One of the most ubiquitous things in an ad agency's TV production department is some version of the advertising cliche 'speed, price, quality - pick two.'
It's the reality of the business because it's almost impossible to achieve all three objectives.
That's fine for advertising, but what about the real world? What are our favorite choices?
Contemporary cultural anthropologists note America's obsession with - in no particular order - movies, celebrities and automobiles. Picking two is easy. A no-brainer. But combining all three is a challenge of major magnitude. And getting all three in car advertising that's innovative and imaginative is practically unheard of.
That is, until now.
It's here. And it's on the Web at bmwfilms.com.
BMW's newest minis
BMW's agency, Fallon, combined forces with Anonymous Content, a multimedia entertainment company in Los Angeles, to create for BMW five minimovies, each six to seven minutes long.
The series name is 'The Hire,' which brings to the Internet the visual affirmation of BMW's longtime slogan, 'The Ultimate Driving Machine.'
But they're more than minimovies. They're certainly not traditional commercials, infomercials or infotainment. They're movies that entertain, inform and subtly confirm and accentuate the attributes, features and elan of BMW without selling BMW in adspeak. See it. Believe it.
How's it done? You get five acclaimed motion picture directors.
1. Thrill maker John Frankenheimer of Ronin, Grand Prix and Manchurian Candidate fame directed the high-action, thrill-driven Ambush for BMW Films.
2. Ang Lee, director of the Golden Globe- and Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, created great images, including balletlike automotive chase sequences, for Chosen.
3. Wong Kar-Wai, who won the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his 1997 film Happy Together, reaches viewers through sights, sounds and the heart in The Follow.
4. Guy Ritchie, of music video and certain marital fame, directed Star.
5. Latin American director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, a Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee, is directing the fifth minimovie, Powder Keg, due to be released July 19.
Each of the directors has done his own thing, but there are threads of consistency in each of the minifilms on the Web site.
One is the fine British actor Clive Owen. His mysterious, unnamed character is the driver-for-hire of BMWs through the films' cryptic, sometimes weird and often dangerous situations. The film genre may change, but his character remains stoic and resolute.
The writing is consistently lean, spare and good. The other thread of consistency is the use of BMW vehicles. This is not the land of traditional, cliche-ridden running footage shots at sunrise or sunset on mountain roads, superhighways, country lanes and circular driveways, by the beach or in city traffic with a shimmering, polished vehicle. There are wonderful visual surprises and treats in all the films viewed. It took guts for BMW to approve the concept.
This is why.
`That's what I want'
Earlier this year, Automotive News Marketer broke the news about BMW shooting a commercial with Madonna. That was sorta right, but not quite. Actually, the pop icon of questionable acting ability was making a BMW minimovie called Star, directed by her new husband, Guy Ritchie.
Star is a great self-parody of a pop or rock star at her worst: demanding, bitchy, nasty, rude, spoiled, and a few other derogatory terms.
But it is true fun. Walking into the parking garage of her hotel, the star says, 'I don't want a black car,' speaking of the black Lincoln limo waiting for her. She spots a silver BMW. 'That's what I want,' she yells to her manager and bodyguards. Walking to the car, she demands that the driver, Clive Owen, take her to the 'venue,' wherever it may be, and says, 'Don't let my people follow me.'
Owen gives her a look but allows her to get in the back seat with her cup of coffee. As the car moves slowly out of the carpark (he is a Brit) the star's yelling becomes shrill and strident about driving faster. That's when the fun begins.
The silver BMW begins a high-speed driving sequence in city traffic that is the heart of the movie. Our bratty diva is bounced around the car like a lap doll (no legalese about wearing seat belts, either) from door to door, from back seat to front seat, and in-between. There's a scene with smoking, squealing tires that would make the entire Ford public relations staff pass out with media fright. All the while the driver is concentrating on driving and eluding the star's people.
After several funny scenes, he arrives at the venue and does a driving maneuver that's at least a 300-degree skidding turn and stops in front of the theater. In one fell swoop as the car is skidding to a stop, the passenger door opens and the star is unceremoniously dumped in front of a group of paparazzi.
They stare in disbelief, puzzlement, wonder. The diva is lying on the pavement. Cameras are raised, but wait - something is wrong. Smiling, they begin shooting the prostrate star. The scene cuts, and she looks as if she unfortunately has soiled herself from fear and fright. With a sly grin, the car drives off and the minimovie ends. (The viewer suspects the stain came from the coffee.)
The driving is nothing short of spectacular. Better than Bullitt in many ways. On the Web, there's a special film about the driving and stunts. Fun to watch.
OK, where's the commercial? Is there an intersection of art and commerce, or is this an off-ramp to a dead end?
The entire series, and Star in particular, has combined all three elements - movies, celebrities and automobiles - with skill and savvy.
We see the BMWs doing things you won't and don't expect to see from a manufacturer. It has madness, mayhem and more than a dollop of mirth. Each film is different: entertaining, enjoyable, exemplary, enviable.
The BMW people aren't talking about how many hits they have had at the site. They do say, 'It has been great.'
In today's somewhat melancholy world, BMW has created exciting advertising, and sales are up, too.
Of the 'pick two' cliche, I'd say BMW and its partners picked one: quality. Thanks. It was a sensational ride.