Interviews

Dominic Chambers

Head of Marketing at Audi UK.

Ben Somerset-How

Client Director

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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.

 

Creativebrief: As Head of Marketing Audi UK what is your primary focus?

Dominic Chambers: 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.

Creativebrief: 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?

Dominic Chambers: 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.

Creativebrief: What are the main challenges for your sector/category over the next 12 months?

Dominic Chambers: 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.

Creativebrief: Your career has spanned Audi, LG Electronics, Vodafone, Uniqlo, Warner Home Video and Seagram, what have been the high points?

Dominic Chambers: 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!

Creativebrief: Along the way, have there been marketers who particularly impressed and inspired you?

Dominic Chambers: 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.

Creativebrief: What work have you done recently makes you the most proud?

Dominic Chambers: 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.

Creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years?

Dominic Chambers: 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!

Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use an ‘integrated’ agency approach or specialist agencies by individual discipline?

Dominic Chambers: 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.

Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use local agencies by market or international/global agencies?

Dominic Chambers: 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.

Creativebrief: When choosing agencies in the past were you ever influenced by awards?

Dominic Chambers: Awards motivate agencies; a motivated agency does great work.

Creativebrief: How often do you look at new agencies or review your roster?

Dominic Chambers: 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.

Creativebrief: How do you monitor and stay-in-touch with the agency market to ensure you work with the best?

Dominic Chambers: 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.

Creativebrief: Do you/have you used intermediaries in the past? What are your observations?

Dominic Chambers:  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.

Creativebrief: Would you ever consider awarding an agency business without a pitch? What would they have to do / demonstrate?

Dominic Chambers: 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.

Creativebrief: What are your top tips to agencies when presenting credentials to you?

Dominic Chambers: Be brilliant, be brief, be gone.

Creativebrief: What was the most impressive agency presentation you have ever seen?

Dominic Chambers: 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.