How Audi’s visual storytelling keeps it one step ahead

Sure, we’re the content and messaging guys, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the power of a jaw-dropping visual story. Case in point: the visual storytelling from automobile titan Audi. Working alongside the creative team at Venables Bell & Partners, Audi has cooked up some of the most enticing ad spots to come out of the automotive industry in more than a decade.

J.D. Power’s 2016 U.S. Automotive Media and Marketing Report found that most new car buyers in the U.S. spend an average of 11 hours a day watching TV or streaming video content. That’s a lot of media-saturated eyes glued to a lot of screens, and it means that the tried-and-true sports car advertising formula (one part gratuitous celebrity endorsement + one part screaming engine) simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Today, companies win when they deliver short, punchy creative that says less about their product and more about what the product stands for.

One of Audi’s most impactful ads is called Commander, and it’s proof that the company understands the importance of a compelling story. Told from the perspective of a now-retired astronaut, the ad makes an undeniable case for the sheer joy of driving:

Aside from its captivating visuals and kick-ass soundtrack, Commander exhibits a unique form of automotive catharsis by putting the viewer in the shoes of the main character: an old man, solemnly reflecting on the person he used to be, who gets the chance to relive his glory days behind the wheel.

It’s a radical departure that totally works. And that’s because it doesn't only try to sell a $160,000 automobile—it showcases the inspirational power of the driving experience.

This ad may lack predictable Matthew McConaughey soliloquies, but it more than makes up for them by showing viewers firsthand what Audi is all about. It’s a companyand a brandthat understands our aspirations and our fears, our need to go further, jump higher, dream bigger, and shoot for the moon.

Of course, the whole point is to sell more 205-mile-per-hour sports cars. But getting there in 2016 means telling a story that inspires you to find your own unique flavor of joy. Who says a car can’t do that?

The team at Audi seems to think it can. And with ads like Commander, we’ve become believers, too.