After sitting atop Mount Olympus, a move to Palm Springs would be quite a letdown for anyone—especially for Zeus, a weather god and sender of thunder and lightning. That is the quandary BMW portrays in its Super Bowl ad.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, playing Zeus, has a hard time adjusting to California retirement in the 60-second spot, which comes from Goodby Silverstein & Partners with Bryan Buckley directing. Zeus grows bored and frustrated with menial lighting tasks, like delivering a charge to an electric hedge trimmer and a golf cart. But he perks up when his wife Hera, played by Salma Hayek Pinault, gets him an electric BMW iX.
The reinvigorated couple then cruises in the electric SUV while singing along to Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue,” as Zeus uses his powers to switch all the traffic lights to green.
For BMW, which has not appeared in the game since 2015 (when it also plugged an EV), the ad is an attempt to use humor and celebrities to put a charge into its EV sales as it aims to reach a global goal of transitioning its sales to 50% electric vehicles by 2030.
The BMW iX arrives at U.S. dealers next month, along with another electric vehicle, the BMW i4 four-door Gran Coupe. The models represent the next generation of electric vehicles for the German luxury brand. It is phasing out the i3 hatchback. That model, launched in 2013 and considered a pioneering EV, was plugged in the 2015 Super Bowl ad that starred Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel.
For this year’s ad, BMW wanted a “little bit of a Hollywood movie told in one minute” with “a compelling story that makes sense, that is also providing a little bit sense of humor, but is also not too complicated to be told in one minute,” said Uwe Dreher, BMW’s VP of marketing for North America. “We also wanted something that is not too far away from the centerpiece of the ad in the end which is the car. We needed something that has this electrifying theme.”
Goodby pitched Swarzenneger early on and BMW jumped at it, said Dreher, noting the former California governor and movie star is known for playing roles with superpowers. The brand sought to build buzz by first having Schwarzenegger tease some sort of mysterious Zeus project on his Instagram account on Jan. 27. It drew more than 1.7 million likes, including some speculation that it would be a new movie.
Dreher said he liked the fact that Schwarzenegger hasn’t been seen in a big Hollywood movie for a while. “I knew it would create additional buzz that Arnold Schwarzenegger is somehow back,” he said.
Although Schwarzenegger has been in Super Bowl ads before, the spot marks the first Big Game appearance for Hayek Pinault. In a BMW press release, she stated: “Seventy-five percent of the decisions made in a marriage about where to spend the money are made by women, and in this commercial, it is the woman who decides on the right car to get her husband back on track. Of course, the commercial is entertaining, but there is also a real human truth to it.”