Media: Strategy Analysis - Audi takes giant step for car-makers

Brand: Audi
Brief: Improve conversion of prospects and build brand image
Client: Jan Redecke, digital communications manager, Audi
Target audience: Audi prospects and new car buyers
Budget: Reported to be between £2 million and £3 million
Agencies: Strategy, implementation and ongoing management by Bartle
Bogle Hegarty

STRATEGY

Audi UK wanted to improve its conversion rates during the buying process and briefed Bartle Bogle Hegarty to generate ideas beyond dealership activity. BBH was aware of how much consumers crave information while buying a car. Applying the philosophy of "Vorsprung durch Technik", BBH and Audi devised a communications platform to give consumers more engaging content. The key element was a 24/7 TV channel on the Sky platform, the world's first car manufacturer TV channel. However, the content would also be used to enhance all elements of Audi's communications throughout the buying process from websites to direct marketing activity.

EXECUTION

Two different types of programmes were created. The first provided consumers with model-specific examples that aimed to provide more detailed information than a brochure could. The second was designed to drive brand desirability. For example, Audi harnessed one of its sponsorship deals to create a programme showing an exclusive interview with Sir Alex Ferguson.

- Audi Channel: This gives customers a chance to see audio-visual information about their considered car before going to an Audi centre. Interactive TV programmes were used to create a deeper experience when pressing the red button.

- Online: At www.audi.co.uk, users can stream programmes for their considered car. The full schedule of the Audi channel was also available here.

- Centres: Audi centres have the channel on throughout the day to entertain and inform customers in the waiting areas.

- DM: Channel programmes were included in DM activity. This was used to attract potential buyers; for example, a DVD of a Q7 Scandinavian safari was sent to prospects. Material containing specific programmes on DVD was also sent out.

- Podcasts and mobile phones: Consumers can receive channel content through iTunes and their 3G mobile phones.

RESULTS

Since its launch, more than one million people have watched the TV channel, with 87 per cent of viewers rating the experience positively, and 26 per cent saying it made them more likely to buy an Audi. If only a fraction of these people went on to buy an Audi, the channel pays for itself since it costs less than an annual ad burst.

Customers found it helpful as the average viewer watched the channel an average of 12 times (averaging eight hours in total). More than 3,800 people have received channel content on their mobiles, and 800 people have downloaded channel podcasts multiple times.

In traditional media terms, visitors to the channel content on www.audi.co.uk grew steadily to 12,000 per month. More than 568,000 people pressed red on the RS4 "spider" ad and, as a result of the channel content, 5,441 people requested a brochure.

The Audi Channel was also used to build Audi's image. By advertising "Vorsprung durch Television", the channel raised awareness (especially among non-Audi drivers) of Audi's image for being technologically advanced from 74 per cent to 87 per cent.

THE VERDICT - Jon Gittings, head of strategic planning, Manning Gottlieb OMD

"Vorsprung durch Technik" must be a dream to work with, but it also carries serious expectations. Of all the car brands, Audi should be leading the way in the supply of content across digital platforms (being the third to launch doesn't quite have the requisite "Vorsprungness"). However, it was first and it has ticked a lot of boxes. It has invested properly; recognised that to make it attractive, the content needs to be about people not just technology; and it has integrated it across its business.

From a content perspective, it's good stuff. Front-seat journeys with Alex Ferguson; Scandinavian safari with Peter Schmeichel. And it's always a pleasure to see fast cars racing Harrier jump-jets. To Audi and Bartle Bogle Hegarty's credit, they've focused on developing a strong library of original content.

The topline results look quite impressive too with more than one million TV viewers, an average of 12 views for an average of eight hours. It also seems to have delivered on the "conversion" brief, although it's disappointing that the final metric of disposition to actual purchase hasn't been measured.

There are things that I think need addressing or improving. First, the brief should have read "convert male drivers". It's incredibly blokey and my female colleagues didn't respond too warmly. Second, this feels like a "we've got loads of content, let's put it everywhere" approach. While the DM and iTV is spot-on, much of the rest feels too "stumble upon". What's the strategy? I'd like to see more customer insight to justify the touchpoints. How do prospects find out about the TV channel (more TV ads advertising the TV channel surely defeats the point)? Do prospects want a TV channel? Doesn't an on-demand experience, not a linear TV schedule, make more sense? Why should Audi content be available on iPods and mobile phones? What role do they play in the conversion process? This last point seems reflected in noticeably weaker results.

Audi has laid down a brave marker in the digital world, although without deeper channel insights, it does feel more like a creative review than a strategy analysis. Communication is a science as well as an art. More robustness please.

Score: 3 out of 5.

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