That Epic Audi 'Duel' Commercial? Here's What It Looks Like Played Forward


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VB&P Stages a ‘Duel’ for Audi in Time for the Debates

Venables Bell & Partners launched a new spot for Audi featuring one epic “Duel” playing out in reverse. 

The spot opens with “Vote” and “2016” buttons on the ground at some kind of elegant gala, with broken glass strewn about the scene. As the action proceeds in reverse a man and a woman rise from the floor and through the glass ceiling they’ve clearly just fallen through. From there a hard fought battle proceeds in reverse, with the device used to generate interest and add suspense to the reveal of the duel’s origins.

The clever concept of the ad would feel cheap and hollow had it been poorly executed, but it’s quite the opposite. If anything, the perfectly executed production, courtesy of Hollywood veterans like director Ringan Ledwidge, production designer K.K. Barrett (Her, Adaptation, Lost in Translation), cinematographer Greig Fraser (Foxcatcher, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and stunt choreographer Robert Alonzo (Deadpool, Tomorrowland, Oblivion) is what makes the spot work.

In addition to a reveal which champions the brand while somehow avoiding seeming as over-the-top as it should, the conclusion of the spot also manages to appeal to supporters of any presidential candidate with the line, “Choose the next driver wisely.” The ad, of course, will make its broadcast debut during coverage of the presidential debate tonight. It will also run during the two subsequent scheduled debates. 

Client Name: Audi of America
Brand: Audi
Spot Name: Duel
Air Dates: 9/26/16, 10/9/16, 10/19/16
Agency: Venables Bell & Partners
Founder, Chairman: Paul Venables
Partner, Executive Creative Director: Will McGinness
Creative Director: Justin Moore
Creative Director: Erich Pfeifer
ACD/Copywriter: Matt Keats
ACD/Art Director: Matt Miller
Director Of Integrated Production: Craig Allen
Senior Producer: Matt Flaker
Producer: Gabby Gardner
Production Company: Rattling Stick
Director: Ringan Ledwidge
Director of Photography: Greig Fraser
Head of Production: Richard McIntosh
Executive Producer: Joe Biggins
Executive Producer: Jeff Shupe
Line Producer: Greg Haggart
Stunt Coordinator: Robert Alonzo
Production Designer: K.K. Barrett
Editing Company: Work Editorial
Editor: Rich Orrick
Assistant Editor: Mike Horan
Executive Producer: Marlo Baird
Producer: Brandee Probasco
Music Company: Woodwork Music
Music Composer: Philip Kay
Music Coordinator: Andy Oskwarek
Sound Design/Final Mix: The Sound Lab at Technicolor
Executive Producer: Debbie Gonzalez
Lead Sound Designer/Mix Engineer: Scott Gershin
Sound Designer: Johannes Hammers
VFX: The Mill
Executive Creative Director: Phil Crowe
VFX Supervisor: John Shirley
CG Lead: David Lawson
VFX Senior Producer: Anastasia von Rahl
VFX Associate Producer: Karina Slater
Colorist: Greg Reese
Head Of Brand Management: David Corns
Brand Director: Chris Bergen
Brand Supervisor: Justin Wang
Brand Manager: Abu Ngauja
Project Managers: Talya Fisher, Leah Murphy

Audi Made One Hell of an Entertaining Ad for Tonight's Debate That Everyone Will Love

There’s one thing almost everyone watching Monday night’s first presidential debate will be able to agree on—that this new Audi commercial, “Duel,” airing during the telecast, is a brilliant bit of perfectly timed entertainment.

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VB+P, Ronda Rousey Address Perfection for Reebok

Eight months ago, Ronda Rousey lost her UFC World Bantamweight Championship title and perfect MMA record when she was knocked out by Holly Holm. Now Rousey appears in Venables Bell & Partners’ new spot for Reebok, entitled “#PerfectNever” as part of the brand’s “Be More Human” campaign. 

“Here’s the thing about being perfect,” says a glamed-up Rousey, via voiceover at the beginning of the spot, while slowly walking off the set of a shoot, “Perfect never gets truly tested.” She continues, “Perfect never gets to silence its critics” after removing her false eyelashes and hair extensions, and then pins her hair up and wipes off her lipstick. The spot switches from full color to black and white as Rousey appears in her fighting gear, ready for her shot at redemption, concluding, “So yeah, I’m fine not being perfect.”

