Audi Sells Cars By Appealing to Our Empathy with Robots (video)

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AUDI robot commercial

What do a tin robot and a toy car have in common? Like us, they envy newer models.

Emotions help set humans apart from robots, but they also make us easy targets. Audi is advertising their new A4 TDIe automobile with a great commercial featuring a lonely tin robot that aspires to greater things. The antiquated bot shown is a real bot custom made for the ad, while the advanced looking android he envies is a pretty cool piece of CGI. Check out the full commercial in the video below. Judging by the ad’s slogan, “we all look up to someone”, it seems like we’re supposed to empathize with the robot’s aspirations while equating the new Audi A4 to the pinnacle of modern automotive tech. Using the hopes of one machine to convince us to buy another machine – I have to hand it to the advertising company, that’s pretty incredible on all kinds of levels.

The ad is an international affair: developed by Agosto, a Spanish production company, for Audi and DDB to be seen mostly in German markets. If you can speak Spanish you should totally watch the following behind the scenes look at the creation of the commercial. It’s really cool to see all the different technologies (robotics, CGI, etc) used by director Nacho Gayan to bring the ad together:

So I don’t want to get too philosophical or psychological on you, but I think it’s really interesting how this cute little robot is selling us cars. Not because robots selling us goods is anything new – we’ve seen bots pitch practically everything, from Coca-cola to motor oil. No, what intrigues me about this ad is that we’re identifying with a robot that feels antiquated and outdone by a more advanced machine that (presumably) will replace it. Sort of like how we may feel when we look at robots taking jobs and replacing humans? If that’s too much of a stretch for your imagination, go ahead and just enjoy the commercial as a cute example of our robot obsessed culture. …But I’m telling you, it says something about our feelings for machines we we empathize with the ones that are obsolete.

[screen capture and video credit: AlejandroElCreativo (Alejandro Arriagada)]
[source: Agosto blog]

Discussion — 5 Responses

  • KenSuvy February 18, 2011 on 5:30 pm

    Have they not heard of the Uncanny Valley?

    From Wikipedia:

    The uncanny valley is a hypothesis regarding the field of robotics. The theory holds that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The “valley” in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot’s lifelikeness.

  • Bashar February 18, 2011 on 9:09 pm

    As the proud owner of a 1986 BMW 318i I can associate with his feelings

  • angeliauh madonis February 19, 2011 on 12:20 pm