The one day in the year where a 30 second spot can cost upwards of a million dollars, the most dedicated of advertisers can be seen on Super Bowl Sunday. I don’t always think that the ads that come out during the Super Bowl are the best forms of advertising, but it is interesting to note the ads that companies are willing to blow a huge budget to put in front of a large and diverse audience.
In a 60 second ad spot in the 3rd quarter of Super Bowl LI, Audi focuses on gender wage inequalities represented by unaldulterated childish innocence though a box-car race. Racing seemed to be the apt visualization to connect the issue with the company, generally as a male-dominated sport and linked to cars. Well-produced and with a feel-good message backed by an original hashtag #DriveProgress and tagline “Progress is for everyone”, it had all the makings of a good ad, right? It certainly makes you feel good inside.
The loudest message I took away from the ad is the questions sure to be on many critic’s minds: Is it just a ploy?
To the observer of different forms of advertising, there has been a shift in advertising to include social justice or corporate social responsibility into a company’s mission and values. There are some companies out there that I do believe are perpetuating their true values by expressing concerns for social issues, but I believe that many companies follow the cut-and-dry principle “we care about more than just ourselves” as simply a way of either leveling the playing field or enticing the casual consumer into engaging with their brand. I get it. Being socially responsible is no longer a competitive advantage – every company to some degree involves itself in social issues. In the world of car advertising, it is extremely hard to stand out – car ads are extremely overdone and anything related to the actual function of the car seems to be unimaginative. But how does gender pay inequality reflect on cars? How does is message that little girls are just as good as little boys reflective on the actual concerns in equal pay? Did Audi at all address their other corporate sustainability scandal earlier in 2016 on vehicle emissions? Nope. Are they a leader in targeting gender wage inequality in their workplace? Prove it.
Take a look at how Audi responds to some of the criticism for their ad spot.
Today, women comprise roughly 12% of Audi senior management workforce, including our senior VP, chief communications officer and senior director of human resources. In 2017 and beyond, we continue to support pay equality and pledge to put aggressive hiring and development strategies in place to increase the number of women in our workforce, at all levels.” – Loren Angelo – Audi VP Marketing
This ad kind of rubbed me the wrong way starting from the beginning where the narrator (dad) says, “do i tell her that her grandpa is worth more than her grandma, that her dad is worth more than her mom”. There is no introduction into the hard-hitting issue of gender wage inequality, rather we are thrown into the issue by a company that is generally not known to show too much corporate responsibility. There is little real proof that Audi is working towards resolving gender inequality. It’s nice that they have hopped onto this well-known problem in workplaces throughout North America and that they look to a more equal future, but don’t you think it would be more effective to show how they are resolving it?
Oh and there’s this little nugget…
Women currently make up 22% of Audi’s workforce, but the company has said it’s working to change that. The U.S. Automotive Industry’s average for the number of women in the workforce is 27%. – CNN Money
By not quelling doubts that the ad is just another scheme immediately, this ad is a failure in my eyes. Yet, there have been many who praise Audi for creating a commercial that makes you… feel good that you watched a Super Bowl ad. In a piece of promotional work with such a large audience, you are left unconvinced that Audi is working towards gender equality. Using emotional appeal for such a serious issue doesn’t always have the right impact.
In a world where advertising the benefits of your products and services no longer has to be the focus of promotional material, it is worth noting how some of the major players in advertising decide to align themselves with social issues. Audi’s press releases cite some programs where they are promoting gender equality such as a graduate internship program where 50% of enrollment must be female. But one program does not make a company that is gender equal. It says something that their example would be an internship program – positions that do not guarantee a permanent change in the company.