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Ironman: Heroes Aren’t Born, They’re Built

“I’ve been called many things. Nostalgic is not one of them.”

-Tony Stark

Many of us have been anxiously awaiting Ironman 3 [not sure if my connection was slow, or if the official movie site expected me to wait for Ironman 4 while it loaded].

Anyway, I saw the Audi commercial a few days ago. It showed the electric sports car from their stable, the e-tron, with the ad’s tag line conveying:

  • It’s never a bad day at work.. When your commute looks like this. Audi. Engineered for Ironman [Audi ad on Indian channels], or..
  • It’s never a bad day at work.. When your commute looks like this. Audi e-tron technology. Tested by Tony Stark. Coming to the Audi A3 Sportback in 2014 [The full Audi ad]

Tony Stark has been driving Audi’s since the first part of the movie series. So, it’s pretty evident that the tough, quick-witted and cocky Tony Stark likes driving an Audi. That, or Audi bagged some in-film advertising deal, or that the team felt the Audi was cooler than driving perhaps an electric Bugatti Veyron. The ‘electric’, of course, taking importance after Tony Stark has the self-sustaining clean energy powered Stark Tower built in The Avengers. I don’t think he would be caught dead in an energy-efficient Toyota Prius any day.

Audi e-tron - Ironman

Let’s look at the Ironman numbers for a second. Ironman 1 on a USD 140 mn budget, grossed well over USD 585 mn. Ironman 2 did over USD 623 mn on a budget of ~ USD 200 mn. Ironman 3 too appears to have been made with USD 200 mn. And am sure the Ironman brand is worth a good deal too.

But all that aside, with over 1.45 million vehicles sold in 2012, WHY would a USD 64 billion Audi need an Ironman commercial to further boost its sales?

With the Audi R8, the Spyder and now the e-tron featuring in the Ironman series, that should have been advertising enough, without Audi needing to make another commercial now.

So, I’m trying to figure out why the auto giant would compromise, almost looking dependent on the Ironman brand, especially considering how the 31 second ad shows Ironman only for the first 14 seconds, after which there are brief bits of the e-tron for the next 11-12 seconds, followed by just the names, Ironman 3 and Audi. And for an electric car, ‘electric’ is never mentioned or shown once. Just ‘engineered for Ironman’ or ‘tested by Tony Stark’. A lot of reputation and brand value to base it on a fictional character, no?

It’s understandable for smaller companies like the privately-held Royal Purple lubricants, or for the USD 2 billion Burger King among others, to ride the Ironman wave, as they did with the USD 100 million marketing spend during Ironman 2. But for a much larger Audi to do that, I’m not sure if it is a good business decision, or just blowing ad budgets on a crappy ad that might be doing more damage than good, banking on the success of Ironman 3.

What Audi should have done, is told the other advertisers what Tony Stark told Nick Fury, “I don’t want to join your super-secret boy band.”

Let me have your take on it.

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