Advertising Campaign for the 2006 Audi A3

In March, strange blog ads started popping up touting video game designer Virgil Tatum as well as art theft. Then during the New York Auto Show, Audi's 2006 A3 hatchback went missing. A sign was put up that read: "If you have any information regarding the location of a 2006 Audi A3 VIN WAUZZZ8P65A045963 please contact Audi of America at 1-866-657-3268." states "the number leads to a voice mailbox where callers are asked to provide any information they have on the missing car. The message says more information will be revealed on the Audi of America Web site on Tuesday morning, April 5th."

So far there are four (five if you count the site) "in-game" web sites - Audi USA's microsite, - site for Virgil the game developer," - Nisha Roberts' site for a company that tracks down and recovers stolen artwork, and - apparently a DJ with hidden areas on the message boards. tracks the story of the game and attempt to solve some of the clues. The Trail of the Heist was set up by and also follows all the nitty gritty details and gives away passwords to hidden films and information. Apparently there's also that was also set up but when I attempted to access the site, it wasn't working. Some of the posts from there appear in the Stolen A3 Forums. let the cat out of the bag back on March 27, removing some of the possible transparency issues. Here are some excerpts from the article:

If all goes according to plan, more than 1m Americans will soon be gripped by the mystery of the missing car.

The hunt for a stolen Audi A3 a sporty hatchback that will hit US showrooms in May will begin next week with a launch party in New York.

At the event, the thriller's first scenes will be shot, with pictures and clues about the theft then distributed on the internet. From there, participants in the chase will use interactive tools to choose alternative plot endings.
How will the publicity be generated? With the latest weapon in the ad man's arsenal blog advertising.

Blogs, web logs or journals, which cover topics from politics to parenting, have such enormous followings that 0 can no longer resist advertising in them. The most recent Pew Internet and American Life Project, which researches internet use, found that 7 per cent of the 120m US adults who use the internet have created their own blog. Assuming one blog per person, this comes to 8m US blogs alone. The study also found that 27 per cent of US internet users say they read blogs.

“It's a brand new space, but when you get the right kind of messaging in it, the results can be astonishing,” said Brian Clark, who has bought blog ads for agencies Weiden+Kennedy and McKinney-Silver, including for the Audi campaign.


It is not yet clear if big advertisers will go beyond small-scale campaigns and make blogs a regular part of their marketing strategies.

“It is still not for everyone, but it can, at the moment, work for specially targeted ads,” says Alycia Hise, account director at TMP Worldwide, which buys blog ads for her education clients.

In the meantime, bloggers should look out for a missing car.

The Audi campaign chase is about getting bloggers to think of an A3 next time they want to buy a car. Not so different to other ads, after all.,, and are all registered to GMD Studios in Florida. isn't though, and it does seem to be the odd one out for the "in-game" sites. Perhaps his music is used in something relating to the game. ponders the relevance of the Virgil character to the story.

I wonder if there will be some stronger tie in to gaming or a specific video game as this progresses?

It wouldn't be all that surprising to see the car pop up in some new racing video games, as that's not an unheard of thing.

The "game" as a whole is rather impressive and intricate. There are emails to read, mp3's to listen to, videos to watch, suspect lists, and much more. Whether people will take the time to go through everything to figure out the mystery is something only time will tell. It could also be the beginning of a new trend in interactive advertising.

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Dabitch's picture

One thing I've always wondered... Do consumers that have the time to play these games (all day) have enough cash to buy the product? ;)

caffeinegoddess's picture

heh. And this game seems to be rather complicated and time consuming. Although I think that's not a terrible thing either...makes it more of a challenge than something that would be very simple to figure out like a some of the eariler iterations of this type of interactivity. Like GM's teaser campaign where webheads just found the answers in the site's code.

andromeda's picture

This campaign is very interesting though I am suprised that they started with blogads. I do think that Virgil will appear in a video-game or some sort in the future, or perhaps even a comic book like the recent BMW comics.

Has anyone seen any other press on this? No mention of it yet in adweek.

caffeinegoddess's picture

Not as of yet. If there was, I'd have linked it in the post (although that could change now that adland has written about it. ;) ) There's mostly a lot of chatter on gaming-type sites and blogs of people who like to game but the mainstream, excepting FT, hasn't really delved into the story yet.

James_Trickery's picture

What I find interesting about this campaign/game is that I keep stum,bling onto comments in blogs and forums where people are mad about the blogads roping them in.

For example here in athe stolea3 forum where the following conversation takes place:
... I clicked through on an item on Instapundit, right next to a post on a CBS cameraman working for the terrorists in Iraq. Oh, wait, is that just a made up part of your game too? You want to have your game, fine, go have your game. Have fun, leave the rest of us alone. When you invade OUR space looking to get a reaction to your phony, made up "facts" don't call US the trolls. You're like high school kids on a scavenger hunt, pounding on the old man's door at 4 in the morning asking for a cheese grater. "Don't get mad, dude, it's just a game!"

and the reply: Hmm, so let me get this straight you clicked on one of the ADS in the right hand column and your mad because it was an AD? Come on. Did the other advertisers invade your space too? Most of the free world revolves around marketing and advertising. Personally I think it's a fun and innovative way to get your product to the masses. Not to mention, most of the internet is free for all of us to use, because of advertisers, including the site you mention.

and here in the recent CC BZZAgent discussion
I think Suw's first comment is excellent. The BzzAgent model really bothers me. Just look a the homepage - the lady is talking about New Balance shoes and Nike products. That makes me sick! Almost as sick as when I fell for a recent banner ad that showed a "stolen" Audi car. It turned out to be a viral marketing campaign, and I was duped - a mad at myself as the the character in Joyce's Araby.

I can't recall when I have seen such a harsh reaction to an online game. Then again, other online games usually yell out "online game" pretty much at once. Conclude what you will from that.

caffeinegoddess's picture

hahah. oy vey. More proof there's alot of people who just don't read when they are online. Although I do find it interesting that people are clicking on those blogads. I've wondered how effective they are and how many click-throughs they tend to get. Sounds like the folks behind this did some effective work. I saw the TV spot that goes along with this campaign at the beginning of the week. I found it interesting that their call to action wasn't to the site but to the audi site.

Dabitch's picture

It gets even worse further down in that stolenA3 forum with people comparing it to snuff movies(!). Hoo boy.