For Rousey’s fans, the spot will be welcomed as a likely sign of an impending comeback (she hasn’t fought since her loss to Holm), but it’s meant to have a wider appeal than just the MMA fighter’s faithful. There’s a very clear femvertising element to Rousey’s symbolic shedding of the trappings of typical glamour and beauty perfectionism, intended to echo the everyday pressures placed on women everywhere to look as close to “perfect” as possible. The message fits the overall theme of the “Be More Human” campaign, as Rousey rejects ideals of perfection, both in terms of beauty/glamour and her fighting career, while implying that her loss has helped her build character and ultimately will make her a better person. Cynics may opine that the philosophy is just a way to rationalize her loss, but Rousey’s fans will likely love her all the more for it.

Adidas Golf Appoints Vitro as AOR

Adidas Golf recently named MDC Partners agency Vitro as its agency of record, The Drum reported yesterdayAdidas Golf spent around $45 million on measured media back in 2014, according to Kantar Media. 

The account had been with Venables Bell & Partners, who were appointed as AOR last July, taking over for incumbent Kastner & Partners in a review that included six finalists and ten agencies total. Back in April, VB&P launched a “Geared for More” campaign starring PGA pros (and Adidas athletes) Jason DaySergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson for the brand ahead of the Masters. 
“A lot of agencies will come in and really just think about creative,” Courtney McHugh, senior director, global brand marketing at Adidas Golf told The Drum. “Vitro came in from a business side. They really thought about our objectives. We gave them some numbers and some business objectives, but it wasn’t just about the creative. It wasn’t just about a marketing strategy. It really was about helping us obtain our business goals and thinking about it from true solutions.”
The appointment follows a lot of changes at Vitro in recent months. Last month, executive creative directors Kt Thayer and Oliver Duncan left the agency, with Thayer moving on to CP+B Boulder. A few months prior to that ASICS shifted its global creative business to 180 Amsterdam and 180LA from the agency, Red Robin (allegedly) launched a review and Wild Turkey  moved part of its marketing budget overseas. The agency also recently launched a new office in Austin, hiring GSD&M’s Jake Camozzi and Victor Camozzi to run its creative department. 
A larger campaign is expected from Vitro some time in 2017, with more small scale interim projects in the near future.

Barkley Appoints Kwik-E-Mart Creative Kyle Jones as GCD on Applebee’s

Who needs the Kwik-E-Mart?

Barkley appointed Kyle Jones as group creative director on the agency’s Applebee’s account.

You may remember him from such work as transforming 7-Elevens into Kwik-E-Marts in a cross-promotional campaign for The Simpsons Movie (including this location) while working as a group creative director for TraceyLocke.

He arrives at Barkley from Venables Bell + Partners in San Francisco, where he has worked as a creative since February of 2013, working on the agency’s Audi and Reebok accounts. Prior to that he spent a little over a year and a half as a creative with CP+B, working with clients including Microsoft, Dominos, and Kraft. That followed an almost six and a half year stint as a group creative director for TraceyLocke, working with clients including Texas Lottery, Pizza Hut and 7-Eleven (including the aforementioned cross-promotional campaign). Before joining TraceyLocke he spent two years as a creative director with Publicis, working with clients such as BMW, Powerbar and GlaxoSmithKline. 

“Kyle has a lot of experience convincing big, seemingly traditional clients to do innovative, creative work,” said Barkley executive creative director Jason Elm. “Coming up with a great idea is the easy part these days. The real challenge is selling it in and flawlessly producing it. Kyle has a track record of doing just that.”

Vanessa Bayer Comes On to Everyone in an Elevator in Audi's Fifty Shades of Grey Spoof

Last week, Trojan took the piss out of the BDSM-light hype around Fifty Shades of Grey. And now Audi is joining the party with a new parody ad.

Saturday Night Live’s Vanessa Bayer stars as a try-hard version of the book-cum-movie’s protagonist, Anastasia Steele. The spot, created with Venables Bell & Partners, mimics the famous scene in the elevator, where Christian Grey kisses Anastasia for the first time. But Bayer brings along a collection of sex toys and makes clumsy come-ons to anyone and everyone who happens along (kind of like she’s been eating too many Red Velvet Oreos).

The interplay between Bayer and her victims is pretty hilarious—tightly written and perfectly delivered. And while the brand tie-in might feel tacked on, it isn’t really.

Audi lucked into the storyline of the novel. Grey is an enthusiast, and gives Steele one as a gift. The automaker bought into the movie as well, with a product placement deal for five different cars. It’s juicing the connection—a separate German ad hawking the Audi R8 Spyder treats Grey like a sex symbol on par with George Clooney.

