November 12, 2002

Progress Through Advertising: New A8 Campaign One of the Most Elaborate in Company History

It took almost a year to produce. Weeks and weeks of preparatory research in the Audi Tradition company archives were necessary. Around 600 people - Audi employees, creative experts from advertising agencies and production companies, photographers, a symphony orchestra, composers, directors and actors - were involved. The final edited version - put together from 30,000 metres of film material, digital computer animations of the kind that are usually only made for Hollywood blockbusters, elaborate photo shootings and retouching for advertising motifs - can now be seen in national print media and on television: the worldwide advertising campaign for the new Audi A8. "It is one of the most elaborate projects of this kind in the history of AUDI AG and it fits in perfectly with the company tradition of innovative advertising campaigns," explains Hans-Christian Schwingen, Head of Marketing Communication at Audi.

For the first time the car manufacturer has opted for a two-stage launch campaign for presenting its flagship to the general public. To start with, in the 'pre-launch phase', the brand is presented emotionally through its history - the focus is on the progressive and sporty character of Audi. "The new Audi A8 is the latest evolutionary stage in the company's 103-year history. We want to present this past, which is rich in innovations and emotions, and show that our slogan 'Vorsprung durch Technik' has always applied," continues Schwingen.

The advertising focus in the pre-launch phase is therefore 80 percent on the brand's history and innovative prowess and 20 percent on the new product. Schwingen: "The car is too important for the company for it to simply just present in on the day it is launched. When the new A8 is launched in the middle of November (launch phase) we will then turn the focus around 80:20 in favour of the product." The Spanish advertising agency Tandem DDB S.A. in Barcelona is responsible for both the concept and realisation.

A highlight in the pre-launch campaign is the TV commercial "Today". This was also made in Spain and was produced by Alamo Films in Madrid. This film packs the company's history, which dates back over 100 years, into 45 seconds. This has been achieved using the kind of state-of-the-art film technology otherwise reserved for Hollywood blockbusters. The film combines historical archive footage with newly filmed scenes. One and the same presenter slips into a total of nine different roles and, starting in 1899, travels through five different epochs of the Audi brand until the new Audi A8 rolls into the picture at the end of the commercial, as the latest stage in the company's development so to speak. A total of 20,000 metres of old and 10,000 metres of new film material were selected and edited for the commercial.

One of the main challenges faced was to integrate the presenter making the journey through history into the original material in such a way that this is not obvious to the viewer - and to film new scenes so that they look like historical footage. As Gerhard Kiefer, responsible within Marketing Communication for film and photo productions at Audi, explains: "We did this using digital Bluescreen technology. This technique was first perfected in the film 'Forrest Gump' staring Tom Hanks in the leading role." Bluescreen digitisation makes such scenes look deceptively authentic. In the case of the Audi commercial, the main actor was filmed in his various roles in front of a blue wall and edited into the original material subsequently.

Audi also had to reach deep into the box of tricks for one of the different final scenes (not shown in Germany) and for the photo motifs for the printed advertising campaign in which the new A8 drives around the banked corner of the Avus Ring racing circuit in Berlin. The problem is that this time-honoured motor racing venue no longer exists. Yet the pictures look unbelievably realistic. Special computer software makes it possible to reconstruct three-dimensional shots. This technique was used in breathtaking fashion in the cinema epic "Titanic", for example.

To make it look like the Audi A8 is racing around the banked corner of the Avus circuit, the complete CAD vehicle data for the A8 from Technical Development in Ingolstadt were first entered into the 3D program. In this way a computer animation of the vehicle was produced. The crew then reconstructed a 500 m2 section of the banked curve from bricks on a horse farm in the Eifel region of Germany and photographed the new A8 on it. These pictures were also digitised and entered into the 3D program. With the aid of the old design data for the racing circuit, the computer then calculated the exact course of the banked curve and projected the A8 onto it as if races still took place there today.

All in all it took 340 hours of work at the computer to stage the 45 seconds so perfectly. An interesting contrast to computer technology: parts of the commercial were filmed using two 80 year-old hand-crank cameras to make the subsequently filmed historical scenes appear as authentic as possible.

Kiefer gives another example of the tremendous work that went into making the commercial: "For the subsequently filmed sequence of a historical Grand Prix race, for example, we reconstructed a complete pit setting. The actors' costumes were also based on originals."

The film was shot at six different locations: in Ingolstadt and Munich, at the studio in Madrid and at other locations in Spain. The film-makers covered a total of around 5000 kilometres between the various locations until everything was "in the can". Up to 100 women and men worked on the set, a total of around 600 people were involved in realising the campaign and 500 different minor roles had to be acted out. The principal actor was chosen from 500 applicants. The American actor Donald Kimmel was chosen to play the part of the Audi expert who travels through time. His German voice is provided by Frank Glaubrecht who also dubs the voices of Pierce Brosnan, Al Pacino and Kevin Costner among others.

The highest standards were also applied for the music in the commercial film. As Katrin Schöneberg, Project Manager for the A8 campaign, explains: "The Bratislava Symphony Orchestra provided the background music to the film, a piece by the composer Zivot. The 50 musicians watched the film during recording so that they were able to play every note in time with the pictures."

In the area of print media, the A8 advertising campaign was launched at the end of September with a 20-page image supplement in the weekend editions of national daily newspapers with a total circulation of around 1.7 million - this too was a unique measure for the launch of a new model. The supplement contained all advertising motifs used for the print campaign which is currently appearing worldwide. These include photos of the luxurious interior of a Horch 8, Type 375, Pullman Saloon from 1929, the Auto Union Type C Grand Prix racing car from 1936, the Auto Union Streamliner from 1937, the Audi Ur-quattro from 1980 and the Audi R8 which won the Le Mans 24 Hours three years in succession.

The second part of the campaign for the launch of the new Audi A8, in which the focus is on the product, is due to start in the middle of November. This will comprise new advertising motifs and a new TV commercial. The advertising film "Father and Son" emphasises the sporting character of the new flagship and shows that a luxury saloon is tremendous fun not only for the father, but also obviously for his young son.

Another special feature of the A8 campaign is that it will be appearing in this form worldwide. Katrin Schöneberg: "We assume that commercials and advertising motifs will appear in up to 70 countries." This is also a step towards more global branding and image building. Nonetheless, importers will be able to have the historical TV commercial modified to suit their individual needs.

The sequences can be edited in a different order and there are various film lengths and final sequences. And for the Chinese market, one scene was even re-filmed with a Chinese actor.

This principle of modular advertising is cost-effective and the production of several campaigns for different markets was unnecessary. This helps to save additional costs.

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