BMW Super Bowl ad: Big ideas like the i3 take a little getting used to

BMW i3 SuperBowl Ad

The parallel between today’s EV market and the early days of the internet is easy to see, at least for those old enough to remember the many articles in the 1990s that insisted that the web was a passing fad, and in fact was already on its way out.

BMW cleverly plays on this irony in its new TV ad, which will be shown during Super Bowl XLIX. First we see Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel back in 1994, puzzling over what an “@” symbol means, and asking “what is internet anyway?”

Next we fast-forward to the present day, as Katie and Bryant are riding in a new BMW i3, and seem to be as bewildered by new technology as ever. “What do you mean there’s nothing under the hood? Katie said she thought this was a car!”

“Big ideas take a little getting used to” is the tagline, and if anything, it’s an understatement. So far, however, this is one EV that seems to be catching on pretty quickly – more than 16,000 units were sold in 2014, its first year on the market. At least one automotive consultant is convinced that the i3 will be profitable at a volume of about 20,000 vehicles a year. With BMW making serious investments in advertising and charging infrastructure, that milestone may not be far down the road.


Source: BMW via Green Car Reports

  • Dr Zook

    I have to admit that it’s pretty funny with the correlation concerning new technologies. The funniest line and a great way to end the ad is Gumbel asking Couric if she twerks and she smiles and says “maybe”. I guess it is possible that some people haven’t heard of the i3 yet.

    • Benjamin Nead

      Once you move away from specialty web sites like this one, you’d be amazed at how
      many people are walking around out there who have no idea that electric cars – much less the specific BMW i3 in the clever commercial – are available at all. Our local Electric Auto Association chapter participates in – or directly organizes – around 10 events annually, where the general public talks to our members and gets to see the cars up close. We still get people showing up who are completely unaware that production EVs are really here. It’s as if they all saw “Who Killed The Electric Car” back in 2006 (and more than a few who even missed out on that) and were locked in a time capsule for the subsequent 8 or 9 years.

      • ned_plimpton

        So true. The questions I’m asked when I’m charging in public never cease to amaze me. I feel like I can’t turn on the TV without hearing about Tesla, but I suppose no one is paying attention.

        I’m afraid that it may take an entire generation for any real penetration. Until you’ve actually plugged in, you just don’t get it.

        BTW, great commercial. I LOLed a few times.

        • Benjamin Nead

          It really is a clever ad. All they needed was the lost-and-sold puppy from the ill-fated GoDaddy ad in the back seat of the i3 and it would have ultimate appeal. I blogged elsewhere, however, that I’m happy the internet – mysterious to Katie and Bryant 21 years ago – allows me to watch it in advance, as I never tune into the Super Bowl (Downton Abbey captures my attention more comprehensively most Sunday evenings this time of year.) If BMW can penetrate cerebral cortexes
          of nacho-munching sports fans with this one, though, more power to them.

          • ned_plimpton

            Interesting, if watch the SuperBowl it’s usually the first game of the year I see. I wonder if there is a correlation between early plug-in vehicle drivers and people who don’t really give a crap about sports.

            (Assuming you feel like I do, that immersing yourself in an allegiance to some random “team” is a colossal waste of time for the most part)

            And that maybe is our problem with EV awareness. The vast majority of people in the US, and the world, would rather watch a game day after day, and pretend that it is of some real consequence, than learn about new things. Actually make me a little depressed when I think about the collective waste of energy humans spend on sports these days.

            (Sorry, touchy subject for me.)

          • Benjamin Nead

            Yeah, I don’t get obsessed sports fans either. When the scores are being recounted on the local TV news each evening I typically find myself doing anything but sitting through it. In the printed paper it’s the section I never read. Yet it’s the be-all and end-all for so many.

            But ad agencies compiling viewership statistics know that the Super Bowl is going to be where they reach a profoundly large group of people all at once. I still have to wonder, though, if your typically rabid football fan isn’t going to just use the time allotted to commercial breaks to head off to the kitchen or bathroom. Maybe it’s the wives
            and girlfriends who are largely uninterested in the mechanics of the game but are resigned to sit through the thing end up being the ones who are waiting for the commercials and can recount them later?

  • Electric Car Pledge

    I wonder if Al Gore will take credit for the EVs too!