Audi RSQ: Prop-aganda!

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April 14, 2004

Article by: Michael Levine

It’s all propaganda – placing an outrageously styled, futuristic Audi sports coupe into the middle of a summertime sci-fi action flick. It’s an in-your-face move to get the attention of the audience. To make them react to emotionally as the four rings can be seen shuttling the hero to safety from the clutches of menacing robots. To make the audience “vibrate in their seats.” Say what? Vibrate in their seats? Yep, it’s all propaganda. Or, to put it properly, Propaganda Global Entertainment Marketing.

Propaganda GEM is the name of the company Audi turned to to help make the Audi RSQ a reality, and it’s Propaganda’s co-founder Ruben Igielko-Herrlich who loves to make “audiences vibrate” with just the right product placement in a movie.

It was Igielko-Herrlich who helped director Alex Proyas make a connection with Audi as Proyas conceptualized the car his hero would drive in the film “I, Robot”. Proyas needed a vehicle that would showcase a plot-critical technological device of future automobiles – in the year 2035 cars have spheres instead of wheels – and would also match the maverick spirit of his lead character, a police detective on the hunt for a murderous robot.

An Audi Allroad driver and fan of the Nuvolari, Proyas knew the Audi brand was a natural match for both the concept and his hero. Within weeks the spheres, rather, the wheels were in motion and reps from Audi’s design and marketing branches flew to the set of “I, Robot” in Vancouver, Canada to personally meet Proyas and to get a hands-on feel for the movie’s setting.

To Audi enthusiasts, the letter Q reflexively suggests Quattro but to Igielko-Herrlich, Q refers to a qualitative metric that is used to determine how well an audience will remember a product placement. The higher the `Q-factor’ the more likely that product will be recalled by theatergoers at some future date. One a scale of 0 to 5, a rating of Q0 means a product has been passively placed into the background of a shot. A rating of Q5 provides the product with a key role in the storyline.

Using a Q-factor of Q5, figures from Will Smith’s past summer sci-fi box-office showings, the expected distribution size of the movie, plus a few other media valuation factors, Igielko-Herrlich and Audi AG marketing reps were able to calculate that for a figure somewhere in the $2M+ range they could get a very large bump in Audi brand recognition and recall by making “I, Robot” the largest product placement in Audi’s history. And not only would Audi reap the rewards of this marketing recognition, Audi would also retain all of the intellectual capital and innovative property rights realized during the engineering of the RSQ, according to Martin Ertl, head of Audi design management.

Within a remarkably tight timespan of 10 weeks, to keep movie production on track, Audi designed and produced 3 RSQ models for the movie – the `runner’ shown at the 2004 New York International Auto Show and two crash cars. A special cockpit chassis was also built for those shots where Will Smith is seen piloting the car. Audi buffs will also note that the RSQ isn’t the only Audi in the movie. In another product placement coup-of-sorts almost every other car in “I, Robot”, from the police cars to taxis, is also an Audi derivative based on current models like the A4 and A6. Detectives and cops driving Audis? Where can I sign up for the force?

But the real star of the show is the Audi RSQ. It’s a prop of such significance that is can only be considered pure Propaganda.

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