HERNDON, VA: Audi of America has reimagined its agency roster, moving from one PR AOR to a four-shop multi-agency model.
The automaker has hired APCO Worldwide for corporate and product communications; The Lede Company for entertainment and lifestyle PR; Team Epiphany for cultural relevance and influencer work; and Fast Horse for special projects.
Tara Rush, SVP and chief communications officer at Audi of America, said the auto industry is facing a time of unprecedented change and innovation.
"Now more than ever, we need agency partners who will bring diverse perspectives, challenge us and build the creative ideas we need to disrupt the auto industry norms," she explained. "We also have a very large scope of work within Audi communications and we need agencies with a variety of capabilities and specialties. I think it’s the right time to move to a multi-agency model."
Audi hired the agencies in mid-December, following an RFP process that started in the fall. The auto brand heard in-person pitches from 12 firms, said Rush. The newly hired shops started working with Audi this month. Rush said the total budget for all agencies is in the "multi-millions."
"Most immediately, we’ll be working with each agency to build out our strategies and plans for the year ahead," she said. "I’m incredibly eager to green-light bold creative ideas. During the first call with all 12 agencies, I told them that on a scale from one to 10, my appetite for creative risk-taking is a nine. I think that’s exactly what the auto industry needs right now."
PMK, now known as Rogers & Cowan/PMK, had been the brand’s PR AOR in the U.S. since November 2007. The firm pitched to retain the business, but no longer works with Audi.
"We enjoyed a decade-plus relationship with PMK, and we’re all very proud of the work we accomplished together," said Rush.
"We enjoyed our decade-plus relationship with Audi of America and are proud of the great work we accomplished together," a Rogers & Cowan/PMK spokesperson said via email. "We wish them continued success."
Fast Horse founder Jörg Pierach, said via email that Audi made it clear at the outset of the process that it was looking for partners who could bring "big, bold thinking and new creative approaches."
"We’re being challenged to help Audi think very differently about how they build their brand going forward," Pierach said, adding that Fast Horse is charged with a variety of special projects that lean heavily on the firm’s earned creative expertise and integrated proposition.
"We look forward to a long-lasting relationship to support Audi's vision and initiatives in the coming years," said The Lede Company co-CEO and partner Christine Su.
"Team Epiphany will work with Audi to develop and execute a unique game plan that leverages brand equity to position Audi within the epicenter of culture and communities of influence," said Team Epiphany founder and managing partner Coltrane Curtis.
APCO is excited to get started on the account, a representative from the firm said via email.
"We are grateful for the Audi team’s trust in selecting APCO as its agency partner to help them advance the industry, innovate in alignment with their purpose and values as an organization and help deepen the connection between their customers and the brand," the APCO representative said.
Audi of America is planning to bypass the 2020 New York International Auto Show in April, as are fellow German luxury brands Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Audi is also planning to skip this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. In September, Daniel Weissland was named president of Audi of America.
In the first nine months of 2019, Audi's car production fell 6% from a year earlier to 1.4 million vehicles as a result of declining global demand. Audi is cutting 9,500 of its 61,000 jobs in Germany by 2025 to free up funds to invest in electric vehicles.
This story was updated on January 22 with comment from Rogers & Cowan/PMK.