Tom Holmes talks to Dominic Chambers, Head of Marketing at Audi UK.
Dominic now presides over the communications strategy behind a range that has just peaked at 36 model types, and is set to grow to 42 over the next few years.
Prior to Audi, Dominic has been a leading marketing specialist for over 22 years, focused most recently on the technology sector with organisations such as Vodafone and LG electronics.
TH: As Head of Marketing Audi UK what is your primary focus?
DC: My number one focus is nurturing the Audi brand to develop it further to be the true leader in UK automotive. I have always believed that brands are like living organism. They do have a lifecycle; they have personalities and can die. Brands are an intangible asset that many senior people in the commercial world do not really understand. They often buy and extol great brands personally, but when it comes to decisions and choices to be made about brands within their purview then short term decisions are made. Brand equity also works a bit like a reservoir of goodwill, you should work hard to fill this goodwill but if the circumstance demands the goodwill can be tapped to get the brand through a difficult situation.
TH: You are responsible for an incredibly strong and innovative brand, do you feel there is an opportunity to progress Audi further in the ways customers experience and interact with the brand?
DC: Audi is a fabulous brand and it is a testament to our key partner BBH and to Audi management over the last 20 years that such a strong and innovative brand has been developed. There is still plenty of scope for Audi in the UK, we are only 6% of the UK market (we have a greater share in Germany) and there is a trend within the UK car market towards premium and this will only accelerate as the centre ground gets squeezed. The 1 to 1 interaction with brands, especially premium car brands, will become ever more important. Driving a premium car is a significant commitment and does say something about your choices. We have had a great success with Goodwood Festival of Speed and our own bespoke Audi Driving Experience which utilizes German instructors in building long term advocates of the brand.
TH: What are the main challenges for your sector/category over the next 12 months?
DC: The UK car market has had a tough 5 year period and it looks to be flat this year. Our challenge is to really focus on our existing owners and drivers to ensure that they stay with the brand, and to ensure that we attract fresh people into the brand as our range is expanded into new segments’ for example with the new Q3. There is also a delicate balance between maintaining a significant investment in brand and customer experience as well as being tactical and ensuring that we take the business opportunities as they present themselves.
I also believe that in many marketing organisations there is an over reliance on data/ROI and doing communications that makes the business happy but bore the consumer. You always have to remember that whilst your brand and business issues fill your brain for most of the working week (and more) for your consumer target you are lucky if it takes up a couple of percent. This fact is often forgotten when brands want to transmit their messages rather than engage and entertain first. There is also a risk with digital/social media that so much data is generated that you get lost in the proverbial woods.
TH: Your career has spanned Audi, LG Electronics, Vodafone, Uniqlo, Warner Home Video and Seagram, what have been the high points?
DC: As you point out I have experience of a number of categories that gives me a broad view on what elements of the marketing tool box that can be brought to bear on different challenges. The launch of Uniqlo in the UK back in 2001 was certainly a highlight, also doing some pioneering marketing in China with Chivas Regal back in 1996/7, the brand has grown from 40,000 cases back then to over a 1m million today, which is incredible! I also delivered a massive brand and cultural refresh within Vodafone which helped revitalise the UK business. And I am very much motivated to be working on the Audi brand to deliver the best work, which is tough as the standard on the brand is extremely high!
TH: Along the way, have there been marketers who particularly impressed and inspired you?
DC: The best boss/marketer I worked with was Chris Woolston at Seagram, he was extremely focused and clear on what was required and great at distilling priorities which is key to making progress on a brand.
TH: What work have you done recently makes you the most proud?
DC: The A6 Avant campaign ‘Humming Bird’ was a great piece of creative that challenged the conventions of the car market; it had great standout and illustrated well the benefits of our new Ultra lightweight construction in the new A6. I think it’s important to work very hard to engage and entertain the audience.
Audi A6 “Humming Bird ” Commercial.
Created by BBH, the animated spot was directed by Oscar winner Daniel Barber.
