Justin Timberlake is trying to give Neal Bannen (Mark Gantt) a run for his money as the web’s brooding sports car action hero. Of course with the apparent budget that Audi invested in its upcoming The Next Big Thing web series, it makes Sony’s The Bannen Way seem like a bargain. The 6-episode branded web series created by ad agency Heimat Berlin for Audi premieres online May 5, timed around the US rollout of the new Audi A1.
Pop singer turned actor Timberlake stars as a suit-toting corporate stooge thrown into a crime underworld through stunner Dania Ramirez. Commerical director Henrik Sundgren directed the joy ride, which can’t help but appear like an extended car commercial. To be sure, there is a story that unfolds, and viewers will no doubt give this one a chance given the Timberlake connection, who’s SNL videos have endeared him YouTube’s fickle faithful. But will they end up buying the A1?
Car makers, particularly the German ones, have been marrying short-form filmmaking and the internet ever since BMW Films’ The Hire back in 2001 tapping well known directors like Guy Ritchie, John Woo and Ang Lee. Back then it was rising British star Clive Owen at the helm of the latest beemer racing around several European cities. The series racked up over 11 million online views—back in 2001 no less—and sales of BMW’s jumped up 12% that year.
Audi itself took a hand from BMW’s playbook with a slick series of its own in 2003 called The Art of the Heist to promote the launch of the A3. The series was part of a broader multiplatform campaign that included an online game that spawned a reported 200,000 fans playing along in a single day.
To get an idea of the production resources on The Next Big Thing, check out the behind the scenes video that came out with the trailer: