Are we already at the changing of this guard? Silicon Valley at sunset. Image Source: Wear Cape Fly.
You may or may not have seen German company Audi's recent advertising campaign that pokes fun at old money and proclaims the rise of new luxury in its car designs. For some reason, they've roped Kenny G. into the campaign, which weirdly works. The ads proclaim all the images of old-fashioned capital, stability and property as symbols of a bygone era. The auto maker associates itself with the symbols of new tech-driven times. But what are those symbols? We're definitely moving away from the original image of tech as geeky and accessible, and we are already far from the 90s' vision of tech's radical and primal openness once proclaimed by Wired magazine and Wikipedia. Tech is slowly becoming the preserve of a new power base.
Good night, outdated old luxury. Video Source: Youtube.
Maybe it's not surprising that the company, founded in 1909, would take pains to hide its long history and stifle an associated stuffy image. Also, its (pretty fantastic) motto is Vorsprung durch Technik, meaning Progress through Technology. Audi is the premium arm of Volkswagen Group, a brand supposedly accessible to all. Yet in Audi's 'escape old luxury' campaign, I find technology is being associated with values to which it is normally not linked. Technology is typically marketed with messages of democratic equality, anarchy even - and speed, convenience, getting work done, travel, change, and millennial momentum. Despite the fact that new tech is usually priced beyond the means of the everyday buyer, everyone knows that once it goes mainstream prices will come down. So its curious that Audi is laying claim to less-discussed values of the Tech Revolution, namely, tech as luxury, as the symbol of a new élite, and as the dynamic and very real basis of new power. Also, mastery of tech here is associated with freedom - when increasingly, we've seen evidence that tech is enslaving us.
Hello, new luxury. Audi Living Room Commercial. Video Source: Youtube.
In the video above, the symbols of old wealth are literally morphing into new symbols (including Audi letting us know that Afghan hounds are out of date).
Kenny G., Riot Suppressor. Video Source: Youtube.
This ad anticipates a post Silicon Valley order of the new global super rich and the rapid decline and marginalization of the professional middle classes who built the internet. It's even more curious that Audi feels that this advertising campaign would work while we are still experiencing the continued shocks of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Audi Startled Smart. Video Source: Youtube.
But the campaign does work. The ads are funny. And so technology must be changing our values in a way that we don't understand, even as it pulls out the silk rug from beneath our feet (check out the jab at Mercedes-Benz in the video below).
Release the Hounds. Video Source: Youtube.