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.
NBA Player Carl Landry Demonstrates the Value of Persistence in Life and Work
Written by: Jon Sabes
When you meet Carl Landry, stand-out college basketball player and nine-year NBA player, you imagine that becoming a professional basketball star was a straight forward run for the 6-foot-nine-inch power forward.
However, when you go deeper into Carl’s background, becoming a NBA professional was less than certain and little came easily to the 33-year-old from Milwaukee:
- He was cut from his high school team as a freshman and averaged less than ten points a game when he did play as a senior.
- He started his college career not at Purdue, but a junior college where it was not clear he would play.
- When he finally got to Purdue, he tore his ACL in his knee his first year and reinjured it the next year.
- While his family held a party for him the night of the NBA draft, he slept in the Philadelphia airport after missing a flight following a workout for the 76ers.
- In the NBA playoffs, Carl had a tooth knocked out, but came back in the same game to make a game-winning blocked shot as the Rockets beat the Utah Jazz 94-92.
Landry, who I interviewed on my podcast, Innovating Life with Jon Sabes (www.jonsabes.com), is a remarkable example of the value of “persistence.” In a time where technology creates the image that anything is possible at the touch of a button, persistence is an under-appreciated trait. When I spoke with Carl, I clearly saw someone for whom success has only come through a force of will that made him a NBA player, but it also made him a better player every year he played. That’s the kind of personality that has produced greatness in business as well as sports.
Carl was, in fact, drafted that night he spent in the airport. The Seattle Supersonics chose him as the 31st overall pick and then traded him to the Houston Rockets where he rode the bench for much of the first half of the season. When All-Star teammate Yao Ming was injured, he stepped in and played a key role in the Rockets astonishing 22-game winning streak (the third longest streak in NBA history). And, that season, after sitting on the bench for 33 of the first 36 games, he was named to the All-Rookie second team.
Carl was the first in his family to go to college. “I told myself that this was my ticket out, so I did everything I possibly could to be the best person in school and also on the court,” he said.
His family life in Milwaukee showed him what he didn’t want to do. “Just being honest with you, seeing some my cousins, peers, they went to work for jobs paying six, seven dollars an hour or they didn’t go to work at all and then living off welfare. I didn’t want that.”
When he was first injured, he had to contemplate the end of a career before it even got started. “When you have an ACL tear, it’s over…no more basketball,” he told me. “I said, God, give me health again and I’ll do everything I can to leave it all out on the line and be a successful individual.”
On my podcast, Carl pointed out another interesting lesson he learned in the NBA: Not doing things just to fit in.
“Fitting in was easy,” he said. “Doing everything that everybody else does was easy. If I stood out in some type of way, I’m going to have different results. I’m going to have stand-out results.”
That’s called the “Law of Contrast” and it produces that exact effect of changing the outcomes that everyone else is experiencing. Carl is smart, he recognized that differences make a difference, and doing whatever it takes is what is required to make real, meaningful differences.
Every off-season for the last 11 years, he has run a camp for kids in Milwaukee where he tells youth his story of hard work and persistence. “I always tell the kids to apply themselves and always be persistent,” he said. “If you dream, apply yourself and be persistent. With hard work, man, the sky’s the limit.”
When Carl says the sky’s the limit he means it. He is smart to recognize that it’s important to dream big, because if we don’t – we may be selling ourselves short. “You have to dream bigger than your mind could ever imagine,” he said. “I wanted a nice house. I wanted a nice car. I said, and I got all of that. So, what do I do, do I stop now? Maybe I didn’t dream big enough.” That’s a big statement coming from a kid who grew up to be the first in his family to graduate college and go on to be not only a top NBA basketball start, but a good businessman, father and someone who gives back to the community.
I’m convinced that in whatever he takes on as a basketball player or in his post-hoops career, Carl Landry is not going to stop getting better at whatever he does, and in the process of doing so, make the world a better place.
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