Audi Norway Responds Swiftly to GM’s Superbowl Commercial in “Don’t Hate. Imitate.”
Everyone loves a good-spirited online feud. When we see two major brands bickering, we pull out the popcorn, especially when it’s all in good fun. Ahead of the Super Bowl, General Motors fired the first shot, partnering with beloved funnyman Will Ferrell for a campaign promoting electric vehicles in the US in a series of video spots. The promos feature Ferrell in typical goofball mode discovering that when it comes to EV adoption per capita, the little Scandinavian nation of Norway puts America to shame, buying way more electric cars than Americans. Displeased to be outdone, Ferrell puts the whole country in his crosshairs, punching a Norway shaped hole through a globe and pranking the Norwegian people with a humorous fraudulent pizza order for 5 million pies with anchovies.
Then came the epic clapback. In just 48 hours after the ad’s reveal, Audi, Norway’s leading EV manufacturer had enlisted Game of Thrones fan-favourite, and proud Norwegian Kristofer Hivju to defend his homeland with the perfect slogan, “Don’t Hate. Imitate.” After all, Norway should be celebrated for their eager adoption of electric vehicles, which really was the root of the joke in GM’s ad. Teaming with agency partner Kunde, Hivju drove the point home, impressively matching Ferrell’s own goofy energy in a series of self-deprecating clips that saw the red-haired Viking scarf down a whole smoked fish wrapped in the previously mentioned anchovy pizza, and imploring audiences to squash the beef and appreciate Norway’s (and Audi’s) enthusiasm for environmentally sustainable transportation.
We caught up with Robert Radoli, Creative and Copywriter at POL Oslo to talk about the campaign’s quick turnaround, Norwegian pride, and electric vehicles.
When it comes to comedy, timing is everything. For a responsive campaign like this, you have to strike while the iron’s hot, but a 2 day turnaround is practically unheard of in this industry. Tell us about what enabled this impressive response time?
Having a good idea that everyone involved loved straight away was key to get all onboard. The client, the director, the production company and Hivju himself all understood that the window of opportunity was extremely tight, so everyone had to literally drop what they had in their hands to make this happen. No time to overthink, we just had to go for it. That takes trust between client and agency, as well as the flair and courage to try something different. I mean, a crazy dude slapping himself in the face with a salmon is pretty far from your average premium car ad.
Will Ferrell is one of comedy’s living legends whose style has inspired decades of imitators. Matching his energy is certainly not easy, yet Hivju’s spots somehow manage. What was it like tapping into that type of comedic playfulness and how were you able to match that energy so effectively?
Hivju actually knows Ferrell, they’ve worked together, so he had an intuitive sense of how to feed off Ferrell’s comedic energy. I guess you just have to dare to be weird, and whole-heartedly embrace the weirdness.
While the Viking stereotypes of yore paint Norwegians as fearsome warriors, it’s obvious that some of the fun of Ferrell’s ads was punching down on an unassuming Scandinavian country. What was the national reaction to being spotlighted by GM’s Super Bowl spot like that and how did it inform your response?
The Ferrell spots caused quite a stir over here. We’re a small country so when international stars like Ferrell notices us we get all excited. It was all over the news, so we took advantage of all the attention and hijacked the narrative. Both GM and Audi benefited from it; actually word got back to us that GM, their agency and Mr. Ferrell himself became big fans of our response.
Why do you think it is that Norwegians seem so much more invested in EV-adoption than other countries? What is it about Norway and how do you think these ads could contribute to broader electric vehicle adoption?
The Norwegian government has incentivized buying and driving EVs for decades – No VAT, no tolls and dedicated EV lanes on the motorways have made it attractive to go electric, especially in recent years when the big car brands really has stepped up their EV-game. Today 90% of new car sales in Norway are EVs.
It always feels good to find viral success from a successful campaign, but the opportunity to represent both home country pride and sustainable energy is rare. Does the success of this campaign hold special meaning for the people of Norway?
It was a perfect storm: It was David vs Goliath, national pride, two Hollywood stars in a public banter “war” and two big brands all aligning perfectly on the biggest stage for advertising: Super Bowl Sunday. It was a fun, tongue-in cheek response that made people smile. And, underneath the wacky humour was an important message: We all need to change our ways for a more sustainable future, or as our message to GM and Will Ferrell was: “Don’t hate. Imitate”. Urging them to follow our lead, rather than hate.
What does winning a Lovie award mean for you?
To get that kind of love from Lovie means a lot. Going up against the best international work and come up on top is a huge feather in the cap