Jack Baruth, at The Truth About Cars, explains the real message of Audi’s Superbowl commercial.
At first blush, the spot seems to be nothing but the usual corporate slacktivism, a feel-good fluff-vertorial making a â€œbrave standâ€ in support of an issue that was decided long ago. Iâ€™m reminded of Joaquin Phoenixâ€™s brilliant portrayal of Commodus in Gladiator, arriving in full armor as soon as he can do so without any risk. â€œFather, have I missed the battle?â€ Well, Audi, youâ€™ve missed the war; if thereâ€™s a place in the United States where women are actually paid significantly less for doing the same job as men, itâ€™s not evident from what Iâ€™m reading.
After watching the one-minute advertisement carefully, however, I understood feminism, or equal pay, is the last thing Audi wants you to take away from it. The message is far subtler, and more powerful, than the dull recitation of the pseudo-progressive catechism droning on in the background. This spot is visual â€” and as youâ€™ll see below, you canâ€™t understand it until you watch it and see what itâ€™s really telling you. …
I think youâ€™ve figured out what the real message of this Audi advertisement is, but just in case youâ€™ve been napping I will spell it out for you: Money and breeding always beat poor white trash. Those other kids in the race, from the overweight boys to the hick who actually had an American flag helmet to the stripper-glitter girl? They never had a chance. Theyâ€™re losers and they always will be, just like their loser parents. Audi is the choice of the winners in todayâ€™s economy, the smooth talkers who say all the right things in all the right meetings and are promoted up the chain because they are tall (yes, that makes a difference) and handsome without being overly masculine or threatening-looking.
At the end of this race, itâ€™s left to the Morlocks to clean the place up and pack the derby cars into their trashy pickup trucks, while the beautiful people stride off into the California sun, the natural and carefree winners of lifeâ€™s lottery. Audi is explicitly suggesting that choosing their product will identify you as one of the chosen few. I find it personally offensive. As an owner of one of the first 2009-model-year Audi S5s to set tire on American soil, yet also as an ugly, ill-favored child who endured a scrappy Midwestern upbringing, I find it much easier to identify with the angry-faced fat kids in their home-built specials or the boy with the Captain America helmet.
At the end, what does this ad do? It just reinforces our natural biases. Poor is bad, rich is good, and most importantly, rich people deserve their fortune because they are inherently better than the rest of us. You might not like that message, but itâ€™s been selling cars for a very long time. If Audi wanted to try some authentic activism, they might consider showing us an African-American man or woman who overcame a tough upbringing to become an actual customer, or perhaps a differently-abled person whoâ€™s achieved enough to buy himself an S8 as a reward for his hard work. But thatâ€™s not terribly aspirational, is it? Who wants to be those people? And, by the same token, who wouldnâ€™t want to be that handsome father lifting his beautiful daughter out of someone elseâ€™s winning race car?