One of the great marketing campaigns of this millennium, BMW’s The Hire was lauded for its embrace of online marketing and branded content. Bolstered by tangible results and heaps of awards, it also helped launch the career of Clive Owen into the mainstream.
Like most car companies, BMW traditionally executes advertising campaigns (i.e., television, print and radio) to support new vehicle launches. However in 2000, there was no new vehicle launch for BMW, so the opportunity to spend advertising budget on pure branding arose (a marketer’s dream).
The Key Insight
Through extensive consumer research, BMW found their typical customer was 46 years old, with a median income of about $150,000 (USD). Two-thirds were male, married, and had no children. Delving deeper, they discovered this nugget:
Roughly 85% of BMW purchasers used the Internet before purchasing
On April 26, 2001, the now defunct bmwfilms.com launches with a series of short films available for viewing. Clive Owen plays the driver, a man who goes from place to place (in sexy BMW’s of course), getting hired by various people to be a sort of transport for their vital needs.
The series launches with Ambush directed by John Frankenheimer and featuring the BMW 7 series.
Along with Ambush, four other short films were released in 2001, including:
– Chosen directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) featuring the BMW 5 series >>> scroll to the bottom of this article
– The Follow directed by Wong Kar-wai with Forest Whitaker, Mickey Rourke, and Adriana Lima and featuring the BMW 3 series and Z3 roadster >>> scroll to the bottom of this article
– Powder Keg directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 grams, Babel) featuring the BMW X5 >>> scroll to the bottom of this article (love the song selection in this one)
– Star directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch) with Madonna and featuring the BMW M5
With the first series a roaring success, BMW builds on the momentum releasing three more films in 2002. Ridley Scott takes over as producer, and the focus shifts to the then-new BMW Z4 Roadster.
The second series opens with Ticker, directed by Joe Carnahan (Smokin’ Aces) and featuring Don Cheadle and Ray Liotta
This film was follwed up with Hostage, directed by John Woo (Face/Off, MI:2) >>> scroll to the bottom of this article
The campaign’s final spot, Beat the Devil airs November 21, 2002. It’s directed by Tony Scott and includes an all-star cast of James Brown, Gary Oldman, Danny Trejo and Marilyn Manson.
Success and Accolades
– In 2001, BMW sales increased by 12.5% compared to 2000, surpassing the 200,000 mark for the first time in history
– The following year, BMW’s sales rose 17.2 percent between 2001 and 2002, helping the automaker to outsell Mercedes and placing it second only to Lexus in the luxury-car market
– During the four month core of the promotion (series 1), the films were viewed more than 11 million times, with more than 100+ million views to date
– Awarded the Cyber Lion Grand Prix at Cannes in 2002 (Cannes is the ‘Academy Awards’ of advertising)
– Awarded “Best Excuse for Broadband” at WIRED Magazine’s third annual Rave Awards in 2001
– Recipient of two Grand Clio Awards and Best of Show at the One Show Interactive competition
– In 2002, the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival’s “Best Action Short” award was given to director John Woo for Hostage
– Won the first-ever Titanium Lion, the highest honor at the Cannes International Advertising Festival. The award recognizes campaigns that caused ‘‘the industry to stop in its tracks and reconsider the way forward.’’
– In 2003, The Hire series was inducted into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
COST: The five initial films cost an estimated $15 million, and the three made in 2002 cost about $10 million.