BMW vs. Audi: Who Has The Best Media Strategy?

Featured Posts, Interesting | September 22nd, 2010 by 12
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Advertising Age magazine takes a different route in comparing two of the best premium automaker, BMW vs. Audi, but the approach and execution are different. …

Advertising Age magazine takes a different route in comparing two of the best premium automaker, BMW vs. Audi, but the approach and execution are different.

Most of the time a comparison between auto manufacturers resumes to either overall sales or a showdown between different vehicles.

Today, we will look at the comparison from a different angle. Optimedia CEO Antony Young analyzes the media strategies behind BMW and Audi, based on several categories.

As Young points out, automakers are consistently among the biggest, most competitive and innovative media spenders. For 2010, each spent between 50% and 55% of its media budget on brand or range ads for multiple models.

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2010 is known in the BMW marketing world as the year when the “Joy” campaign has seen one of the biggest advertising branding campaigns to date. From digital, print to TV ads and shows sponsorship (Mad Men on AMC), BMW has continually pushed “The Joy of Driving” theme, placing the “Ultimate Driving Machine” in the rear mirror. Despite initial assumptions from the general public, the Ultimate Driving Machine slogan has not been phased out and continues to remain one of the most known slogans in the automotive industry, a brand within itself that is widely recognized by BMW fans, and not only.

With the parent company Volkswagen pushing more money into the Audi brand, the Ingolstadt-based company had the funds and resources to push two significant platforms this year. First one revolved around comparative ads, in print, digital and even more obvious, on TV. Many of these commercials take a stab at Lexus and Mercedes, showing the Audi as viable and better alternative. BMW remains their main target though and with the help of model comparisons from Car and Driver magazines, the bimmers are portrayed as runners up.

The second platform revolves around diesel technology featured in A3 TDI model.

As we mentioned earlier, Advertising Age breaks down the media comparison into different categories. First and most likely more important and fast growing segment, is video. With Youtube reaching every few months all-time record traffic levels, video ads and commercials become the key marketing element for majority of companies.


Every year, the “marketing war” starts with the Super Bowl, one of the most watched television events worldwide. Audi launched its “Green Police” commercial featuring the A3 TDI in this year’s Super Bowl. The video spot captured more than 2.2 million views to date on YouTube. An Youtube Green Police channel has been specially created for this campaign.

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Biggest event of the year in sports was the Winter Olympics where Audi, as an U.S. ski team sponsor, spent an impressive amount of money to bring forward their brand. Beside the usual coverage on NBC, many web-based video episodes were produced for Facebook, the world’s largest social network with over 500 million users.

March Madness basketball and FIFA World Cup events followed. Going head-to-head with BMW, Audi also invested time and money into the American LeMans car race.

BMW’s 2010 Joy campaign kicked off in the Winter Olympics with the central theme being around the joy of driving and EfficientDynamics, BMW’s fuel efficiency brand. NBC’s “Olympic Moment of Joy” could be seen throughout the event, including homepage takeovers on NBC online properties.

In the TV world, Audi focused more on network TV, while BMW went the route of local broadcast and cable.

Advertising Age rates Audi’s video efforts to 5-star, while BMW comes a bit short with 3 1/2 stars.

Online and Social Media

Social Media and Online marketing is where the future lays for many large companies. Often seen as the best way to track and asses return-on-investment, online campaigns have grown year-over-year and have become the center of marketing budgets.

BMW takes the win here. According to the same magazine, over a third of BMW’s impressions served over the past year were rich media display placements versus less than 5% for Audi. BMW’s online TV website moved its content under a new Youtube channel as well, branded as BMW TV. Most of the videos ran under BMW TV have also been featured on BMWBLOG as well, and they range from driving and racing footage, to product presentations and even BMW enthusiasts segments. In an effort to involve enthusiasts website as well in their campaign, BMW invited BMWBLOG to a private testing event in Sebring where an exclusive online video made its debut. The 2010 BMW M3 GT Commercial was conceived by the advertising group GSM&D and filmed by the Bandito Brothers in Sebring, FL during the testing sessions.


Audi partnered up this year with Yahoo to provide content from the FIFA World Coupe and their ads could be seen on Yahoo online properties.


In the social media world, Facebook is the center of universe. Audi’s branded fan page has, as of today, 1.5 million fans, while BMW just passed the 1.9 million mark. Along with the official fan page, many other BMW-related fan pages can be found in the popular social network, including our own with over 2,000 followers.


Both Facebook fan pages ran several campaigns throughout the year, from Joy of Driving to a petition for the TT RS model coming to the U.S, which according to the company, has played an important role in the decision of bringing the car to the U.S. next year.


On Twitter, BMW falls short. The expected name is not leading to the company’s profile, but rather to a person not-related to the brand. Audi’s presence on Twitter can be found, among many other profiles, at, where the U.S. operation of the company has over 11, 000 followers. One of BMW’s Twitter accounts can be found at where 3,000 followers are signed up for updates. Both companies feature a wide range of Twitter profiles specific to certain markets, countries, events and products.