Given the official connection, Audi might get more credit than Trojan for poking fun at the movie—though both seem to be trying to make audiences feel better about being inept at bondage. Or maybe it’s making like the lead actors and hedging against what they apparently think will be a dud film.

Regardless, Audi certainly deserves points for bravery. Try to keep a straight face when Bayer starts twirling a set of Ben Wa balls around her finger. She can barely keep from laughing, too.

Audi Jumps in the Deep End With an Epic Tale of Rebellion at a Swimming Pool

This Audi spot from Venables Bell & Partners presents a pint-sized rebel with a full tummy who’s eager to cannonball into a pool even though a sign clearly says, “Wait one hour to swim after eating.”

Will he or won’t he? What’s your guess, people?

The spot morphs into an engaging slice of excess that delivers on its premise with good-natured absurdity and considerable charm. (Audi is sitting out the Super Bowl this year, for the first time in seven years, but it’s not inconceivable that this ad might have been under consideration for Big Game play at some point.)

Of course, lots of brands, particularly automakers, like to position themselves as great fits for iconoclasts. That’s how this spot rolls, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

After all, Audi—the Volkswagen-owned luxury brand—usually isn’t top of mind among folks who like to swim against the tide. (A rebuilt ’68 Mustang is a whole other story.) And disobeying a sign at a public pool isn’t all that rebellious, is it? (There’s some extra irony when the message “The world is full of rules. Be the exception” flashes on screen at the same time small type cautions viewers to “Always obey speed and traffic laws.”)

The kid will probably grow up toiling in a cube just to keep up the payments on his Audi A7. At least he can look back fondly on that time at the pool when he made a big splash.

We Hear: Staffing Changes at VB&P, DDB, and Union Creative

intel-logoSpeaking of layoffs, we’ve received quite a few tips about staffing changes this week. First, we hear that Intel’s agency review, which started in August and ended with a win for mcgarrybowen two weeks ago, led to layoffs at Venables Bell & Partners. (VB&P won the business in January 2009.)

We reached out to the agency but have yet to receive a response, so we have no specifics on who was (allegedly) let go.

Second, we can confirm that DDB lost its CIO earlier this week.

Here’s the internal memo:


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Tweet This Hashtag in NYC, and Reebok Could Run a Pair of Sneakers Over to You

Starting today, New Yorkers who tweet their shoe size and address with the hashtag #ReebokHDS could get a visit from the brand’s Human Dispatch Service.

The team of runners will personally rush pairs of Reebok’s new ZJet sneakers to people at home or at work. Venables Bell & Partners devised the stunt, which, according to Reebok, “brings the ZJet concept to life” by demonstrating how the shoe—which features air channels for maximum cushioning—”propels the runner forward with the power of air.”

It’s a fun idea that harkens back to a bygone era of personal service, at a time when many advertising stunts strive to confuse and frighten consumers to generate viral videos.

This is the client’s second creative promotion this summer, following its July CrossFit Games tie-in from VB&P that saw Reebok send bacon to athletes abiding by Paleo diets. The HDS team won’t be delivering any savory pork products, but the focus on shoes gives the ZJet stunt some steak to go with the sizzle.

Client: Reebok 
Brand: ZJet 
Executive Creative Director: Paul Venables and Will McGinness
Creative Director: Erich Pfeifer
Associate Creative Director: Eric Boyd
Design Director: Cris Logan 
Art Director: Sean Flores, Rich North, Matt Miller
Copywriter: Nate Gagnon, Craig Ross, Matt Keats
Designer: Jarrett Carr
Head Of Strategy: Michael Davidson
Communications Strategy Director: Beatrice Liang
Brand Strategist: Jake Bayham
Experiential Production House: Mkg
Production House: Sustainable Content and 
Director: Jordan Bloch 
Director Of Photography: Derrick Monks 
Line Producer: Mikyo Clark 
Editing Company: 
Editor: Derrick Monks 
Sound Design: Richard Devine 
Music: Marmoset Music 
Mix: M Squared 
Director Of Integrated Production: Craig Allen
Director Of Interactive Production: Manjula Nadkarni 
Experiential Producer: Nalina Baratz
Broadcast Producer: Nalina Baratz 
Production Coordinator: Megan Wasserman 
Digital Producer: Marc Mclean 
Account Manager: Ashton Atlas 
Project Manager: Daniela Contreras, Shannon Duncan

Intel Begins Creative Review

Intel has just launched a creative review, which is being held internally, AdAge reports.

