Audi forms joint venture with digital agency—behind the deal

The automaker forms Audi RED in partnership with digital experience design shop BIMM.

Audi forms joint venture with digital agency—behind the deal

Most of the time, when brands bring work in-house it’s bad news for the incumbent agency. But that is not the case with Audi, which is giving one of its digital shops an ownership stake in a new venture called Audi RED, which will handle digital design and development for the luxury auto brand.

The deal is with Toronto-based BIMM, which is part of a group of agencies known as the Kyu Collective that also includes shops such as Sid Lee, Digital Kitchen, Yard and others. 

BIMM in 2020 became Audi of America’s agency of record for digital experience design and development. Now the automaker has formed a 50-50 joint venture with the agency under Audi RED, which will be tasked with improving Audi’s digital customer experiences, including upgrading dealer websites.

Audi and BIMM will be “equal partners” in Audi RED, according to the automaker, with Audi and the agency sharing funding and managing duties of the operation, which will cover the U.S. and Canada. RED stands for Rapid Experience Development.

Audi declined to disclose financial details, such as what BIMM might be investing in the venture. The long-term plan could include Audi RED selling its services to other brands inside Audi’s global parent company Volkswagen Group, whose brands include VW, Porsche, Bentley and Skoda, said Mirjam Abel, VP of digital business at Audi of America.

“This is something new, we will learn and we'll adapt. But we do want to get profitable,” she said in an interview. The arrangement “changes the way you work together drastically,” she added. With external agencies, “you don't share that much of information you maybe should be sharing,” but with the joint venture, “this allows us to be way more transparent.”

Audi in a statement said Audi RED's goal is “to bring together subject matter experts across technology, strategy and creative to think beyond the day-to-day and develop re-imagined digital experiences for the Audi customer.”

Initially, Audi RED’s work will include creating more seamless digital experiences for Audi shoppers—including on apps and websites. Today, a shopper might begin researching a vehicle on a website controlled by the automaker, “and then when you go to the dealer websites, currently, you would start over again,” Abel said. That is not what buyers want—“you want that one-shop experience. And that's exactly what we need to start creating,” she said.

Marco Tomada, VP of operations at BIMM, in a statement said, “This new model allows us to accelerate development of experiences seamlessly across the Audi ecosystem” and “will open so many opportunities for the Audi RED team. Compared to a traditional client-agency model, the Audi RED team will get closer to the Audi business, have greater decision-making responsibility, help us maximize our efficiencies, and leverage strengths.” 

The joint venture marks the latest agency move by Audi of America, which in May hired Ogilvy as creative agency of record, replacing Venables Bell & Partners.