Advertising Agency: BBH, UK Creatives: Paul Yull, Adi Birkinshaw. Creative Directors: Nick Kidney, Kevin Stark. Producer: Ruben Mercadal. Team Manager: Polly Knowles. Team Director: Simon Coles. Production Company: Knucklehead. Director: Daniel Barber. Producer: Matthew Brown. DoP: Stephen Blackman. Post Production / Animation: The Mill. Lead 3D Artist: Tom Bussell. Editor / Editing House: Adam Marshall / The Whitehouse. Sound: Factory
TH: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years?
DC: It is surprising how resilient terrestrial TV is in the UK, although the TV audience is ageing which is a worry. There will be the relentless push of the internet in outdoor and IPTV, plus all the other devices that will allow ever more use of the web. Traditional print is not looking good. There is a growing generation gap in media consumption which means that you have to be focused on your target more than ever. Brand fame is more important than ever and so the ever mutating channels risks brands spreading themselves too thin!
TH: Do you prefer to use an ‘integrated’ agency approach or specialist agencies by individual discipline?
DC: We have a strong lead agency with BBH who do all our main communications including CRM and dealer POS, we do have some other specialist agencies, but overall I have to say it is certainly easier to manage a smaller roster.
TH: Do you prefer to use local agencies by market or international/global agencies?
DC: I am only responsible for the UK, but Audi do not run a global network and it probably does contribute to a higher standard of creative work and a more motivated local client and agency.
TH: When choosing agencies in the past were you ever influenced by awards?
DC: Awards motivate agencies; a motivated agency does great work.
TH: How often do you look at new agencies or review your roster?
DC: I do not have a fixed view on roster review, as you probably know BBH and Audi have a 30 year relationship. It is also very time consuming to review and get new agencies brought into a brand like Audi. I am also keen to build long term relationships.
TH: How do you monitor and stay-in-touch with the agency market to ensure you work with the best?
DC: I love advertising and so if I see a great piece of work I always check out who was behind it, sometimes I think agencies are not great at promoting their own work. Often agency websites are either weird or dull.
TH: Do you/have you used intermediaries in the past? What are your observations?
DC: I have used intermediaries, I used Agency Insight extensively at Vodafone, and they were an invaluable resource to helping manage and guide a large pitch. They have a much better understanding of the broader agency market and significantly reduce the time it takes to run a fair and successful pitch.
TH: Would you ever consider awarding an agency business without a pitch? What would they have to do / demonstrate?
DC: Yes it is possible to ‘try out’ a new agency with a small project; this would be mostly be on a personal recommendation. It is tough to get through the front door.
TH: What are your top tips to agencies when presenting credentials to you?
DC: Be brilliant, be brief, be gone.
TH: What was the most impressive agency presentation you have ever seen?
DC: I have to say that when BBH are on their metal, nothing can beat the quality and standard of their presentations, I would also say that Dare were also very impressive.
BBH showcase their Audi work and it’s effectiveness on creativebrief
TH: Thank you Dominic
Audi's new marketing boss Dominic Chambers on keeping the brand in the fast lane
Alex Brownsell, marketingmagazine.co.uk, Friday, 10 February 2012, 12:00pm.
The head of UK marketing for Audi is aiming to protect the brand's premium positioning while repeating its 2011 success, writes Alex Brownsell.
Dominic Chambers: head of UK marketing, Audi
Just a few miles from Audi's eye-catching flagship brand centre in West London, where Marketing meets Dominic Chambers, the marque's recently appointed head of UK marketing, motorists battle with hellish traffic conditions caused by the partial closure of the Hammersmith Flyover.
The 900 metre structure, across which thousands of cars speed each day, was unexpectedly found to have eroded, raising the possibility of a collapse.
British automotive marketers will wince at the painfully obvious metaphor for their own travails over the past few years – the wobble, the sudden slow to a halt, the subsequent inability to regain speed.
Despite the wider malaise, Volkswagen-owned luxury car maker Audi has accelerated its performance, becoming the fifth-biggest-selling brand in the country, with a market share of almost 6%, leaving more mainstream names, including Toyota, Renault and Peugeot, in its wake.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the brand sold a staggering 14% more new cars in the UK in 2011 than in the previous year.
