Audi’s “subtle” attack on Mercedes-Benz

Talk about great sportsmanship. Or not. But as Michael Corleone says, "It's not personal, it's business." And well, isn't that what this profession is all about?

Audi's new U.S. TV spot is literally trying to put Mercedes-Benz to sleep. The "Goodnight" ad airing during the NFL season is a prequel to a spot that will be launched during this year's Super Bowl. The four-lettered brand performs a full-frontal attack on the S-Class by repeating the word "Goodnight", followed by adjectives such as gluttony and old luxury, among other things. This parody of a children's story called "Goodnight Moon" presents the Audi A8 as the new embodiment of new luxury, innovation and 'unequaled inspiration'...


Chief Marketing Officer at Audi of America, Scott Keogh, recently stated in a press release:

"Today's luxury consumer exists in a world where status is no longer solely defined by tradition, but increasingly by their entrepreneurial accomplishments. As a result, they are seeking out new and more evolved luxury symbols that make them stand out from the crowd."

Audi's desire to move forward is perfectly valid, I mean, where would we be if our spirit of improvement ceased to exist? The ad is definitely one that has sparked many comments, both positive and negative. In my opinion, it feels a little bit too agressive. In many ways and cultures, subtlety is synonymous with elegance. How does an ad so agressive pretend to sell elegance?  Being so "full-frontal" with someone that has been a pioneer and market leader can make you sound pretentious without the grounds to back you up. Especially when you are a bit younger than the other contenders in that field.

Now, could this ad establish the A8 as an epitome of luxury? Perhaps. I'd give it some time to prove it. But as a substitute of the S-Class? I'm not so sure. At least not anytime soon. We have yet to see which other actions besides advertising will be performed in order to potentially become the new leading figure in this segment. Let's see if the next ad programmed to air during the Super Bowl shines a little more light as to the reasons why and how Audi will make "luxury progress." So far, I'm not buying it. Not when it looks like a larger version of the A4/A6. But I've got to give it to them, that took guts...

Ahh, German cars... who would we be without them?

7 Responses to "Audi’s “subtle” attack on Mercedes-Benz"

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  • MDM
    January 19, 2011 - 7:55 am

    Wow they actually used a Mercedes car in the commercial, is that even allowed?!

  • Jon
    January 25, 2011 - 5:17 pm

    It’s amazing how apparently little you know about Audi, to be “not buying it”. Sounds like you’re just gaga over Mercedes Benz because you’ve worked for them. Have you actually driven the A8 to compare it to an S-Class? Audi has pushed design and performance further and faster in the last 5 years than Mercedes has in the last 20. Having worked directly for MB USA myself, I can tell you the brand is synonymous with the pompous old polo-loving tennis-playing aristocrat and they rest on their laurels touting the symbol and the image over the actual product, and doing so more than ANY other brand. This ad is so damning in its message, and so scathingly true, that it drove me to seek its origins.

  • Maria Elena More
    January 26, 2011 - 8:45 am

    Dear Jon,
    Thanks for your input. My article is meant to analyze Audi’s selling strategy, not the quality of the cars. That I’ll leave to Car and Driver. What I’m focusing on is: Does the brand get its point across in an effective way? Could the nature of the ad turn off viewers because of its tone? But now that you mention it, you make an interesting point: Audi is an excellent example of brand improvement and product innovation- maybe more than many other auto brands in past years… Hence my point: why continue to compare with others, when your product should stand and speak for itself? Or more importantly, why be a second class version of someone else when you can be a first class version of yourself? No one will ever be a better Mercedes-Benz than Mercedes-Benz, or BMW than BMW, or Audi than Audi, so on and so forth…
    My personal opinion is that instead of putting down others to seem better, I’d rather focus on seducing because of my strengths, not because of someone else’s weakness… With the quality of their products, it’s about time Audi brings that product performance and aforementioned superiority to the screen, without having to drag anybody else into the equation.

  • Paola
    January 26, 2011 - 12:04 pm

    Maria Elena,

    You NAILED it. Jon, you missed the point of the blog completely. You need to view it as a marketer and as a potential client. Audi may be making better vehicles, but we certainly didn’t get that impression from this ad.

    It’s not what you say but how you say it. And Audi was saying (more like screaming), “LOOK AT ME! I’M CLASSY! I’M LUXURIOUS! I’M FABULOUS!!!” Much in the same way that someone with new money would deck themselves out in Armani, LV, and some Hermes, walk up to a store in Palm Beach, and go on and on about how much money’s in their Swiss account. Sure, it could very well be more millions than the Rockefellers, but do those walk around taunting it in comparison to the Dells and Winfreys???

    Did Audi really get its point across in an effective way with that rude and crass ad? Did the way in which the brand promoted the product perhaps turn off some buyers because of its boldness? Are people going to really notice the car, its beauty and features, and its superiority to MB, or is their intended message going to get lost in a bunch of computer graphics and audacious attacks???

    WHAT JACK SAYS ABOUT JILL SAYS A LOT MORE ABOUT JACK THAN JILL.

    Audi may be the better product, but I’m afraid it came off as very nouveau-riche with this one.
    Based on this advertisement, I’m sticking with the style and sophistication of MB’s older (and classier) money. Period.

  • Jon
    February 7, 2011 - 1:22 pm

    I do see merit in your argument, and Paola you sum up that point succinctly. However… I am a car guy, in the intended demographic (males 25 to 40?), and this commercial really speaks to me. I AM a potential client, and I don’t want to be in a car that my grandfather pined over. If I’m young guy from old money, I may well feel “goodnight old luxury and your stuffiness” is a great message. If I’m new money, I was never there to begin with. I think MB is the king of the mountain and has been for a long time, and everyone knows it. They make great cars too. As a corollary it’s within Audi’s job description to attack, and associate their product with something that BEATS the current reigning champ. Audi as a car and a brand does speak for itself – but it’s like a challenger to boxing champ. He can talk all the smack he wants, that’s the job of a challenger, especially if the reigning champ is a smarmy pompous douchebag (you get my point). [Come fight day] the product speaks for itself too. I don’t think it hurts Audi to say “those guys suck”. I think it helps those who may agree that MB is stuffy. How many others’ opinions were echoed by this approach on that particular point, I really don’t know.

    Tell me something else… This seems to be a very similar model to the I’m a Mac/I’m a PC ads with John Hodgeman, where they slam Vista and Windows over and over and over. And seemingly Apple has been rabidly stealing market share from Microsoft with precisely the same marketing weaponry. Apple as a brand has made an identity out of ‘awesome product, and way better than microsoft’ for a long time. And even on this blog Apple’s been labeled marketer of the year.

  • Jon
    February 7, 2011 - 1:32 pm

    Very sorry, CORRECTION on my last post: the Apple title wasn’t from this blog, just a link from this blog to an article citing Ad Age, labeling Apple as “Marketer of the Decade”.

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