Analyzing Audi's Controversial Super Bowl Commercial

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.

Feminist Propaganda
 

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?

Political Reasons
 

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.

Nicholas Klisht
WorkForce
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Everything we do we believe in improving company culture. We believe in work environments that benefit everyone. ConvertiCulture is a boutique consulting firm that specializes ... Click for full bio

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Paul Kingsman
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Paul Kingsman helps financial services professionals overcome distractions to achieve success sooner. Combining his experiences as an Olympic medalist and his background as an ... Click for full bio