US & Canada

Super Bowl: Audi's Daughter ad divides viewers

The young girl crouches to start the race. Image copyright Audi
Image caption The ad features a young girl competing in a go-kart competition

An advert for Audi which aired during Sunday's Super Bowl in the US has garnered both praise and fury for the German car manufacturer.

Daughter shows a girl racing against boys in a soapbox derby while her father, voiced by actor George Clooney, asks: "What do I tell my daughter? Do I tell her her grandpa is worth more than her grandma? That her dad is worth more than her mom? Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she meets?"

The girl then wins the race, and the father concludes: "Or maybe I'll be able to tell her something different."

The advert ends with the tagline: "Progress is for everyone."

Image copyright TIMOTHY A. CLARY
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The Audi of America website expands on the campaign, citing a US Joint Economic Committee report from April 2016 which found that on average American women are paid 21% less than men. "So at Audi of America, we are standing up alongside every other organization that supports this important cause," the website says.

While many viewers applauded the ad, there has also been considerable backlash. On YouTube, where it was first published on 1 February, dislikes currently outnumber likes by more than 12,000.

"Tell your daughter to work for what she wants... Not beg for special treatment because she's a woman," says one viewer.

"Propaganda. Absolutely disgusting," simply says another.

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Lisa Granatstein, editor at Adweek, said that although there have been female empowerment ad campaigns during the Super Bowl before - including last year's Like a Girl campaign for Always - Audi's is "one step forward" by taking on a specific issue like the pay gap which has become "part of the national conversation".

Ms Granatstein said she thought Daughter was "a very bold stand in terms of celebrating and campaigning for pay equity which has become a big issue in this country."

As for the backlash, she felt this was partly due to "the tone that it was implied that men did not value women equally".

"Every time an advertiser steps into a political fray they risk some backlash."

But she said that Audi will be well aware that almost half of Super Bowl viewers are women and "women are decision makers, they are buying cars themselves, and why not support them?"

Image copyright YouTube
Image copyright YouTube
Image copyright Twitter

Wesley Hartman, professor of marketing at Stanford University, said that the ad was a strategic move.

"In tackling the gender pay gap it is looking to broaden its consumer base and tackle its corporate responsibility. The image of Audi is pretty irresponsible right now with the Volkswagen emission controversy and this is a way to improve their corporate image in a way that is unconnected."

But he said he felt the Super Bowl "is not necessarily the right venue to be political - with such a wide viewership of all political leanings it is not surprising to get a fight back".

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Commentators pointed out that this year's Super Bowl ads were especially political, including emphases on diversity and immigration. An advert by holiday rental company Airbnb showed people of different races and said: "We believe no matter who you are, where you're from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong," the advert said. "The world is more beautiful the more you accept."

And a building materials supplier, 84 Lumber, showed the journey made by a family from Central America to the US, the longer online version of which shows them arriving at a huge wall, only to find someone had built a door into it.

There was also plenty of support for the ad.

"I love this ad. How could anyone not want their daughter, mother or wife to be treated equally? Thanks Audi," said @ChristinaDay99.

"Really happy to own an Audi, especially after seeing this," tweeted @Justineplays.

But several viewers also pointed out that despite Audi's professed ambitions for gender equality, only two of the people on its 14-member US executive board are women.

Audi responded by saying: "Twelve percent of senior management at Audi of America are women. We have pledged to put aggressive hiring and development strategies in place to increase the number of women in our workforce, at all levels, and will work aggressively towards that goal."

Image copyright Audi
Image caption The girl in the advert wins the race

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