Sources close to the matter told the publication that Intel, “reached out to a small number of agencies.” While incumbent agency Venables Bell & Partners is believed to be participating in the review, the agency declined to comment. VB+P was named Intel’s lead global agency back in 2009, although Intel has worked with a number of agencies since then. Last summer, VB+P was once again named Intel’s lead agency, and launched the “Look Inside” campaign for the brand earlier this year.

The review follows the appointment of a new chief marketing officer, Steven Fund, in May. While it’s unclear whether Intel’s other agency relationships will be changed, one executive suggested to AdAge that other reviews could be forthcoming. Intel spent $85 million on measured media last year, according to Kantar Media, and has already spent $44 million in the first half of 2014.

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Venables Bell & Partners Veers Off-Script for Audi

Here’s another clever entry in the “meta/self-aware” category via Venables Bell & Partners for client Audi.

The first spot is particularly appropriate considering the fact that it will run during tonight’s Emmy Awards:

The second spot offers a brief extension of that intro after the jump.


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Venables Bell & Partners Go ‘West of Expected’ for Skyy Vodka

Venables Bell & Partners have an off-center campaign for Skyy Vodka, introducing the new tagline “West of Expected” for the California brand.

The new campaign sees improv actor Paul Welsh play a spokesman for the brand, lecturing in some kind of planetarium setting and using cosmic terminology as an analogy for drinking/bar culture. In the 30-second “Tipping” for example, Welsh explains that tipping (in this case giving a mouse in a maze a piece of cheese, for some reason) brings order to chaos, forming a connection with the bartender and getting you good service all night. In the similarly-toned “Attraction” a wing lemon (used to exemplify a wing man) bring together opposites: apples and oranges. It’s a strange approach, for sure, but then Skyy Vodka is an unusual brand — a California company with mostly Old World competition. The “West of Expected” tagline fits Skyy perfectly, and leaves room for a wealth of different approaches going forward.

“In the industry as a whole, and especially vodka, everyone is trying to out-cool themselves and appeal to people’s ego and vanity,” VB&P Executive Creative Director Will McGinness told Adweek. “We wanted to push off the industry norms and the Russian or Eastern European vodka companies and do our own thing and celebrate this different kind of vodka.”

Stick around for “Attraction”and credits after the jump. (more…)

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Working Not Working Lists Most Desirable Full-Time Gigs

Freelance network Working Not Working has unveiled a list of the top 46 companies its freelancers “would kill to work” for full-time, and the list includes several advertising agencies. Among the agencies Working Not Working freelancers would most like to work for are: 360i, 72andSunny, Barton F. Graf 9000, BBDO, BBH, Droga 5, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Mother, Periera & O’Dell, Venables Bell & Partners, and Wieden+Kennedy. The list also included a wealth of design and production companies, as well as Google, HBO, Cartoon Network, Tesla, and NASA (for some reason). Stick around for the full list after the jump. continued…

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Final Cut, Backyard Sign New Directors

C StruthersCreative editorial company Final Cut added Oscar-nominated editor Crispin Struthers, best known for his work with director David O. Russell, to its roster.

Struthers–who received Academy Award nominations for his editing work on Russell’s last two films “The Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle”–will join the facility in its Los Angeles office to do creative work for clients.

Beyond his film pedigree, Struthers has a history in advertising: he began his career in the TBWA\Chiat\Day editorial department.


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VB&P Quotes Queen in Star-Studded Audi Spot

Venables Bell & Partners have released a new, celebrity-packed spot for the release of the new Audi A3 entitled “Dues.”

The 60 second spot features celebrities reciting lines from Queen’s ever-popular “We Are The Champions,” inclduing comedian Ricky Gervais, chef David Chang (of Momofuku fame), photojournalist Lynsey Addario, comedian Kristen Schaal, gold medal winning boxer Claressa Shields, street artists Cyrcle, and inner city church choir Voices of Destiny. Lines to Queen’s anthem are delivered as a means of expressing the uncompromising nature of those who never settle, interspersed with shots of Audi’s latest in action and easing into Audi’s “Whatever you do, stay uncompromised” tagline. Between the bevy of celebrities and the instantly recognizable (and arguably overused) Queen song, the spot should succeed at getting people’s attention.

