Audi’s new Chinese car commercial is an ode to nerds

Folding city.
Folding city.
Image: Reuters/Jason Lee
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Audi in China has a new tactic for selling cars: Roll out the country’s biggest nerds.

Chinese Audi ads released last month, by BBH Shanghai, star sci-fi writer Hao Jingfang and ping pong champion Ma Long. Both are catnip for nerds, and Hao’s commercial is particularly cerebral, shining a light into the rising star’s mind.

Hao is the author of the 2015 Hugo award-winning novella Folding Beijing, which is translated into English by Ken Liu. The story is about a highly stratified society split by time of day, in which each class is permitted specific waking hours. In the ad she watches over Beijing as it folds in on itself, creating a kaleidoscope of social classes.

The 32-year-old is the first woman from China to win a Hugo. If sci-fi doesn’t work out, Hao also has a bachelor’s degree in physics and a PhD in economics.

The ad, which has the feel of Blade Runner and Tron, is ostensibly about Hao’s creative process and how she finds freedom to think by, hm, driving luxury cars. By featuring Hao, the ad also departs from more typical celebrity endorsements for high-end cars, like those of Matthew McConaughey or Eminem.