Will BMW i3 Super Bowl Commercial Be Successful? (w/video)


Even though the Super Bowl is a few days away, BMW released the 60-second i3 commercial, which will air Sunday during the big game.

The commercial begins with a flashback to a live filming of NBC’s Today Show in 1994 with Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel Talking about the internet. They have absolutely no idea what it is or how one might use it. They even can’t agree on what the “@” symbol on a keyboard means. It’s really hard to imagine this, since in the 21 years that have passed since this was filmed, the internet has integrated its way into all of our lives so much it is difficult to image life without it.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on Tom’s blog. Check it out here.

Screen Capture Of BMWUSA.com Homepage

Screen Capture Of BMWUSA.com Homepage

That’s the whole point of the commercial. Things that seem foreign to us today may be the norm very soon in today’s rapidly evolving world of technology. After the flashback, Katie and Bryant are sitting in an i3, and their conversation sounds very much like the one they had 21 years ago, struggling to understand what the i3 is and even how it was made. At one point Bryant looks out the window at a cyclist who is waiting next to them and says, “Katie said she thought this was a car,” inferring that he doesn’t even know what to call it.

I must admit, the first time I watched it I was a little disappointed. I was so excited when I heard BMW bought a full 60 second commercial during the Super Bowl just for the i3, and I immediately began to imagine what angle they might use. I was hoping for something that expressed how much fun the car is, how people just love to drive it, and how easy they could integrate the electric lifestyle into their life. I’ve been critical of all of the automaker’s marketing efforts when it comes to their electric vehicle offerings. I don’t believe anyone has really captured the essence of driving electric or why someone might consider getting their first electric car. So in my mind this was the angle I was hoping BMW went for. I also had a little fear they would just go entirely the sustainability angle, at which point I may have just banged my head on the kenaf fiber dashboard of my i3 until I was unconscious.

So I was a little surprised when I watched the commercial, but then I watched it a couple more times and I started to see why this may indeed have been the proper angle to take. No, it’s not as heartwarming as the Clydesdale horses in the Budweiser spots, or even as cool as Leonard Nimoy’s Audi commercial from last year, yet it does drill home the point it was trying to. Electric mobility is on the verge of becoming mainstream, and even though it may seem foreign to most people today, in only a short period of time they will wonder why they were ever living without it. I can live with that. Well done BMW. Hit or miss; what do you think? Leave your opinions below in the comments section.

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22 Comments on "Will BMW i3 Super Bowl Commercial Be Successful? (w/video)"

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I was also disappointed in the commercial. While I understand the point they are trying to make. I think it will be lost on the average football-watching Joe. They should have taken 60 seconds to show people the fun of driving the car, and never having to fill up at the gas station again. Maybe even mentioned the free 3-day test drive (if they are still doing that)

Glad I own a Volt.

If I owned an i3, this commercial would make me cringe.

I’ve had similar reactions, both first impression, and ongoing changes after repeated viewings. What hit home though was when I showed my non-techie wife (I’m a software developer and know a lot of geeks). She immediately thought it was funny, understood what they were trying to do, and thought it was a good way to get the message across. We are 2.5 years into our Leaf, and we still come across a lot of questions that 5 years from now will hopefully be just as silly as the 1994 lay understanding of the Internet.

The positives are that everybody can relate to this commercial because of how much the internet is integrated into our everyday lives. It grabs people’s attention at the beginning and has very familiar faces in it and a little bit of humor.

Watching this commerical from the point of view of somebody who doesn’t know anything about electric cars, I’m not quite sure it provides enough information. Even saying “the all electric i3” I don’t think is enough for most people to realize it does not use any gas (look at the confusion with Volt when it seems obvious to EV enthusiasts).

It does not hint at any benefits of EVs like low maintenance costs, low operating costs, or fun to drive factor.. things that would get the average viewer to look into the vehicle after the commerical is over. Very few people will care about that its built in a wind powered factory and is made of carbon fiber. I think it focused on all the wrong points.

