What is the slogan for Audi
Vorsprung durch Technik and national identity
"Vorsprung durch Technik" - this slogan comes from Audi automobile advertising and has meanwhile found its way into everyday language as a catchphrase. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia explains: "In January 1971 the slogan 'Vorsprung durch Technik' was first used in an advertisement for the 'NSU Ro 80' (with rotary engine). This became a synonym for Audi for a long time. "
This is undoubtedly about technology. But not only: What (has) worked as an intelligent marketing campaign is not limited to trying to sell more cars.
"Vorsprung durch Technik" - I experienced my first irritation when, while looking through English-language theory magazines such as "Marxism Today" at the beginning of the 1990s, I occasionally came across this sentence, which had been left in German. I was particularly irritated by an experience in Birmingham in 1992, when the male cheerleader also declared this sentence in German into the microphone at a concert by the Icelandic band Sugarcubes (today: Björk)
In the following, it is primarily a matter of a kind of "test drilling" that explores the possibilities of cultural-scientific technology research. This does not limit their view to the technology, but focuses on the "handling of technology" (Stefan Beck). What is therefore not up for discussion is the question of whether the slogan describes a fact or is not more a product of the bill of lading. In the following, I am more concerned with the question of a "national identity" articulated via technology or an ascribed "national identity". Not least because the phrase "Vorsprung durch Technik" claims leadership that is culturally charged in a specific way using technology. It's about technology that (speaking from a German perspective) gives "us" a head start. In this respect, this slogan is used to articulate the hegemonic claim of the world export champion, which is economically troubling many European countries.
"Culture of Vorsprung durch Technik"
The automotive company Audi is experimenting (e) with a different use or non-use of the sentence in German outside of the German-speaking area. The English-speaking audience is believed to owe an explanation:
"Welcome to Audi - Vorsprung durch Technik." "Many have asked the meaning of Vorsprung durch Technik. Allow us to explain: Audi has a formidable history that owes much to the culture of Vorsprung durch Technik ... With a vast array of technical innovations, the new Audi A8 is the very latest manifestation of Vorsprung durch Technik."
If we follow this description, then the "Vorsprung durch Technik" results in particular from the positioning in motor racing. Apart from a few accentuations, the slogan is used globally and in contexts that are framed in different cultures for marketing purposes: "Audi's corporate tagline is Vorsprung durch Technik, meaning 'Progress through Technology'." The German-language slogan is used in many European and other markets (Latin America, Oceania and parts of Asia, especially Japan). In North America the English slogan was "Innovation through technology", but in Canada the German version was used in advertising. For the USA, Audi changed the slogan to "Truth in Engineering".
The slogan was so prominent that both the German and English Wikipedia put their own entries on "Vorsprung durch Technik":
"Vorsprung durch Technik (German pronunciation: [ˈfoːɐ̯ʃpʁʊŋ dʊɐ̯ç ˈtɛçnɪk], ('Progress through Technology') is the main strapline and company ethos for the German car maker Audi." "Technology that inspires "from. Today the link redirects to the general Audi page in Wikipedia.
These various uses of the advertising slogan over time are systematically and specifically developed by the Meta Design advertising agency, which was committed to the mid-1990s. Their task was to reposition themselves in the so-called high-wage segment, which took place in the course of the takeover of Audi by Volkswagen. The A8 was brought onto the market for this purpose. Meta Design wanted to achieve Audi's strategic repositioning with a new corporate design. In this way, the Audi brand should be characterized as human, leading, visionary and passionate, and "A lead through technology" should appeal to a corresponding male class of buyers.
