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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Meet the Peckers Beckers


Audi has been known to poke fun at its competitors. The most infamous jab came in 2004 when Audi made fun of the Lexus LS’s self parking technology. The ridicule of Lexus continues in their new web site experience for the new A4 campaign, but Lexus isn’t the only one to take a hit or two. Mercedes and BMW owners are called out for their stereotypes too.

Meet the Beckers is an episodic experience that has more to do with the “what group do you fit into?” marketing communication approach. The luxury market is ripe with tons of stereotypes about the owners of particular brands: snobby, elitist, arrogant, and just plain assholes who think because they have a nice car they own the road, and two parking spaces (sorry Audi, your owners do it too.) With plenty to make fun of, Audi decided to do some comedy webisodes that highlight these stereotypes and, of course, show the sane, cool driver drives an Audi.

So, how does one find Meet the Beckers? Automotive blogs started promoting it first and I have yet to see any media put behind the site. The Audi USA site does not list the site anywhere off its home page or on the A4 vehicle pages or the A4 launch site. It is also non-existent from the current campaign Truth in Engineering I’m guessing a site that is more about exaggeration doesn’t really fit with “truth”, so Audi has let “Meet the Beckers” live on its own, separate from the current A4 and brand campaigns.

Having a site that is outside of the current brand and vehicle campaign, that even Audi acknowledges doesn’t fit in its current communications (evidenced by the difficulty of finding the Meet the Beckers), is something I don’t recommend since it is so disconnected from everything else they are putting out there about their product. So, Meet the Beckers just doesn’t fit with what Audi is doing.

The site does have the expected YouTube Channel. Views are decent, considering there is no media supporting the content. Unfortunately, nothing is really unique about the content or experience with the channel and you wonder why Audi didn’t just avoid the channel cost and post the videos up on the YouTube site without the burden of a channel to manage.

Regarding the site, there are a couple key things missing. Most prominent is a link to the Audi A4 for information about the product the site is promoting. Also, there is no way to share the video content through Facebook or MySpace. The site is expected to get views through viral communications yet Audi only provides links to “digg it”, “del.icio.us”, and “send to a friend.” The send to a friend execution simply opens one’s email software and places the following language in the body of the message:

Every Thanksgiving the Becker family plays football. And every Thanksgiving, things get worse.
Visit the link below to watch the game unfold.

Meet the Beckers. You're invited.
www.meetthebeckers.com

Does the content relate to the target and is the content funny? I felt the content was right on as I personally enjoyed and felt other consumers in this space would find the jabs funny and offensive in a fun way. Well, after doing a non-scientific poll on a well-known BMW enthusiast site, the verdict is in: 80% of the audience I polled enjoyed the first episode and left comments in support of the site; even though, the site really digs in hard against the BMW arrogant, asshole stereotype. Will everyone get it? No. But the enthusiast consumer does and it looks like that was Audi's aim.

All in all, the site does have some merits but the merits are outside of Audi’s current Truth in Engineering campaign and, therefore, will die a slow viral death since it doesn’t really fit within Audi’s major marketing efforts. I’m guessing Meet the Beckers came up in some brainstorming around what do with the new A4 campaign and someone felt it still was worthwhile to pursue even though the direction went elsewhere.


UPDATE 11/04/2008: Audi released episodes 2 & 3 and well let's just say they fell flat. The humor just wasn't as fun the second and third time around. Unfortunately, only the first video was worth watching and overall the concept became more about the ridiculousness of the characters (even the Audi guy became annoying in his normal-ness.) I did also learn that Audi did run some media to the site when episode 2 went live, they had some banners on ESPN.com. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to catch the messaging.
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Monday, October 20, 2008

Non-Automotive Video Content from Lexus L/Studio


What makes auto manufacturers think they make great film studios? I think all of this goes back to BMW Films and their well-received series from several years ago. Unfortunately, Lexus has decided to throw their hat in with L/Studio, a new web experience that features several unique webisodes and documentaries that is “an eclectic collection of unique perspectives meant to inspire you… and to help you innovate in your own way.”

Now when I think about innovation I don’t think smarmy, poorly written comedy webisodes staring Lisa Kudrow (of Phoebe from Friends fame.) Nor do I think about brief documentaries about high-heeled shoes, so it isn’t clear what inspires innovation from the content on L/Studio. There is one video called “The Long Run” that covers the conditioning of an ultra marathon runner but this is really more about motivation than it is about innovation. If inspiring innovation was really their cue, the documentaries provided by Acura on the Acura Advance campaign are probably more inline with Lexus’ goal. At least with the Acura site, one gets a glimpse into the lives of truly innovative people who are impacting our world and not just some trite attempt at comedy.