Part of its strong performance can be credited to the much-heralded launch of its A1 model, a small car intended to take on the likes of Mini.
Audi has also basked in the recent success of its R8 supercar, and is now primed for a fierce battle with arch-rival BMW, which it trails by a mere 0.15% in market share terms, for the crown of the UK's undisputed premium car marque.
Former Vodafone marketer Chambers, who joined Audi in July as a replacement for easyJet-bound predecessor Peter Duffy, is the man chosen to lead this charge.
He exudes the kind of quiet optimism one would expect from an individual who has spent much of his career at brands in growth, from guiding the UK launch of Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo, to a two-year stint at LG Electronics as European marketing director.
The 46-year-old is not the only fresh face at Audi in the UK. Last month, it installed its Canada boss, Martin Sander, as UK managing director in place of Jeremy Hicks, who had been poached by ambitious Tata-owned manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover. Nevertheless, Chambers is confident the change in leadership will not hinder Audi's progress, citing the central role played by marketing in the UK operation.
"One of the surprises for me joining Audi is that there is a sense throughout the business of the importance of maintaining our reputation," he says. "It is far more ingrained than in FMCG, in my experience.
"The whole business understands how vital it is that the brand stays strong. I don't have to convince people about the importance of brand, whereas in other businesses, you still need to have those discussions about building an emotional relationship with consumers."
Chambers claims the basis of Audi's strength is its consistency when it comes to marketing, from the "long-term" outlook of its senior management, to its 30-year relationship with incumbent ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
A key strand of that consistency has been its long-running strapline, 'Vorsprung durch Technik', which Chambers believes must, if anything, become even more central to its activity. "'Vorsprung durch Technik' is the best-known slogan in the automotive sector by quite some way, but even though it's featured in our communications over the past few years, I feel it's become a bit recessive. I'm going to ensure it features more heavily and is a core part of the creative brief," he says.
Far from merely enjoying the fruits of others' labour, however, Chambers insists there is plenty of work needed to keep Audi on its upward trajectory. For example, despite high praise for the quality of the marque's advertising output prior to his appointment, he wasted no time in introducing a new creative theme, replacing its recent black and white ads with a more fantastical animated style.
The integrated campaign, for the marque's A6 Avant model, depicted a world inhabited by a metallic Audi hummingbird, which is able to nimbly fly among flora and fauna in the form of petrol pumps, road signs and traffic cones.
If strong sales are to be maintained, Chambers believes the brand must make sure it continues to produce memorable marketing. "The biggest challenge in advertising is to be recognised and talked about; the vast majority just washes over people," he says. "Clearly it's critical we get that investment right. BBH has done fantastic work for decades, but we need to ensure that our campaigns are fresh, move forward and connect with the customer. Consumers change, so the brand needs to evolve."
Despite the need to stand out, Chambers attacks those brands which put out overly "shouty" advertising, arguing it is those that discover a "creative spark" which will attract consumer interest. "People have over-analysed and tried to get too much data rigour around brand advertising, which, in the end, is a piece of magic, a creative spark," he says. "This brand does do things which, in the short term, don't have a return on investment, but in the long term produce results."
To that end, Chambers reveals that Audi will be increasing its investment in marketing this year by about 15%, including the roll-out of four major above-the-line campaigns and an increased focus on the digital customer journey.
He observes that, while car-buyers could once be expected to visit seven or eight dealerships before settling on a purchase, most will now visit only one or two, with the bulk of research conducted online. Audi's UK site attracts one million unique visitors each month.
In response, the marketer promises to invest "what it takes" to make customers' online experience "as intuitive and fun" as possible, in many cases providing existing motoring enthusiasts with the content they demand. "
There is already a lot of activity (relating to Audi) online, so it is partly a case of facilitating that with more information, news and the ability to interact with the brand, as well as some specific campaigns to build excitement."
Nevertheless, customer experience can be more difficult to control in the automotive sector, and part of the marketing director's job is to herd the brand's dealership network in the right direction wherever possible.
Not every showroom will be as impressive as Audi's West London site, an environment that could easily be mistaken for a modern-art gallery. Yet Chambers is bullish on the matter, insisting he will keep firm control of the manufacturer's retail partners.
