Analyzing Audi's Controversial Super Bowl Commercial
If you haven’t seen Audi’s #DriveProgress Big Game Commercial – “Daughter” from the super bowl check it out (click the image above). It gets into the hearts and minds of anyone who watches it.
Regardless if it warms your heart or angers it, you’re sure to have some reaction. If it helps you see a brighter future for the young women of the world or it frustrates you, it’s likely started some thoughts and maybe even some discussions.
The early viewer feedback wasn’t positive. Some YouTube viewers calling the wage gap between men a “myth” and others looking at the overall theme as negative. Some commenters even called this commercial “feminist propaganda”.
Viewers of the commercial also jumped to action on Twitter to point out that Audi’s board of directors is full of men and that the US equal pay act was passed in 1963.
Whether you agree with the commercial or not, the question we’re asking is why?
Why did Audi choose to produce this commercial and pay millions of dollars to run it during the Super Bowl? What were the intentions behind this controversial commercial? Audi could have kept it simple, followed the “norm” producing a typical “our car is the best” commercial as they have in the past. They made a choice, a decision they knew would be a controversial one. Based on the social media comments and media feedback we’ve looked at six possible intentions behind Audi producing this commercial.
The definition of propaganda found on Wikipedia refers to several key characteristics. These areas include biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view, is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively. Unarguably the commercial is biased towards women’s pay equality. It could be argued that it does promote a political cause. The true “guts” of a propaganda message is around misleading presenting facts selectively. Was Audis’ goal to mislead its viewers? Considering that there is no data presented, no stats or measurements within the commercial it does not mislead with selective facts. Was Audi misleading their audience into believing they are committed to equal pay when they are not? What win could this commercial have if that was their intention? It’s obvious this would stir up discussion inside and outside the company. Equal pay is subjective. Without total performance and pay transparency employees will be in the dark, or at least the shadows, when comparing their pay to others. No doubt there were several employees that approached their manager, HR or someone else in the organization after this commercial was launched online. Requests for raises, discussions or evaluations of pay. The idea that Audi wants to mislead the public about their commitment to this has no legs. Publishing this type of commercial no doubt created additional work for those managers, HR representatives and others within the organization. From this perspective, it wasn’t in Audi’s best interest. Unless, they wanted more women within their company to speak up, ask questions about pay equality and challenge it. If this was their intention would it be so bad?
What if Audi’s reasons for producing this commercial were political? As a way of “lobbying” for equal pay across the US. As a friendly Twitter user pointed out, the equal pay act in the US was passed in 1963, thus voiding a portion of the political argument. Could Audi want improved oversight, regulation and enforcement from the government? It’s possible, if they are already committed to equal pay, this would be welcomed. Creating parity across automotive companies with regards to equal pay implementation would be a negative for Audi. They wouldn’t have the competitive advantage. As well, an increased focus on enforcing equal pay would cost Audi with implementing changes. It’s reasonable to assume that this was not Audi’s intention.
Sell More Cars to Women
The purpose of advertising is to sell a product or service. It’s logical and reasonable to assume that this heartfelt, emotionally charged and controversial ad, was created to simply sell more cars. Focusing on women as a target market is not new for Audi. Last year, they ran a commercial that focused on gender equality with children’s toys and women driving. With a slogan “Playing, just like driving, shouldn’t be a matter of gender”. Audi has their sights on Women as a target market currently. It shouldn’t be surprising if a car companies’ intention to create a new commercial was simply to sell more cars.
Hold Themselves Accountable
We’ve all heard of various forms of public accountability. Many people post their weight loss goals and workout routine on social media to hold themselves accountable. Others find an accountability buddy to hold their feet to the fire. A public statement like “Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work” is one that holds them accountable. If their intention was to hold themselves accountable, I’d say they have achieved their goal.
Bring Light to Pay Equality
What would be so bad if Audi intention was to shed light on pay equality? Nothing, unless there isn’t a problem. If there is not an equal pay problem, we end up back to the concept that this commercial was propaganda. Is there an equal pay issue? Last year I wrote about women equality from the opposite point of view of my personal opinion (you can read this here). What this helped me to understand is that we can frame data in a way that supports either position. We can drop data that we don’t agree with, while still staying truthful and highlight data towards our opinion. Despite a desperate attempt to disprove the inequality of women in the workforce, I couldn’t. Through the numerous research studies that I could locate, they all pointed to one truth; women are not treated equally in the workplace. If you don’t believe me, check out McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace study. If we conclude this research is accurate, once again we move out of the propaganda territory. If Audi’s sole purpose for producing this commercial was to promote pay equality for women, whether you believe it’s true or not, is this bad? If they produced a commercial that stated “Audi of America is committed to children living a happy life” we wouldn’t be questioning it. If you believed that all children are happy already, would this type of commercial be frowned on?
Enroll Intelligent, Driven Women into Their Brand
When I first watched the commercial, my head went directly to recruiting. In our ConvertiHire training program, we encourage leaders to enroll candidates. Enroll candidates into the mission and vision of their business. Audi’s intention could be to enroll smart and driven women into their organization. A megaphone if you will, to let women know that Audi shares a value that many of them may also value. If this is Audi’s intention, what a great one.
Regardless of what you believe Audi’s intention was, I hope that you see this as an opportunity for discussion within your home and the company that you work for. Any company that discusses equality in the workplace and any organization that has this as a priority is on the right track to create a work environment that benefits everyone.
Advisors Will Be Extinct in 5 Years Unless…
I’ve had financial advisors for more than 40 years. Not once in those years have I called my advisor to find out what stock/funds I should buy or sell. But I have called to find out where I should get my first mortgage, when to sell my house, or how much income I could get in retirement.
In short -- and I think I’m pretty typical – I was looking for financial advice, as it relates to my life.
Here’s the disconnect, what most advisors do is simply manage their clients’ assets. They determine what to buy, and what to sell, they think about risk management, about growing their practice by finding new clients and about getting paid.
Historically that has been the business model. But as more women take control over financial assets, they, like me, will be looking for a different experience. And unless the financial community is willing to change ….. advisors, as they are today will be extinct in five years.
Advisors who want to survive will have to do a lot more than just manage money – they will have to provide genuine “advice”. That means doing what’s right for the client, not pushing product and pretending it’s advice.
Women especially, but all investors generally, are becoming more and more cynical. They says, “If I want advice about reducing my debt, that’s what I want and not ‘here’s more debt’ because that’s what my advisor gets paid for! And if saving taxes is what I want then saving taxes should take precedent over selling me a product.”
You may be thinking that spending your time providing advice isn’t lucrative but the reality is that in the long run – it pays off in spades. The advisors who take the time to build real relationships with clients, who provide advice as it relates to their clients’ lives, even when there is no immediate financial benefit to themselves, those who don’t simply push product – are the ones who over time have the most successful practices.
Generally women understand and value service, but they will say, “If I’m paying, I want to know what I’m paying for: Is it for returns? Is it for advice? Is it for administration? I want to know. Then I can make up my mind what’s worth it and what isn’t.”
Investing is becoming a commoditized business and technology is replacing research that no one else can find. Today the average advisor is hard pressed to consistently beat the markets, and with women emerging as the client of the future, unless they start providing real advice, their jobs will likely be extinct in five years.
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