How Audi is using the Apollo moon landing to sell cars

Super Bowl 50: Audi Ad

As the Verge noted on Wednesday, Audi’s Super Bowl commercial takes on an Apollo moon landing theme. The commercial depicts a retired astronaut, identified only as “the Commander,” who is quietly remembering the time he and two other men rode a Saturn V to the moon. Finally, his son or grandson takes him on a drive in the new Audi R8. The Commander smiles for the first time in what must be in a while, for the R8 is so sporty and high tech, it is the closest thing there is to flying to the moon in a vehicle that roars down the highway on four wheels.

The commercial captures not only the nostalgia for the glory days of space exploration, when astronauts actually went to some place and walked around on it, but the vague melancholia that exists since the last time that happened was just shy of 45 years ago. The Commander is so lost in his memories that he has gone off his food.

Space has always been a favorite theme of advertisers. Apollo was as much about marketing as it was about science, technology, and beating the godless Soviets. NASA used advertising techniques to sell the moon landing program. Ad agencies of the “Mad Men” era used space exploration to sell everything from watches to powdered drink mixes. The fact that advertisers are still using the moon landing program decades after the last moon walker departed from the lunar surface is a testament to its power to inspire.

Incidentally, Audi is also a corporate sponsor of Part Time Scientists, a German team participating in the Google Lunar X Prize competition to put a rover on the lunar surface. If the German team succeeds, no doubt Audi will take full credit for its role in the feat. Thus the past meets the future to help sell cars.