Many enthusiasts and brand-specific publications with BMW or Audi related news can be found on Twitter as well, including your own BMWBLOG with 3,372 followers.

In this category, Advertising Age rates BMW at 4-star, while Audi comes second with 3-star.

In our opinion, BMW also has a large presence on Twitter and Facebook through a wider range of enthusiasts websites, magazines or blogs, online properties that create an important amount of buzz and provide a medium for interaction between fans.

Interesting enough, some of these online magazines or blogs had a presence in social media even before the two companies.


Ever since the iPhone has set a new standard in mobile and smartphone devices, the mobile market has grown to impressive levels year-after-year. Mobile applications have become the driving factor behind phone sales and with hundreds of thousands of applications developed specifically for the iPhone and Android, a new can of worms have opened: mobile advertising.


Seen as a direct connection to the customer, both Audi and BMW have developed specific applications for Apple products and recently, Android platform. These applications vary from video content, news, brand experiences and online magazines. The “Expression of Joy” app was one of the first BMW apps to make it onto the iPhone platform and featured a 360 degree view of the new Z4 performing a painting exercise in motion.


Advertising Age also gives props to BMW magazine available for the iPad which offers slightly richer level of content.

Audi responded with the A4 Driving Challenge driving simulation, one of its most popular gaming apps. Other Audi related apps are available for different mobile platforms.

BMW takes the win in this category with 4 1/2 stars.


Print magazines, while not as important as ten years ago, remain popular in marketing campaigns. To promote the Joy launch, BMW ran a series of spreads in January issues of Conde Nast titles such as Bon Appétit, Conde Nast Traveler, GQ, Vanity Fair, W, Wired and The New Yorker. A notable print execution of the campaign was a custom four-page spread in Vanity Fair’s March Hollywood issue featuring vintage images of Elvis and his BMW 507 under the title “Joy is Timeless.”

Audi’s print focus has been centered around its Sportscar Experience Driving School.

In our opinion, brand-specific online magazines, blogs and forums, should fall under this category as well. Based on our own research, the amount of enthusiast websites for both brands, has grown at least 10 times in the past 5 years.

BMW wins here with 4-star, one more than Audi’s rating.

Film sponsorship and product placement

This is one area where Audi shines and based on experts’ opinion, they have done a spectacular job, costly as the same time. “Iron Man 2” is one of the biggest movies of the year and a flick where Audi managed to place the R8 Spyder and A8 Sedan, two of their top vehicles in the line-up. Furthermore, an episode of “Entertainment Tonight” integrated the R8 Spyder by featuring Robert Downey Jr. and director Jon Favreau discussing the vehicle as well as host Mark Steines covering it in a segment.


Other car placements include the Tina Fey and Steve Carrell’s characters who steal an R8 in “Date Night,” and Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz driving the S5 Cabriolet in “Knight and Day.”

Furthermore, the “Iron Man” franchise drove more social media innovation from Audi with the “Tony Stark Innovation Challenge” contest, which promoted the movie’s theme of technology as a force for good.

Audi’s social media aspect of its “Iron Man” marketing came about in the ” Consumers were challenged to submit two-minute videos containing ideas for inventions that promoted cleaner living to and then promote the videos on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace in order to garner comments, discussion and consumer ratings.

BMW stunned Hollywood six years ago when it left the entertainment biz in its rear view mirror. This year, BMW hired Propaganda GEM as its global entertainment marketing agency of record and the expectations are that more BMW products will be placed in Hollywood movies. First one to appear this year was the new X5 Facelift that fetured in the “Ghost Writer” movie with Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan.

The new BMW ActiveHybrid 7 has also started to pop-up in different TV shows, including HBO’s star Entourage where the character Ari Gold drives one of the 7 Hybrid models. According to BMW, this was not a product placement, but rather a personal choice of actor Jeremy Piven.

In this category, Advertising Age gives BMW zero stars, while Audi gets a 4 rating.

And the winner is…

Advertising Age crowns Audi as the winner in this marketing comparison, taking a half-star more than BMW.

“These are two premiere marketers in an incredibly competitive category. Both scored superbly on my ratings. The emphasis on engagement over impressions was a notable feature of both marketers’ media strategies. BMW is doing a lot of things right with its brand in media, particularly in online and mobile. But Audi nudged ahead on the basis of a very dynamic television and video strategy that helped elevate and create distinctiveness for its brand. There’s a lot that goes into driving sales beyond just advertising, but a 27.1% year to date increase in Audi’s sales is hard to argue against.”

As we move into 2011, we expect more marketing initiatives from both automakers and we are ready to bet that mobile, social media and enthusiasts will play an important role in their advertising efforts.

[Source: AdAge ]