integration, which adds a strong mobile component to the campaign, helping curious consumers discover new artists and putting work toward a good cause. An outdoor activation with the British Film Insitute further rounds out a full multichannel approach.
The combination of mobile tech and a charitable element might net the interest of younger consumers who are buying cars less but are shown to favor brands that support a socially-conscious message or cause. Audi clearly wants to experiment with how to strike the right mix of providing information about its cars with compelling storytelling, as evidenced by the tests with Unskippable Labs, as this fine balance is something automotive brands sometimes struggle to achieve.
Six-second bumper ads are currently in vogue thanks to the popularity of video-focused social media platforms — brands like Duracell are seeing a measure of success with the format — but some in the industry, especially on the agency side of things, have questioned whether such a limited amount of airtime hampers emotional resonance and narrative. Audi's work with Unskippable Labs could provide valuable insights in that regard, though it's important to note Google owns both Doubleclick and YouTube, the latter of which helped popularize six-second bumpers.
More in the car category are shifting their marketing strategies from a focus on performance specs and features to more fantastical-themed content and advertising. Another recent example was Toyota's "A New Story Begins" campaign rolled out this summer, which borrowed storylines from well-known fairy tales including Cinderella, the Gingerbread Man, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood.