The tag line:
The luxury car for people who can park themselves.
This ad satisfies the two objectives of all creative. It gives us engaging and strategic.
"Parking" is visually arresting, impressive, amusing, darn near sublime. Tivos will stop for this one. Consumers will rewind. We will see this ad many times over it’s lifetime on the air, and chances are it will be a gift that keeps on giving. It’s a little like a magic trick. How did they do that?
This ad takes on the competitor very effectively. The Audi has the ability to park itself. This is a remarkable accomplishmen1. It cancels the technological lead of a competitor. Lexus has just given its car thet and Lexus is justly proud. Not everyone is going to use this feature, but we are assuming that Lexus is assuming that the consumer is assuming that any car company with engineers capable of this kind of thing must be very good at everything else it does. The self parking ability is a part that stands for, and speaks for, the whole.
So now Audi has a problem. A competitor has taken a lead. And even when Audi replicated the lead, the achievement is going to belong to Lexus.
What to do? Well, in a time honored tradition, it makes sense to jam the signal. Find some way to turn the Lexus advantage into a disadvantage.
This is where planners and creatives come in. "Parking" does a couple of things.
2. It repositions the Lexus achievement as a as a self indulgence. This Audi, with its parking panache, turns the Lexis into a carriage, a 17th century conveyance of the French aristocrat, that bloodless fop who relied on others to do his bidding. Audi, on the other hand, is the luxury car for people who can park themselves.
3. "Parking" also makes the Lexus look like a choice of the mechanically incompetent or automotively timid. Cars continue to be a demonstration of other kinds of competence in our culture. (This is why "getting your license" is our great rite of passage.) The Parking spot makes Lexus looks like the choice of people who are intimidated by the task of parallel parking. Let’s be honest. We are all intimidating by parallel parking. Who do you know who is prepared to admit to this intimidation. Audi is the luxury car for people can park themselves…at speed…while moving in the opposite direction…as it were. Audi becomes the car for people who are equal to the task. Lexus the car for the faint of heart, the limp of wrist, the wan of spirit.
4. Audi has performed a cunning act of symbolic privacy. The marketing team found away to come aboard, wrestle away control of Lexus’ point of pride, and turn it into something that threatens to make the consumer look pompous or risible. The Lexus investment in time, effort and accomplishment is undone in 30 seconds. Point of pride is now point of pain.
Hats off to Scott Keogh, Audi CMO, who hired Venables Bell and Partners of San Francisco in December of 2006 and charged them with the task of replicating Apple’s most mythic work. Hat’s off to Paul Venables, Greg Bell, James Robinson, and Jonathan Byrne, and Craig Allen for responding to the challenge.
See the YouTube version of the ad here.
For a somewhat clearer version of the ad, go here.
Warner, Fara. 2007. Audi CMO’s Aim: Put Some ‘Soul’ into Brand. Marketing Daily. January 9, 2007. here.