Promotional feature
Presented by Creativity is GREAT

Using clowns in a safety tech ad? That's just silly!

Communication (Film)
Gold: Clowns

Agency: BBH London
Client: Audi

So you want to advertize the amazing tech behind your cars' accident-preventing safety systems? Usually, that means a ‘serious’ ad. Except UK agency BBH London and Audi clearly thought, "To hell with that, let's send in the clowns." It was a potentially risky move but they made it anyway.

At the heart of this multimedia campaign is a 90-second TV commercial. Beautifully shot and featuring the silly antics of a whole circus's worth of luridly painted and costumed clowns, the action contrasts with a mournful rendition of Stephen Sondheim's ‘Send in the Clowns’.

The ad opens with a pair of pranksters getting into their jalopy. Things go wrong – the door falls off, and as they begin twanging each other's red noses, their car starts running backwards downhill. An Audi reversing out of its garage narrowly avoids a collision thanks to its dashcam. "Audi technology. Clown proof," says the tagline.

The well-crafted campaign had life beyond TV, hitting multiple touchpoints, with some really brilliant uses of technology. A logo in the ad encouraged viewers to use the Shazam app to identify the soundtrack, with Audi donating money to charity Brake for every use of the app. Plus data-driven outdoor ads used real-time transport and weather info to tailor roadside creative. Then Google came in with their Unskippable Labs video program to see whether six-second mini-ads or the full-length version worked best. A campaign about tech, powered by tech. Bang on.

Not just funny, and poignant in that weird way that clowns are, the ad was a big hitter, delivering an initial 30 million key audience impacts, as well as achieving a 14% brand uplift in awareness of the "Audi makes cars with intelligent technology" message in the second half of 2017. Audi expects to see a positive effect on sales.

The campaign won a load of awards at Cannes, including this Gold for Communication (Film).