Audi, the German automotive giants recently released a lengthly commercial–or short promotional video depending on how you see your glass– for an online audience. The web-based video features some of this year’s biggest television stars, just in time for the 2014 Emmy Awards scheduled for August 25th, 2014. This funny commercial takes cues from popular television shows, using both character and story line references to entrap viewer attention. It’s a landed hit that shows off the best of the Audi brand, featured actors, and Emmys.
In brief description, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad fame, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus of the Seinfeld Dynasty and current star on hit comedy show Veep, are Audi’s celebrity features. The two guys are working off of their Breaking Bad chemistry, playing gritty small-town business partners. The first part of the video shows us Dreyfus in her Audi, explaining why she’s in need of some quick cash. Continuing, she admits to drinking a little too much rosé and accidentally buying her own island, one a bit out of budget. Relatable, right? Dreyfus, playing herself, walks into Cranston and Paul’s pawn shop, cheekily titled, “Barely Legal Pawn” to hesitantly negotiate a deal for her coveted Emmy award. This is parodying popular love-it-or-hate-it History channel show “Pawn Stars” and other shows of the like. Cranston and Aaron Paul go out of their way to be as uncomfortable as possible and Dreyfus ends up not following through with the sale, leaving the shop and keeping her Emmy. She signs a media release form with the “Pawn Star” producer and suddenly realizes she forgot her car keys, forcing her to reenter the shop.
As she enters the shop, the lighting is dimmed, and the suspenseful violins kick into gear as the tone of the commercial dramatically shifts. She, of course, walks into a back room alone where Cranston and Paul are standing. Cranston closes the door behind her with a menacing tone and puts on a gas mask, a literal reference to the Breaking Bad series. Paul is in the background pouring liquid into a container, similar to the same show where both men played big-time crystal meth chemists. We find out that no, they are not making meth, but running an illegal puppy-bathing business. Paul pull’s out a cute puppy and Dreyfus asks “is it a boy or a girl?” and without missing a beat he replies, “Ahh… b*tch”. For those who are unaware, that colourful expletive was Paul’s Breaking Bad catchphrase.
These commercials jive with nearly everyone. We love being in on the joke. Using two extremely popular shows to capitalize on this fact makes us all feel part of some elitist cultural group. Most of us get the references, making the entire production feel tailored to popular taste. It’s also playing on the fact that many fans of Breaking Bad, approximately 112% of the American population, were in some form of withdrawn state of mourning following the series finale. Needless to say, the demand to see those two actors together has remained at boiling point for a while now. So Audi basically stroked our cultural ego, toyed with the army of Breaking Bad fans, and made a standalone funny internet video to boot.
For Audi’s branding purposes, yes there are many great shots of their cars throughout, but as was clearly the strategy, showcasing the vehicle became secondary, if not tertiary to creating a memorable moment. People might not remember every detail and spec of your new vehicle, but they’re more likely to remember how they feel. Not to mention, this video is just over six minutes long, so assuming the viewer watches it through, they are volunteering to invest in the Audi experience. Holding someone’s attention for 6 minutes is a rich amount of time to construct an experience, and Audi does it very well. Plus, it does build and play on the Emmy hype which never hurts, no?