Audi sends in the clowns for big-budget tech campaign

Audi has enlisted a troupe of clowns to convey a serious message about the car brand's technologies in a new multi-million pound campaign.

The "Clowns" ad, created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, depicts the circus stars wreaking havoc on the roads with their antics. Audi vehicles save the day with tech safety features including adaptive cruise control and park assist, introducing the tagline "Audi technology. Clown proof." 

The film marks the return of award-winning director Ringan Ledwidge, who directed Audi’s "Duel" spot in 2016.

"Clowns" will debut on 1 October during Victoria on ITV. It will also be the first ad to be shown at the British Film Institute in London just before the screening of the main feature film. 

Audi has once again repurposed a classic song with an emerging artist for its ad, this time with a cover of Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns, performed by Lisa Hannigan and arranged by record producer David Kosten (also known as Faultline). Previous Audi spots have reinterpreted songs such as If I Only Had a Brain from The Wizard of Oz

The new ad includes a logo encouraging viewers to use the app Shazam to identify the soundtrack. For every Shazam use, Audi will donate to road safety charity Brake in support of Road Safety Week, which kicks off on 20 November. 

Continuing the campaign’s tech theme, the work includes Audi’s first data-driven outdoor ads, which will analyse transport API, time and weather data to trigger relevant creative at roadside locations across the UK. 

The brand is also collaborating with Google and its video program Unskippable Labs on an experiment investigating whether the longer "Clowns" or six-second bumper spots perform better in driving interest in the cars.

"Clowns" was written by Doug Fridlund and art directed by Mikael Alcock. PHD handled media planning and buying. 

Benjamin Braun, marketing director of Audi UK, said: "Everyone knows that Audi produces beautiful cars. But, not everyone knows they have amazing brains. Our film makes that point with great charm and wit as Audi cars negotiate the crazy world of the clowns with exquisite comic timing!"

Ian Heartfield, executive creative director of BBH London, said: "We like to keep things simple with Audi – there are a lot of clowns on the road, and our cars have the technology needed to stay safe amongst them. Add Ringan, and fingers crossed we have a great, memorable, disruptive film on our hands."