BMW's latest ad falls short on style and the spirit of adventure

The ad for the X1 lacks seductive power as it gets bogged down in run-down of SUV's specs, says Steve Hastings.

I ’m really angry about this commercial. And not just this one, but all the recent BMW ads.

It might just be me, but the ads have become, well, not ads any more. They’ve become brochures.

This film is a case in point.

Watch the director’s cut, and you will see a neat idea being played out. The car rides the waves made by the undulating countryside. As the glossy young couple enjoying the ride head back into town, the waves follow them, making everything ripple. The roads, the buildings and bridges.

It’s a good way of suggesting that this car can handle all types of terrain and is great to drive, even if you have to spend most of your life in the concrete jungle.

I don’t know why I want the car, I just know that I do.

After watching the 30-second UK cut of the ad, however, all I know is that I don’t want it. OK, it’s a shorter film; but it is almost wall-to-wall specification.

A breathy voiceover exhorts me to "Feel the control of the BMW X Drive." Maybe if he stopped there, I’d be happy. But he carries on, onto the line that kills it dead: "Spread your wings with impressive interior and boot space."

If I cared so much about impressive boot space, I won’t be the kind of guy who walks on the wild side

Well, thank f**k for that. It’s got a boot. And it’s an impressive boot. I can just imagine showing the boot to my friends. Impressed, huh?

Then onto car-dealer speak.

"Explore more with BMW Navigation as standard…" You mean it’s got satnav? No shit. A £30,000 SUV with satnav as standard. A feature I can get on a £3000 ’05 Merc S320, or from TomTom for under £100.

"As standard", unfortunately, probably had to be added because the next goody, head-up display, is "optional". Luckily, the voiceover tells us, so we won’t be under any illusions when ordering the car.

Then to the endline: "Embrace the unknown." Nonsense. If I cared so much about impressive boot space, I won’t be the kind of guy who walks on the wild side.

So, we have a spineless ad devoid of the very spirit it seeks to evoke. I believe that this commercial is a symptom of a general malaise in car advertising.

Never before has it been easier for consumers to find out all the specifications of a new vehicle. Surely the role of the ad should be to seduce us into wanting the car – not to reduce us to spec-listers. Where are the insights, the humour, the bravery? The art of persuasion and seduction Bill Bernbach taught us has, it seems, been forgotten.

Globalisation has helped manufacturers make and sell more cars more efficiently, but it also signalled the death knell of great car advertising.

With Thanks To

Adwatch prompted advertising-awareness research was conducted by TNS as part of its twice-weekly OnLineBus omnibus among 1000 adults aged 16-64. For details of the survey, contact emma.dolby@tnsglobal.com (020 7656 5890). Ads were compiled by Ebiquity (020 7650 9700) and Mediaedge:cia UK (020 7803 2000).

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