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Audi Super Bowl Ad Makes Pitch for Gender Equality

Image: NRG Stadium

The field at NRG Stadium is prepared for the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game in Houston. David J. Phillip / AP

Audi’s entry into the annual Super Bowl ad fest takes a novel turn, especially considering that humor is typically the most dominant approach during the big game. Instead, the German luxury carmaker has decided to get serious about the issue of gender equality.

What should I tell my daughter?” begins the narrator of the 60-second spot, as he watches his daughter race on a go-kart track. “That she will automatically be valued less than every man she'll ever meet?"

In a world where women earn, on average, 79 cents to every dollar, in a comparable job, compared to men, the narrator admits to himself that “her drive, her skills, her intelligence” still may not mean much.

It may not be the typical automotive ad, with lots of pretty driving scenes, but it doesn’t skip the product entirely. “Maybe I’ll be able to tell her something different,” says the father, as his daughter takes the checkered flag, and the two head off towards his Audi S5 Sportback Prestige.

For its part, Audi pledges its commitment to equal pay for equal work. The commercial ends with the tagline, “Progress is for everyone.”

The focus on gender equality might sound like a surprising way to sell automobiles, but J.D. Power and Associates reports that women either make or influence as much as 80 percent of vehicle purchases in the U.S. each year.

Women have a lower presence in the luxury car segment, a fact apparently reflecting lower income levels. But that has begun to rise, and automakers as diverse as Audi and Ferrari have begun trying to target potential female buyers.

“We are a brand that’s always conscious of what is happening in the social space,” Loren Angelo, the vice president of marketing for Audi of America, told USA Today.

The 60-second commercial, produced by the agency Venable Bell & Partners, will run during the third quarter of the game this coming Sunday. Notably, it was directed by a woman, Aoife McArdle. According to Ad Age, less than 10 percent of the top commercial directors are women. McArdle produced another spot focusing on gender inequality for Secret deodorant last year.

She has also been part of a push in the ad world, dubbed “Free the Bid,” to ensure that more women have the chance to get work on commercials.

Audi issued a statement noting “it was important” to use a woman for its Super Bowl ad. For her part, McArdle issued a statement of her own praising the maker.

"It goes without saying that we should be blind to gender and race,” she states. “People's merit can't be predetermined on the purely superficial. It's commendable that Audi is committed to implementing equality in the workplace. Hopefully other leading brands will follow suit."