BMW Plays It Funny and Savvy With i3 Super Bowl Ad

bmw i3
Source: BMW

Without question, the stakes are high when an automaker runs a Super Bowl ad. They can be awe-inspiring, clever, or celebrity-filled, but at the prices advertisers pay they better combine entertaining content with savvy strategy. BMW appears to have hit the right buttons with the i3 electric car ad that will run during the big game. In this case, advance data paved the way for the funny ad’s online success well before the kickoff of Super Bowl XLIX.

Innovation, from the ‘Net to the i3

How does an automaker claim to innovation? BMW went so far as to compare the i3, its first electric vehicle, to the arrival of the Internet. According to “Newfangled Idea” starring Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric, people will get used to both big ideas in time.

Besides taking advantage of Bryant Gumbel’s excellent comic timing (remember the puffy shirt moment from Seinfeld?), the ad takes advantage of the technology gap some viewers are used to experiencing with parents or older colleagues. In this case, Gumbel and Couric carry the torch of the befuddled.

To hit the right product points, BMW plays up the car’s battery-powered drivetrain before reminding the audience of its 100% sustainable production system using wind and other renewable energy sources. Mostly, it’s a funny ad that showcases its attractive city car, but releasing it online the Monday before the Super Bowl ensured the spot will be a success.

Early release pays BMW dividends

According to Adweek, BMW released “Newfangled Idea” six days prior to Super Bowl XLIX to build momentum and buzz prior to the game, when the rush of ads could obscure a company’s effort. Data had showed that online Super Bowl ad viewing would jump 50% on YouTube this year. So BMW planned a great kickoff for the campaign by debuting it on The Today Show, then watched as it rushed to nearly 4 million views in less than three days.

BMW i3

In that three-day time frame, BMW reported 10 times more people were asking about the i3 online, while there was 42% growth in its number of Twitter followers and 58% growth in Facebook followers, according to Adweek. (By Friday January 30, the ad was surging toward six million views on YouTube.)

Automakers did not come to the Super Bowl ad party in 2015 the way they did the previous year. According to Kantar Media data, car companies spent a record $117.6 million on Super Bowl ads in 2014. General Motors, Volkswagen, and Honda are three top automakers sitting it out in 2015.

For companies like BMW that wanted to show off a particular automobile, it came down to making the right business case. Before the Patriots and Seahawks even pitched battle for Super Bowl XLIX, BMW could claim success with its big-game strategy.