"It's critical we work closely with the network," he says. "We've invested a lot in property, with our 'terminal' dealership design concept. We do meet regularly with the network, and we're clear on what they can and cannot do. The dealers sometimes aren't always on-brand, and we will go around to rectify that. The vast majority (of dealers in) the network understand that."
As customer service assistants flit busily around the showroom with picture-perfect smiles, one is given a glimpse into the tight guidelines set by Audi in its effort to accentuate the feeling of a premium experience.
Yet, with sales growing at such a remarkable rate and Audis becoming more prevalent on UK roads, Chambers admits his biggest challenge is to maintain that sheen and prevent the damage that can occur when a premium brand enjoys mass success.
From a marketing perspective, that means investing first and foremost in brand-led communications, and being "very careful" about the kind of price-led print and TV advertising that has dominated the UK motoring scene since 2009.
It also means directing funds toward high-end experiential marketing, such as the company's 'Audi driving experience days' in the UK and overseas. "It's worth a lot if you can get owners into high-performance cars," argues Chambers. "People remember those experiences for months and years, and it helps them to buy into the brand."
His eyes are firmly set on the prize of becoming the "indisputable number one premium automotive brand" in the UK, just as the company strives to realise a similar ambition worldwide.
Although he acknowledges that the economy is "flat at best", he is confident that there remains a "desire for value and quality", on which Audi's continued growth can be predicated.
Momentum is certainly on his side, but as recent crises at brands such as Toyota have proved, the road to success is rarely straightforward. The threat of the kind of gradual erosion discovered at the flyover down the road is one of which Chambers must be constantly aware.
Three challenges facing Chambers
1. Coping with the potential effects of growth on Audi's premium brand positioning.
2. Taking the fight to London 2012 sponsor BMW during an Olympic year.
3. Maintaining sales growth in a market that is set for decline.
- Various roles, rising to marketing director, Seagram (1988-1998).
- Marketing director, Warner Home Video (1998-2000).
- UK marketing director, Uniqlo (2001-2003).
- Head of brand and marketing communication, Vodafone (2004-2008).
- European marketing director, LG Electronics (2008-2010).
- Head of marketing, Audi UK (2011- present)
Family: Married with three children.
Hobbies: Food, wine, film.
Favourite car: Audi R8 V10. "I borrowed one for a week – it was amazing."
Favourite brand: Virgin Atlantic. "It challenges the convention of airline, and, hopefully, Audi challenges the convention of automotive."
Ambition:"Moving into general management at VW Group. We call MDs brand directors, the number-one responsibility is managing brands, so that's something I'd like to do."
The campaign: A Big Idea Condensed[caption id="attachment_4402" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="The campaign: A Big Idea Condensed"][/caption]
Print and cinema
Audi has revived its 'A Big Idea Condensed' creative ahead of the launch of its A1 Sportback model.
The cinema and print ads focus on the amount of technology that is squeezed into Audi's smallest model, such as its Bose sound-system and Google Earth-powered satnav.
Cinema ads are running throughout Oscar season, with films including 'The Iron Lady' and 'War Horse'. Ads in the Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Times magazines are designed to showcase the fact that the car has five doors.
An adaptation of the creative will also be used for digital display ads across key websites such as MSN, Yahoo, the Guardian, Elle, Grazia and Men's Health, while Audi has also invested in a bespoke iPad ad format.
- 113,797: new Audis sold in the UK last year
- 13.9%: year-on-year increase in new-car sales
- 5.86%: Audi's share of UK new-car sales market
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
[caption id="attachment_4319" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="The new Audi RS 4 Avant"][/caption]
The world’s largest Audi Centre - West London Audi – represents a major investment of £45 million by Audi UK, consolidates the brand’s position as one of the global leaders in prestige car manufacturing.
Six years in the planning and execution, the stunning new 190,000 sq ft Audi Centre is prominently located adjacent to the elevated section of the M4. Its seven storeys incorporate three showroom floors capable of displaying as many as 116 cars, and two basement levels housing a 32-bay workshop and extensive parking facilities. The top two storeys are given over to the Audi quattro Rooms – a business and creative complex which operates as a conference centre.
