The original series, called "The Hire," included eight short
films released over two seasons in 2001 and 2002. It is considered
an advertising icon, winning the Cannes Lions International
Festival of Creativity's first ever Titanium Lion. The series was
also named to Ad Age's Top Campaigns of the 21st Century, hailed by
one judge as "the first big media event of 21st-century marketing."
It drew more than 100 million views at BMWFilms.com, which was
considered a major achievement in pre-YouTube days.
But BMW will be hard-pressed to approach that kind of success
today, said Peter Daboll, CEO of ad-scoring firm Ace Metrix. "BMW is exhibiting some creative
bravery by relaunching the high-end, long-form sponsored content,"
he said via email. "You could say they were pioneers of the art
form back in 2001-2 when there was little distribution. The key
difference today is that long-form sponsored content is everywhere,
so how can you get the audience? While potentially Cannes-winning
quality, it is harder than ever to get viewers to pay attention
more than six seconds—especially millennials."
"The challenge for BMW is to create something that will attract
viewers," said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern
University. "This is easier said than done. It is a cluttered
But Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and author of "Decoding
the New Consumer Mind," is bullish on the reprise. "They get
massive quantities of retro-chic allure from the folks that
remember BMW Films from a different era," she said in an email.
"Plus, it really doesn't matter if people remember the films or
not—sounds like they'll be as cool today as they were back
then. So BMW gets a double-whammy of allure from those that
remember and they're freshly cool to those that don't."
The first tease came from Ms. Fanning, who on Sept. 15 posted on
Instagram a picture of herself sitting in the back of a car driven
by Mr. Owen, calling it an "upcoming secret project with a
mysterious driver." The post generated more than 28,000 likes. A
30-second teaser posted on YouTube on Oct. 2 had generated more
than 98,000 views as of last week.
BMW enthusiasts seem excited, including Nico DeMattia, a writer
at BMWblog.com, which is independent from the automaker. "BMW is
back to showing off what its cars can do, showing the people that
its cars are meant for driving hard and not just puttering around
town," he wrote in a Sept. 20 post. "I can probably speak for all
of us BMW fans when I say we're sick of the 'Connected Drive' and
autonomous braking commercials. BMWs aren't about the gizmos and
doodads that the driver can fiddle with. BMWs are for driving and
acting like a bit of an ass in."
Still, BMW does not seem poised to make BMW Films a yearly
campaign. Ms. Wortmann called it a "a one-off thing" that is meant
to be an homage to the original. "I think it is special because it
is building on an icon of 15 years and it's building on a very
charming side of the brand," she said.
Contributing: Ann-Christine Diaz