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Brand Moves: Audi Snaps Into Action and E*TRADE Scraps the Cheeky Baby

Audi Snapchat Dog Courtesy of HUGEBeing a brand that’s witty, irreverent or challenges convention isn’t so easy, especially since those companies set the bar high and their customers come to expect unique, creative ads and social communications. Two such brands, Audi and E*TRADE, shared their stories at Ad Age’s Digital Conference this week in New York. Audi detailed their use of Snapchat during the Super Bowl game, and E*TRADE discussed their decision to end their popular baby ad campaign.

Audi picks up the pace: “Being a challenger brand gives us an edge”, said Anna Russell, Audi’s general manager of brand marketing. She outlined the car brand’s core messages: they’re “champions of progress”, using LED lighting, they “challenge convention”, particularly with their Quattro system, and they’re a “brand of action” and frequent sports sponsor.

Still, as Aaron Shapiro, CEO of their agency, HUGE, noted, with the Oreo effect, “now every brand is piling on no matter how relevant or not” in real-time marketing during events. He said Audi didn’t want to use a “me-too strategy”. (Plus, they needed to be careful since they were involved in a 2010 Super Bowl campaign controversy).

“The goal for the 2014 Super Bowl was how Audi could stand out for its recent A3 launch” (of entry-level cars targeting younger buyers), said Russell. The brand partnered with The Onion and used Snapchat for the “Uncompromise Super Bowl Sunday” activation. They snapped and sent users “all the news they’re missing that isn’t football”. As Russell noted, they skipped their usual content guidelines so they could act quickly, and they ended up snapping 15 headlines. The result: Snapchat accounted for one-third of Audi’s Super Bowl social media impressions.

Audi’s recent A3 ad campaign, “Stay Uncompromised”, also has an irreverent tone and features artists and entertainers like Ricky Gervais. In one spot, his niece serves as his sidekick, innocently reading scathing tweets about the comedian from the back seat while he tries to react nonchalantly in the driver seat.

ETrade Baby Spot Courtesy of THRE*TRADE silences the baby: Another ad campaign from a cheeky brand, E*TRADE, is in transition. “The baby is now enjoying a lovely time, writing his memoirs”, said Liza Landsman, E*Trade’s CMO. She made it official that the precocious baby has been sent out to pasture (or is perhaps now preparing for Pre-K).

When Landsman arrived on the scene last summer, people commented, “Great, I love the E*TRADE baby!” She said she recognizes the longtime campaign (from agency GREY) is “iconic advertising, and captured the notion that online investing is so easy that a baby can do it”. “But over time the baby ate the brand”, she added. “Investing is actually hard, and we wanted to recognize the shift beyond trading and E*TRADE’s role in taking the burden off consumers to the extent possible.”

Landsman reported spending time evaluating the brand platform, talking to customers and thinking about prospects. “We’re not like everyone else who’s rooted in democratized investing. Witty irreverence is key to our identity as a brand, and the baby was human, approachable and irreverent”. In the final baby spot, the baby quits during March Madness. She said the new brand platform is set to launch this weekend, and she believes the new ads (from Ogilvy) are “funny, irreverent and represents where we’re going as an enterprise.”

“During the transition, we had a clear sense of purpose and mission, and after research we’re better armed with data to show the yield from marketing programs. But we’re inventing more unknowables every day”, said Landsman. Since she didn’t preview the new campaign, those unknowables have piqued everyone’s curiosity, but we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out.

(image #1 courtesy of HUGE agency, image #2 courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter)

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