There is a nice follow up to that:

Self denigration is one type of comedy. In this case I think it works, though for continuity perhaps talking to a passerby on the street through a rolled up window seems a bit much, though in fairness he does something similar in the original clip. He looks off camera at asks someone we can’t see about the @ symbol. Humor is in the mind of the beholder. I think it’s funny.

It is self-denigration . . . but it is also implicitly denigration of the audience. ~”You are an idiot because you don’t understand/appreciate our new car.”

I don’t know if that is a good idea.

Yeah, that doesn’t work for me.

It kinda makes me cringe.

Excellent point about your wife’s thoughts Michael. I believe that is exactly what they are shooting for.

This is the first time I’ve actually watched the ad, and I have to say I really dislike it. It reminds me of the nearly content-free ads for the original IBM PC — the ones with the Little Tramp Charlie Chaplin character — that IBM ran. “Look! It’s a PERSONAL computer — for A PERSON!!!” You can make the argument that right now the Leaf and Volt are more or less akin to the Apple and TRS-80 microcomputers (no one called them PCs back then) before IBM jumped into the market. I doubt that BMW will have anywhere the impact on the market that the IBM PC did. I would have strongly preferred to see BMW stress what’s good about the “EV life”, in terms of driving experience, few maintenance/repair hassles, lower total cost of ownership, etc., instead of implicitly focusing on the fact that it’s just like a real car. I’ve long said that I’d love to see an EV ad that goes like this: Leaf zipping around turns and then onto a straightaway. Interior shot shows happy driver in a VERY quiet interior. He nears a gas station with prices on the sign that read “ARM” and “LEG”,… Read more »

I agree. If you want to sell EVs, you need to hammer on the advantages they have over ICE cars. But the problem with that is that means (for everyone but Tesla), they have to crap all over the rest of their product line. Understandably, they are reluctant to do so.

But yeah, if I were to make an EV commercial I’d focus on the fact that:
-No noise
-No oil drips
-VERY cheap to fuel
-can fuel up at home
-Can ‘grow your own’ fuel on your roof with solar PV
-No smog checks
-No stinky exhaust
-Reduced maintenance
-Reduced repairs
-Cheaper insurance
-No oil changes
-100% Torque at 0 RPM
-Fuel cost is not volatile like gasoline.
-~100% domestically made fuel

Yawn. People are watching the Super Bowl. They don’t want to be reminded of the things they don’t like, even if it’s to avoid them.

I like the ad. The idea that the Internet was so new and alien to us just a mere 20 years ago grabs my attention. I often think about it: what was I doing then, or what would I do without it today? Playing with past, present and future is clever. It will appeal to curious and open minded people, who will have plenty of opportunity to gather more facts later. Cramming facts and figures in an ad is a bad idea, especially a Super Bowl ad.

I think the commercial is brilliant. Time will tell if it’s successful.

I still think the best by far is the Leaf “What if Everything Used Gas”

Yeah, that’s a beauty. Hammering hard!

Great ..they make the point!

More than 3 million views already? Thats ok. I think BMW will sell some of these cars even this january and february even though those are weak months in general.

There are many ways to skin a cat… The Volt add is atrocious, but it’s an crappy company advertising to a crappy audience. Aliens it is then… ;oP

I like the BMW add. It takes a different route, and it’s ok. Hammering the advantages of EVs is important, but so it a memorable add. People can get all the tech and review info online once they get a light bulb on in their head. I think this add does that: it turns on the light bulb. It goes to show that ignorance gets quickly overcome by awesome yet not-yet-nderstood progress. Web was that. EVs are that. Don’t knock it too fast. Let it work a bit.

Problem with the i3 is cost to the average Joe. But not all things are for the average Joe. Internet certainly wasn’t in 1994.

As an i3 owner I was disappointed that they missed all the great features..and just the excitement of these wheels…Will this appeal to all those sport nuts watching (don’t think so) I guess they still don’t know what they created.