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Audi Brand Wins Big With ’50 Shades of Grey’

We haven't read them. Are they any good? Sex toys and bondage apparel aren’t the only products buoyed by the runaway success of “mommy porn” trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey. As you may know, the appetites of devastatingly handsome bachelor and all-around rich guy Christian Grey extend beyond kinky sex and virginal women to include luxury cars. He doesn’t just like fancy wheels, he likes Audis — lots of them. So what did Audi do to earn this high-value product placement? Not a thing (except for boasting a meticulously cultivated and widely recognized brand image).

According to Ad Age, author E.L. James (that’s 30 million copies and counting) doesn’t own an Audi — she’s not even a major fan. But when she needed to choose an auto brand demonstrating her character’s wealth, class, and desire for top performance (no pun intended), Audi immediately came to mind.

As Rob Donnell, founder and president of Los Angeles-based Brand Arc, told Ad Age: “It was probably purely character-driven. Cars always define character quite precisely, and that’s usually one of the ways [brands] can get in early” on books, TV shows or movies. In other words, while these freebie product placement spots came about organically, they’ve made Audi a shoe-in for a guest starring role in the upcoming 50 Shades film series — and we think the company will be ready to shell out a pretty penny for the pleasure (think Volvo in the Twilight series). The time has come to make a move: Universal and Focus Features have reportedly bought the rights to Ms. James’ trilogy for a cool $5 million.

What impact has all of this commotion had on the Audi brand?

Loren Angelo, general manager of Brand Communications, told Ad Age that “As Audi continues to generate momentum in the U.S. market, we’re seeing our products utilized more and more within popular culture. Those organic results are always a sign that a brand is generating real cultural relevance. Obviously, the runaway success of this series has introduced Audi to consumers who might not have previously been thinking of the brand and that certainly has a positive impact for us.”

No word yet on whether Edward Cullen and his Volvo will challenge Christian Grey and his Audi to a teen dream/mommy magnet drag race, but one can hope.

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