The highly distinctive curved structure conceived by architects Wilkinson Eyre, famous for the design of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, provides an impressive showcase for the fast expanding 33 model Audi range.
The basement levels are an engineering marvel – they are built below the water table level (and the River Thames) and extend on all sides right up to the boundary lines of the premises.
“In its scope, size and complexity, West London Audi is like nothing we’ve built before. It is 100 times more complicated than a normal retail centre,” says Jeremy Hicks, director of Audi UK. “The sheer scale of this project is very emblematic of the increasing significance of Audi not only in the UK but globally.”
The strategically located landmark building is operated by the Sytner Group, a Sunday Times Best Company to Work For, which has 140 prestige franchise outlets across the UK. It will be staffed by 100 personnel and approximately 30,000 customers are expected through its doors in the next 12 months.
Gerard Nieuwenhuys, the Group’s UK Managing Director commented: “It is a great privilege to be chosen by Audi to operate this amazing flagship dealership. The West London Audi team are incredibly excited about the imminent opening and by the opportunity of delivering a world class service from what is without doubt a World Class facility.“
In the creation of the vast glass and metal external structure, Wilkinson Eyre has drawn inspiration from nature, art and science to create an exciting and technologically advanced sculptural form. The elegantly sweeping curves are reminiscent of a manta ray fish, and the aerodynamic wing shapes of a B2 Stealth Aircraft. The roof itself is a ‘standing seam’ structure made from aluminium sheets, each approximately 40m in length without any joints.
A dramatic aluminium installation by Gerry Judah, designer of the soaring Audi centennial sculpture at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, dominates inside. Weighing almost a ton and featuring the record-breaking Auto Union Streamliner, the specially commissioned piece is suspended between three floors within the atrium. It took three cranes and two days to install this stunning centrepiece.
The Audi quattro Rooms on levels four and five feature not only a heritage section, displaying many of the innovations from Audi’s 100-year history, but also meeting rooms, exhibition space and a screening room with the very latest 103” Bang & Olufsen screens. Audi selected architect Miguel Beleza to design the two floors to create imposing architectural features that define the venue. Furniture has been provided by Fritz Hansen – the Danish designer furniture company.
“Audi is an enormously successful company with many ambitious plans for its future. With both our existing model ranges and a host of new models for new segments, we aim to grow to a total of 44 ranges by 2015. By creating retail premises of this magnitude with this level of sophistication, we are ensuring that our extensive and contemporary line-up of cars gets the showcase it deserves,” concluded Jeremy Hicks.
Source : Audi[caption id="attachment_4470" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="Audi Quattro Rooms"][/caption]
958 Great West Road
Dynamism, flexibility and lightness come together to create an incredible venue which integrates over 2000m2 of creative space, three board rooms, three meeting rooms and a private screening room. All areas are available individually or the entire venue is offered exclusively for up to 340 guests. Located just seven miles from Heathrow Airport on the outskirts of Chiswick, the Audi quattro rooms have been stylishly designed and skilfully created to accommodate every event.
About the Editor
Tom Holmes heads up the ‘Market Leader Interview’ initiative, which has amassed over 7,000 views since launch.[caption id="attachment_4469" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="Tom Holmes outside the worlds largest Audi Centre, 958 Great West Road, Brentford, London, TW8 9BQ"][/caption]
As Founder & Chairman, Tom launched creativebrief in 2002 with the intention of revolutionising agency search and selection. For many companies, marketing success depends largely on the quality of agencies and media partners a brand engages. However, finding the right ones can prove difficult and time consuming, as the marketplace is complex and constantly changing.
creativebrief is now the leading provider of agency intelligence to senior marketers and makes the marketing landscape more accessible, transparent and navigable, providing brands with the critical intelligence required to make accurate and informed decisions.
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Prior to creativebrief, Tom spent over 20 years working with some of the world’s leading agencies and brands in UK and internationally, including Account Management roles at WCRS and Saatchi & Saatchi, Board Director of The Lowe Group and Executive Vice President of Grey Worldwide.