Audi Finds The Right Place For Marketing With Airbnb

Where can someone drive a car that goes 200 miles-per-hour in the US? Audi turned to Aibnb to find a location.

The idea of a cross-marketing promotion between two such dissimilar brands as Audi and Airbnb would seem as far-fetched as selling American consumers a car that can travel up to 200 miles-per-hour.

Considering that the 610-horsepower Audi R8 can ride that fast — as opposed to the average 120 MPH for most automotives — the commercial arrangement last fall between the German carmaker and the online hospitality platform made perfect sense.

For its sixth consecutive turn as a sponsor for the Emmy Awards’s broadcast last September, Audi’s campaign to promote the R8 as a “supercar” offered viewers the chance to book “a once-in-a-lifetime travel and driving experience” complete with a stay at a famed luxury residence and a weekend test-driving the car.

By mixing driving and travel, the campaign highlighted Audi’s focus on advanced automatives — including its approach to the connected car — and Airbnb as a provider of adventure at atypical destinations.

“Why have a car that goes 200 miles an hour? If you think about what an Audi R8 or V10 does for our brand, it’s about experience,” said Kenneth Bracht, director of brand marketing at Audi of America, in a presentation at Mediapost’s Marketing Automotive conference. “It’s about putting something on your bucket list.”

An Audi R8 parked outside the Airbnb rental known as the Rondolino Residence. It’s located in California’s Death Valley.

Death Valley Destination

The promotion kicked off with the debut of Audi’s television commercial dubbed Desolation. The spot features a Death Valley-based house that is available on Airbnb, also known as the “Rondolino Residence.”

Located in an isolated desert landscape, the ad’s concept is meant to show the lengths a family might go to drive the Audi R8 Coupe in its natural, high-performance habitat.

“We started discussing the campaign with the idea of ‘Live to Drive’ — this was a call to all those people who want to drive 200 miles,” Bracht said. “Well, where can you do that in America? And then, the idea came to us: where would you stay if you were going to do something like that? And those were some of the kernels that led to the partnership with Airbnb.”

A scene from Audi’s Desolation spot.

Powering The Campaign

From there, the agency that worked on the ad, Venables Bell & Partners, found the right place with Airbnb.

Each night for seven days following the Emmy’s broadcast, Audi opened up bidding on the house at $610 — for the 610 horsepower — for two nights. The spot sold out in less than seven seconds the first night, Bracht said.

While social and digital kicked extended the campaign, the spot got 18 million views the first night, culminating in 186 million impressions and 1.8million social “likes.”

As car brands like Audi extend their connected car capabilities by investing in mapping companies like HERE and its acquisition of  shared mobility platform Silvercar this month, the Desolation campaign helped to solidify its image beyond the traditional marketing moves.

“We did something that a lot of brands wouldn’t have done: we drove traffic to Airbnb instead of Audi,” Bracht said. “By doing that, we were able to tap into Airbnb’s network and their influencers and PR machine.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.