The marketing wizards at Audi decided to unveil the upcoming Q8 crossover via a series of internet shorts, called #Q8Unleased, chronicling the antics of Sandra and Quentin — who we’re told are an “an extravagant power couple” living in California who have fallen upon dark times. Curious about the vehicle and Audi’s attempt at digital drama, I caught the first episode today.
Having just completed my viewing, I have to admit I feel a little cheated. To my dismay, the three-minute video didn’t include a single meaningful shot of the new utility vehicle. While I didn’t expect Audi to give up a front three-quarter view in episode one, I also didn’t expect a half-second glimpse of the Q8 badge followed by tight interior shots of the protagonists. Unless you have supreme interest in the vehicle’s headrests, there is really nothing for you here.
However, if you’re interested in extended shower scenes, brief fights that involve men hugging each other, and bad R&B songs produced exclusively for internet dramas, then you’ll be elated with the rest of this article. As for the Audi that’s likely to appear in subsequent episodes, all I can tell you is I think it’s orange.
Compared to BMW Films’ projects, the first episode of Audi’s original series lacks some oomph. BMW used Clive Owen as its main protagonist in the short films that showcased its models, in both the original run and its 2016 revival, and tapped high-profile actors or celebrities for most of the supporting cast. You were watching car commercials. But the production values, superior acting, and adrenaline-pumping action scenes absolutely tricked you into enjoying yourself. Taken out of context, you could easily fool someone into thinking the films were scenes from a feature-length blockbuster.
Audi’s effort, on the other hand, smacks of budgetary constraints, which would be fine had I never seen anything from BMW Films. But I have, and have to make the comparison, even if it’s sort of unfair.
It’s a little early to make any king of final assessment on the miniseries but the general takeaway from the first episode is not one of gleaming praise. A man wakes up in a dirt-floored shack, gets a video call from a woman who is presumably his wife, and the battery immediately dies. Hopefully he can get to his new Audi to charge it!
The rest of the incredibly brief video involves a flashback where the couple listen to terrible music in the car (which we don’t see much of), after which she takes a shower while he is abducted by men in black masks. Then there’s a flash-forward where he exits the shack and reveals himself to be in the middle of a barren desert, miles from the kind of cell reception that would have made that video call possible.
If the remaining episodes are this brief, the total series will clock in around 15 minutes. That seems insufficient for a drama that intends to set up an elaborate backstory for the characters and still find time to showcase a car. But it’s the Q8’s absence that has me the most worried. If this was just an extended car commercial, it would be easy to forgive Audi’s marketing team for any mishaps. But it really seems like they are trying to build suspense and craft a narrative here. But why?
My assumption is that they want to build hype to coincide with the vehicle’s official debut, which means we might not see it appear in the series in full until June. That’s a bummer, because the next episode of #Q8Unleashed drops on May 24th. If Audi plans to tease the car endlessly until the final video, which comes out on June 5th, I’ll be extremely annoyed.
Let me know if my gripes are warranted or if you’re fine with this marketing style.