VB&P’s campaign extends the star power beyond the “Dues” spot, through an online video series called “Uncompromised Portraits” on Audi’s YouTube channel. Some highlights include “Names,” in which a child in the back seat reads mean tweets aloud to Gervais (highlighting the A3′s 4G LTE connectivity), and “Touch,” featuring David Chang showing off the vehicle’s MMI® touchpad with handwriting technology. It’s a clever extension of the campaign that does a lot to highlight the A3′s new features, and in the case of “Names” is arguably more entertaining than the television spot. You can watch “Names” below, and stick around for “Touch” after the jump. continued…

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VB&P Nabs Reebok Biz


Well, that didn’t take long. Just a week after word spilled out that DDB and Reebok were parting ways (yet again), the sports apparel/shoe brand has found a new lead global agency in San Francisco-based Venables Bell & Partners. VB&P won the assignment after a review conducted by SRI. In a statement, Yan Martin, head of global brand marketing for Reebok, says, “VB&P demonstrated a deep understanding of our brand purpose and culture and developed thinking and creative that excited everyone involved in the process. We’re confident that VB&P will help maintain the brand’s forward momentum and raise the strategic and creative bar for the Reebok brand.”

Reebok now joins a VB&P client roster that includes Audi of America, Intel and SKYY vodka.

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VB&P Crafts Inspiring ‘Look Inside’ for Intel

For the follow-up to the popular “Look Inside. Jack Andraka” video which garnered over 2 million views on YouTube, VB&P decided to tell the inspiring story of Erik Weihenmayer.

Erik is a mountain climber who has climbed the seven tallest summits on earth, one of only 118 people in history to accomplish this feat. That would be impressive enough, but Weihenmayer is the only person to do so while blind. Weihenmayer was born with retinoschisis and was fully blind by the age of 13. Three years later, at a recreational program for the visually impaired, he was introduced to rock climbing, and it changed his life forever. “I wanted my life to be an adventure, I didn’t want to be shoved to the sidelines and forgotten and just sit in a dark room listening to life go by,” Weihenmayer said. “Rock climbing for me was sort of a symbol that I could get to the summit of whatever I wanted to do, but I had to do it differently.”

In 2001, Weihenmayer became the first blind man to reach the top of Mount Everest, and by 2008 he’d accomplished the amazing feat of scaling the seven tallest peaks in the world. “In an ironic way, that thing like blindness or that barrier you face, if you attack it the right way, it can become a catalyst to moving yourself to a new place that you may not have gone to in any other way,” Erik said.

Erik’s story can be viewed online, in the above film directed by Christopher Hewitt of Knucklehead. Intel has also launched a social media program, where if Erik’s video is shared 2,900 times they will donate $30,000 to No Barriers USA, an organization offering “transformative experiences that allow people to embrace a ‘no barriers mindset’ and discover the potential that lies within themselves and the world.” After viewing Erik’s “Look Inside” video above, you can head here for the full story. Stick around for credits and “Look Inside. Jack Andraka” after the jump.


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Commercials Go Warm and Fuzzy

Advertisements during the Super Bowl put on a decidedly happy face, using upbeat themes and images to warm the cockles of consumers’ hearts.


Mutant ‘Doberhuahuas’ Attack the World in Audi’s Super Bowl Ad

Audi's 2014 Super Bowl ad, like the mutant animal it imagines, is a bit of an odd beast.

Following two teasers, the automaker on Monday released the full spot, from Venables Bell & Partners and director Noam Murro. It features a man and woman looking in a pet store for the perfect dog. When they can't choose between a Chihuahua and a Doberman Pinscher, the store suggests they get both—a blended "Doberhuahua" breed. Sounds like a fine plan, until things go awry (in the couple's imagination, at least) and a pack of Doberhuahuas begins to chew up an entire city.

Turns out the whole point is not to compromise. "The all-new Audi A3. Designed without compromise," says the on-screen text at the end. (The couple end up not compromising by choosing a not-lethal mutt from a rescue shelter.)

The visuals in the ad are certainly amusing, and a Doberhuahua attacking Sarah McLachlan's guitar is a welcome sight. But it seems like a bit of a roundabout way to get to a message—#StayUncompromised—that could apply to almost anything.

Last year's "Prom" spot had a similarly vague message—"Bravery. It's what defines us"—but was well liked because of the winning storyline. This year's plot crosses over into such absurdism that the message about not compromising feels like a disconnect. (And speaking of crossing over, combining two animals to make a new one, in a car commercial, could make you expect a message about a crossover or a hybrid—and the A3 is neither.)

Dogs, violence and Sarah McLachlan. Like the Doberhuahua itself, it's an odd combination.