‘Daughter’ Super Bowl Ad Drives Audi Directly into Social-Values Debate, Away from Humor – Forbes
Before the game, even Vegas was wondering whether Lady Gaga would go all social-issues in her halftime performance at the Super Bowl by referring to President Trump.
But there was no doubting the huge statement that at least one Big Game advertiser was going to make during the game: Audi. With its third-quarter ad promoting gender equality in the workplace, “Daughter,” the progressive-luxury brand put a stake in the ground on behalf of one of the most significant social issues of today, and of the era.
“You can entertain by doing one of two things to speak to all America but still do something that you can be proud of as a luxury brand,” Loren Angelo, vice president of marketing for Audi of America, told me. “You can either introduce humor, with charmingly provocative wit, or you can speak to America emotionally. This is a culturally engaging topic that we as a company are very focused on, and we think that to have a profound presence in the Super Bowl, and for the investment we’re making, we want to relate to what America’s talking about. And this is certainly something that is true to Audi and to something that’s happening in our society.”
For sure. But “Daughter” does represent a dramatic pivot by Audi from its previous reliance on sophisticated but unmistakable humor — and an endless parade of stunning new models and technology features — to get its point across. Its ad starring Kenny G in 2011 and contrasting the Audi brand with stale German rivals was an instant classic, and in 2012 Audi vanquished vampires with its new super-bright “daylight” headlights.
(Audi’s closest approach to a real social-issue ad was “Green Police,” the Audi commercial in 2010 that hilariously made fun of environmental bullying. The problem was that this spot supported Audi’s push into “clean diesel,” and the Dieselgate scandal of the last 18 months has blown up that platform both for Audi and, especially, for its parent, Volkswagen AG.)
“I always look at the Super Bowl as an opportunity to tell a creative story and communicate something about what our brand stands for,” Angelo said. “Introducing a new product or taking a position on an issue as we did in 2008 when we said that ‘old luxury just got put on notice,’ or putting an end to the vampire craze, we’ve always looked for creative storytelling opportunities because it’s a big stage, and we can talk about our products and make a statement.”
But this Super Bowl ad has a far more serious intent than suggesting that consumers were sick of the vampires meme. “Daughter” doesn’t just transmit the idea of little girls being the equal of little boys—this ad is squarely aimed at what happens inside workplaces once those children grow to become adults. In fact, there’s absolutely no subtlety in the ad that features a father narrating the story of his young daughter’s entry into a big soapbox-derby sort of race down a big hill, against a bunch of boys—and her victory in same.
“What do I tell my daughter?” says the dad in the voiceover. “Do I tell her that her grandpa is worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? That despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets? “Or maybe I’ll be able to tell her something different,” he concludes as they sidle over to his all-new, 2018 Audi A5 Sportback, the brand’s first four-door version of the A5/S5 platform.