LONDON - Audi has extended its pan-European advertising approach to the whole world.
'People travel,' says Joerg Dietzel, Audi's international advertising director. 'The world is getting smaller. If you don't have consistency, people get confused.'
Dietzel set up a consortium of agencies Audi had worked with in individual markets, and forced them to work together as a team. The Audi Agency Network aims to produce advertising that is consistent across borders, but not the same.
'You have to be aware of local sensitivities,' says Dietzel. 'That's why we're not aiming for one commercial to run across Europe. That would be like Ford advertising. That would be boring.'
Drawbacks and benefits
The process has drawbacks. It took a year to prepare the Audi A6 campaign which launched in May. Formerly, a new campaign would be prepared in six months.
The A6 campaign compared the car's technological and artistic achievement to the work of Picasso.
The network method is cheaper than producing local ads from different agencies everywhere, but it is not as cheap as having a single agency for all of Europe.
Agencies involved say they are pleased.
'It's a very innovative idea, but then I think Audi has been a very innovative brand,' said John Hegarty, chairman and creative director of London-based Bartle Bogle Hegarty, one of five European agencies in the network.
Audi spends about $180 million on European advertising, split among the five core European agencies. This year it added five non-European agencies to the network.
Dietzel jokes that working with the network is like working with the European Union. 'Now we have this long process until we reach the stage where everybody is happy,' he says.
To prepare a campaign for a new product, each European agency sends a strategic planner to Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany. They view the car and hold a marketing briefing with Audi executives. Then the group meets for three days of hard thinking. They try to turn Audi's marketing brief into a communications and creative outline for the network agencies.
The planning group's theme for the just-launched Audi A6 was 'exciting design for forward thinking people.'
Ideas then filter to local Audi importers and distributors and the five non-European agencies, to be sure the strategy works in their markets.
'Sometimes it's easy to have one translation for Europe, but you can't have it adapted for Southeast Asia,' says Dietzel. 'We want consistency, but it has to work.'
Sometimes there is a particular advantage to doing something specific to a country, says Hegerty. For example, Impact BBDO in Dubai, the Middle East member of the network, added Egyptian hieroglyphics as a backdrop to the creative treatment developed for the Audi A6.
When the consortium has approved the communications brief, creative departments at the five European members each come up with a campaign. The five are presented to a committee made up of the five creative directors, who choose the winner.
'I thought they would all say, 1/8Mine is the best,' but funnily enough, it didn't work like that,' says Dietzel.
The winning campaign and a pool of TV commercials are shown to major importers.
After they ratify it, it goes to Dietzel and Audi's central marketing group. After fine-tuning, it goes to the Audi chairman.
When the campaign has been approved by everyone, it goes back to the creative teams at the agencies. They are told to adapt the work to their countries, giving local importers options that fit the campaign.