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Steve V. forwarded me an AdWeek article last summer about BMW’s business case for …. essentially, the model allows BMW to hit a tighter demographic with a more sustained, viral campaign. They spend as much as they’d spend on a traditional six or eight week media campaign but they experience 3-4 months of sustained interest from exactly the right sort of people. It’s especially demonstrative of how the internet, as an alternate distribution medium, is able to more cost-effectively target a specific sort of audience than traditional media.


—— 20021021/wr_nm/media_advertising_bmw_dc BMW Gives New Roadster the Hollywood Treatment Mon Oct 21, 5:39 PM ET

By Adam Pasick

NEW YORK (Reuters) – BMW Films, the online movie company that blurred the line between entertainment and advertising when it debuted in 2001 with a series of short action films featuring BMW’s cars, is taking another lap around the Web.

Actor Clive Owen returns as the nameless chauffeur who escapes from tricky situations with deft driving and an iron will. But the trio of films, directed by action-adventure luminaries like John Woo (“Broken Arrow) and Tony Scott (“True Romance”), have one true star: the upcoming BMW Z4 roadster.

Is there any conceivable way that a 10-minute movie on the Internet about a drag race through the streets of Las Vegas between James Brown (played by the Godfather of Soul himself) and the Devil (played by Gary Oldman) will put any additional rear ends in BMW’s sporty leather seats?

The German automaker, along with other advertisers, can’t afford not to find out.

Tides are shifting in the advertising world, and marketers are desperate for new, more effective ways to reach their customers. For BMW, which found through market research that its prospective customers are typically tech-savvy and have fast Internet connections, that means the Web.

“It’s quite difficult finding network TV that attracts a significant cluster of our prospects, so (we’ll take) any way we can get closer to those people,” said Jim McDowell, vice president of marketing for BMW North America.


A television viewing audience fragmented across hundreds of channels and technological advances such the TiVo (news – web sites), the ad-zapping personal video recorder, pose a sizable threat to the dominance of the 30-second commercial, said Hank Kim, a senior editor at Advertising Age who covers the convergence of advertising and entertainment.

The growing shift has forced marketers like BMW, and its advertising agency, Publicis’ Fallon, to experiment.

“Instead of some programming guy telling you when you can watch what, you have a lot more choice,” said Kim. “Devices with commercial skipping or forwarding capabilities strike fear into the heart of the established advertising industry and everyone who’s involved in it.”

As a result, advertisers have joined forces with Hollywood to get their message out in more flashy and hard-to-avoid ways. These range from product placements and sponsorships, like Ford’s underwriting of the commercial-free premiere of Fox’s popular show “24,” to the hybrids known — depending on who you ask for a definition — as “branded content” or “advertainment.”

“We will defend to the end that we’re not advertainment,” said McDowell. “We’re entertainment that just happens to have a BMW in the script.”

The use of the online films to launch the Z4 roadster may indicate BMW has run out of patience with traditional product placements. The company launched the predecessor Z3 roadster with a hackneyed, high-profile placement in the James Bond film “GoldenEye.”


The money that BMW lays out for Hollywood-style short films swamps the budget for a 30-second commercial. But because the movies are streamed over the Internet, there are also cost savings to be had.

“Maybe you spend maybe $10 million on the films but only $1 million distributing (them),” McDowell said, as opposed to a television commercial that costs far more to run than to produce. “We thought it could be about as cost effective as network TV advertising.”

The first round of films, directed by Guy Ritchie, Ang Lee and John Frankenheimer, were seen by more than 14 million people.

“It’s taking a brand and creating an entertainment vehicle around it,” said Kim. “It’s gotten a lot of attention, and as a branding exercise it’s been very successful, but the jury is still out as to how many cars it actually moved.”

BMW is even promoting the second film series with a television advertising campaign, in some of the most high-profile commercials designed to drive traffic to a Web site since the dot-com crash.

And in an effort to squeeze every ounce of promotional power from their investment, the BMW films have been shown in movie theaters and were distributed directly to TiVo customers.

Just because BMW’s online movies make sense from a financial and advertising standpoint shouldn’t detract from the quality of the films, McDowell said. Think of it as corporate sponsorship of the action-adventure arts.

“Years from now when there’s a retrospective on Frankenheimer or Ang Lee, we would hope our films would be part of that,” he said.