Audi is following the success of 2017’s "Clowns" in its latest campaign, which will make its TV debut during the Super Bowl this Sunday.
In spite of an Unruly study that found emotional Super Bowl campaigns resonated most with viewers, Audi’s latest spot tackles the issue of climate change with help from Games of Thrones star Maisie Williams.
Created by 72andSunny Amsterdam, "Let it go" shows Williams in an e-tron Sportback that gets stuck in a traffic jam.
In addition to the US, the spot will air on TV in the UK from next week and will also be shown in markets including Germany, France, Italy, Spain and China. Audi's UK creative account, held by Bartle Bogle Hegarty London, is not affected.
"Today’s high temperature is eight degrees above normal," a radio reports, prompting the actress to perform a rendition of Let It Go from Disney's Frozen as she switches lanes towards a "more sustainable future". It was directed by François Rousselet through Anorak.
The ad marks 72andSunny Amsterdam’s first work for the brand since winning the global account last year. Venables Bell & Partners – Audi’s longstanding creative agency of record in the US – has worked on the brand’s Super Bowl campaigns for the past seven years. Previous works include 2011’s "Goodnight", 2013’s "Prom" and 2017’s emotional spot "Daughter", which tackled the topic of gender inequality from the perspective of an anxious dad.
"The ambition and charge of the campaign came from Audi directly. They're at a point – maybe we all are – where we need to take stock and maybe shift a little bit," Rey Andrade, executive creative director at 72andSunny Amsterdam, told Campaign.
"From a brand standpoint, there has always been a level of sophistication and wit and craft to Audi’s work, which has been consistent throughout the years, and ‘Clowns’ was exactly that – cerebral, not overly layered, and the tonality was just cool."
Launched in 2017 and created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty London, Audi’s "Clowns" followed a cavalcade of clowns as they caused mayhem on the streets, with all potential road accidents avoided thanks to Audi’s tech-savvy cars.
The soundtrack was a cover of Stephen Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns by Irish singer Lisa Hannigan; the work was written by Doug Fridlund and art directed by Mikael Alcock.
"We're not going to try to emulate ‘Clowns'," Andrade said. "We have to take the work from where we are now – but there is a pedigree of really well crafted and sophisticated work that we would like to continue."
Audi’s latest ad comes as the brand plans to introduce around 30 electric vehicles by 2025, with ambitions to become a carbon-neutral company on balance by 2050.
According to the Office for National Statistics, greenhouse gas emissions from road transport make up around a fifth of the UK total, while only 0.5% of all licensed vehicles in the UK were ultra-low emissions vehicles in 2018.
With this in mind, Andrade said that Williams was chosen as the face of the campaign because she had praised Extinction Rebellion's occupation of central London last year in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
Speaking of the campaign, Williams said: "Creating a sustainable, livable future for generations to come is the world’s most important challenge. I’m proud to share Audi’s vision for sustainable mobility in this global brand campaign."
Likewise, Audi’s choice of Let It Go is believed to be the first commercial use of the popular Disney track since Frozen was released in 2013.
The song – which was hailed by Billboard as one of the "songs that defined the decade" – was noticeably absent from Iceland’s "#MagicOfFrozen" Christmas ad, in which the brand partnered Disney ahead of Frozen 2’s release last November.
"When the team presented Let It Go, half of us chuckled but then we found the song to be a very smart approach because it's really disarming," Andrade said.
"The whole message of this spot is about letting go of the past – shedding behaviours and old-school ideas about how we should be driving cars."
With a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl priced at $5.6m (£4.3m) – twice what it cost in 2008 – Sven Schuwirth, head of digital business and customer experience for Audi, hailed the event as "one of the last truly live global television events".
"The biggest night in American football serves as the perfect moment to share our strategic path toward sustainable premium mobility with a worldwide audience," he said.
Andrade hailed the event as one of the biggest occasions for advertisers: "There are not as many moments like the Super Bowl as there used to be – it still has a massive audience and it's still carrying a lot of weight – so if a brand has a really big statement that it wants to share with everyone, the Super Bowl is really useful for that."
He continued: "There's this expectation that all the brands are going to show up quite big. I would say like half the people who watch the Super Bowl are there for the ads and really don't care about the football."