Besides content not really fitting the objectives set by Lexus, whom is this supposed to appeal to? Since this is a luxury brand, it must be trying to appeal to luxury buyers and content like the baby boomer Ray Manzarek from The Doors segments or the high-heel documentary certainly reach an older more established consumer. The high-heel documentary that is currently being run as an online media spot on YouTube with the message of “The Height of Obsession” and a pair of black stiletto heels appeals to any woman I suppose, considering I have yet to meet a woman who isn’t into shoes, but once consumers get to L/Studio do they ever go back?

Repeat visits is something Lexus is expecting since there is a whole registration process one can do where you can add friends from L/Studio’s current user community, recommend videos, or mark some as favorites. This part of the site is the most baffling. Am I really going to have any social network here? Most likely not. I found only one user of the site who made a recommendation of a video after looking at about 20 random profiles using the “Find a user” tool. A social community online is usually an expression of your offline world, you “friend” people you know and with some minor exceptions you reach beyond your real world social networks. The lack of any real networking on L/Studio is really not surprising since the ‘invite a friend’ capability is hard to find on the site and inviting friends to sites is something people rarely do. And if L/Studio is all about attracting a 30-40 something luxury consumers, inviting friends and engaging in a social network on an automotive funded video site with limited content is even more highly unlikely.

So, what should Lexus have done with all of this content? They at least should’ve made the video content more viral by allowing viewers to post the videos within social networking sites instead of assuming people would become part of a L/Studio community and invite all their friends. The video content should’ve also been posted on YouTube to get the content into a place where video is most expected to be on the web. So, extending content into more likely environments instead of driving consumers to a campaign site with an unknown, vague brand like L/Studio seems futile.

I also think the mission of L/Studio to “inspire innovation” is really lost by the content that was developed for the site. The content is just all over the place and really there is no common thread or anything that really inspires one. Most of it is contrived, sitcom-like content that looked like a way to keep writers busy during the 2007-08 writers strike and the documentaries really are not that captivating, and I’m a huge fan of documentary film. So content alignment to the goals of the site really needs to be addressed. Is it entertainment? Is it motivation? Is it for musicians? What is it? It isn’t clear and unfortunately leads to a site with no defined audience, which like most sites with undefined audiences will live a brief life since it will fail to gain a vibrant audience.

<Visit Lexus L Studio>
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Friday, October 17, 2008

The Fine Art of Delayed Gratification


At 4pm EST on September 18, Ferrari debuted its full communication on the new Ferrari California. Of course, this online event is probably more for auto enthusiast geeks like myself than the average Ferrari buyer who is too busy trying to find employment now that Lehman Brothers is bankrupt. Good timing Ferrari! Just in time for the global financial crisis, good thing golden parachutes are the norm these days.

Timing aside, Ferrari has been doing one of the more interesting delayed vehicle reveals. It all began several months ago when they launched their Ferrari California web site complete with a countdown clock and, the interesting part, “Hear”. “Hear” simulated the sense of sound by allowing the user to click on various sound environment features thereby letting the ferocious sound of the exhaust note be enjoyed even if you can’t afford one.

Their next debut came with the “See” content. Finally, the official images, some downloadable wallpaper, and a screensaver were made available for PC and Mac. By this point the car’s full look inside and out was clearly communicated unlike some of the annoying delayed reviews from Citroen GT, Ford Mustang, and Porsche Panamera.

The final installment that arrived for the Paris Auto Show reveal is “Feel” and what a rich experience it is. There are 11 videos all done to showcase the car: the premier, backstage, interviews, after party, the typical road cruise full of beauty shots, and what everyone was waiting for the President’s speech… okay just kidding about the last one, but hey someone took the time to film his talk so post it to the web site.

Overlooking the President’s speech, the films are interesting and really build a lot of passion for the car along with bringing everyone up into the debut beyond just filming the typical stage introduction of the car on the media day. The videos are really for brand passionate visitors, which I’m sure there are a lot of when introducing a historic nameplate like a California GT.

What I find most compelling about the Ferrari California website is the way they did a staggered delay to reveal. They also accompanied the reveal with a lot of photos sent out to auto enthusiast sites, prior to the auto show reveal, to generate some early buzz for the car. Vehicle shots were not isolated to showing one photo of a headlight or a shift knob; instead, Ferrari realizes the car is beautiful in its entirety and that showing a couple professional shots of the car would generate more passion for the car than just feeding the public a small corner of the car’s exterior or interior and to keep building suspense by progressively releasing more and more professional shots.

Teasing with minute photos of each part of the car is excruciating. If you want to tease, please do it the Ferrari way and not the Citroen way.
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