Cultural translation: "'Lead through technology' doesn't work at all"
Although or precisely because the sentence is mostly used in German in other languages, a translation is required that helps to clarify the meaning of the slogan. In this respect, it is not surprising that translators are particularly concerned. On the website "The Phrase Finder (Phrases, sayings and idioms)", which deals with translation issues, we find a kind of "cultural translation" that focuses on the national charge of the slogan: "Meaning: German for 'Progress through technology '. Origin: Used in adverts in the 1990s to capitalize on the German reputation for high technical expertise. "
A discussion is developing about the extent to which, instead of “progress”, “advance” would express Audi's claim to leadership: “Maybe 'advance' would fit better than 'progress'. The origin could also point out that it was / is used by Audi. "
Although the answers initially deal with translation-related linguistic details, it is also discussed here how the claim to leadership can be adequately articulated in English: "If this is for a slogan, 'progress' seems much better than 'advance'. But no, 'progress' doesn't imply an advantage over competitors. What does, though, is your own word: Leading through technology. "
The linguistic connotations that deviate from German oppose a translation into English: "I would stick with 'progress'. 'Lead Through Technology' doesn't work at all. "
Audi translates "Vorsprung" in different ways. For Great Britain initially as "progress": "All vehicles bearing the four rings of the Audi badge embody the principles of Vorsprung durch Technik, meaning 'progress through technology'. Every component and fiber is carefully designed, constructed and tested according to these principles" .
The US-American Audi glossary mentions the translation problem: "'Vorsprung durch Technik' is Audi's tagline in Germany. Literally translated, it means' advancement through technology '; however, English cannot fully capture the meaning of' Vorsprung 'which means' to leap ahead '. "
Sometimes this is probably the reason why the marketing strategists leave the term in German in other languages. In the Anglo-American language tradition, the use of German-language idioms in the original has a certain tradition. In addition to harmless terms such as "kindergarten", "Vorsprung durch Technik" must be read in the tradition of terms such as "Blitzkrieg", "Luftwaffe", "kaputt", "Nacht und Nebel", "Panzer" or "Kriegsspiel". The historical invocations semantically connected with these terms relate to the technological dimension of German military aggression. To what extent the marketing strategy chosen for a car brand aims at a specific idea of masculinity with these invocations, it is easy to guess. The implicit shudder that can be achieved with the Anglo-American audience through the use of German-language idioms is likely to be part of the marketing strategy.
Against the background of the national charge and the sensational German technological leadership claim, the term has also succeeded in Anglo-American popular culture. Its presence in advertising and marketing brought the slogan into Anglo-Saxon pop culture in the 1990s, for example in the song "Zooropa" by U2 or "Parklife" by the British group Blur. Techno DJ Paul van Dyk changed the slogan for the title of one of his albums: "Vorsprung Dyk Technik".
With regard to the song "Zooropa", the authors of a FAQ fan website for the pop band U2 are also trying to find a "cultural translation": "What does 'Vorsprung durch Technik' mean in 'Zooropa'? It is a German phrase meaning roughly "lead by / through technology." A more elegant translation is "a step ahead through technology" or "progress through technology." It is an advertising slogan used by the German car company Audi. Many of the other phrases in the song lyrics are advertising slogans. "
From today's point of view, however, the question can now be asked whether the slogan can still get caught today or whether, in view of VW's involvement in the diesel scandal, a cynical reading will not prevail. That would be a question for a cultural studies technology research that is not only interested in the semantic level, but also examines the socio-economic contexts of the actors and the constellations between technology, discourse, economic structures and socio-cultural practices. It should also be examined how in this case the cultural external and self-attributions correspond to one another. In addition, it can be assumed that against the background of the history of the 20th century, which was shaped by the automotive fossil, the present of the 21st century (Fridays for Future) suggests a different reception of the slogan. It is also questionable what status "Vorsprung durch Technik" will have in the future history of automobilization. (Klaus Schönberger, November 6, 2020)
Klaus Schönberger is professor for cultural anthropology at the Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt / Celovec. He teaches in the BA / MA course in Applied Cultural Studies at the Institute for Cultural Analysis.
In memoriam Thomas Hengartner, the founder of the Kolleg Kulturwissenschaftlichen Technikforschung, who died on May 10, 2018 and would have turned 60 on November 5, 2020.
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