Case Study on BMW ‘M’ Series : An Advertising Masterclass

4 Min Read. |

A Brief Overview of BMW

BMWBMW is popularly known as one of the foremost luxury car manufacturers in the world. The company has come a long way since its inception in 1916 as a manufacturer of aircraft engines. However, BMW has had its fair share of troubled times as well. In 1959 the company neared bankruptcy and was nearly taken over by Mercedes. This was averted on account of a private investor. This investor’s family, owns BMW shares till date. The BMW logo plays homage to their Bavarian origins, by including the colors of the Bavarian national flag in their logo.

The German auto giant manufactures cars under its iconic “Series” label. Each number/alphabet represents a different model. It is also the holding company for Rolls Royce and Mini. The two-wheeler segment is catered to, under the brand of Motorrad. The company also designs aeroplane and train interiors. Audi and Mercedes are two of BMW’s main competitors in the luxury vehicle space.

BMW’s Business Objectives

BMW-ultimate racetrackFor a company, which sells such highly priced products, the relevant segment has always been rather a niche one. Given this, the challenge has always been  in effectively connecting with this relatively small customer pool. When the time arrived for the launch of the “M” Series in Canada, BMW executives knew that they had to go full tilt to ensure that they created the right connect with the right people. Their “Ultimate Racetrack” campaign was designed keeping this in mind. The aim was to maximize the engagement of the relevant customer segment in Canada. To ensure this, BMW created its hugely popular “Ultimate Racetrack” video through its creative agency, Cundari. Kerry Fleiser, the brand communications manager with BMW Canada, said that the main objective was to spark a conversation and hope that the video went viral.

Promotion Strategy Adopted by BMW

In order to achieve its above stated objective, BMW turned to a combination of digital and programmatic media.  The company made full use of the Ad network for this purpose. On the Display Network it made use of YouTube mast-head ads, native videos and mobile promotion. The company also roped in social influencers to champion its cause. On the Search Network, relevant paid search terms were used to increase the brand’s visibility in search results.

Most crucial of all, was what was done prior to the launch of the main campaign. The company launched a teaser trailer on YouTube to gauge the interest levels of different sections of audience. Through viewer statistics BMW determined the interest level of the viewer. Did the viewer watch the entire trailer? Did he/she respond to the call to action? Did the individual comment, like or share the video? Through this analysis, BMW identified a section of people who would be the most receptive to their campaign. The main campaign was optimized to ensure maximum impressions for this highly receptive segment. This also improved the cost efficiency of the ads due to their expectedly high click through rate. The online campaign was  supplemented by a presence on television which helped to keep the messaging alive as well as reach a different category, through a cross-channel promotion.

Campaign Result

The campaign was a resounding success. The video became the highest viewed Canadian produced auto brand film of all time. Till June 2016, the video had a viewership of  7.2 million people. Such was the impact created by the campaign that, as of October 2015, Canada is the number one global market for “M” Series sales.


One can arrive at two significant learnings by analyzing BMW’s promotion strategy for the “M” Series.

First, is the act of identifying the relevant audience through the teaser trailer. This enabled BMW to narrow their focus and zoom in on the relevant viewers. This had a dual benefit. To begin with, this allowed BMW to focus their budget on maximizing impressions for this pre-selected viewer group. This reduced the possibility of someone belonging to this highly receptive segment, missing out on the campaign message. Furthermore, due to this sharper targeting, the relevance of the ads increased. This allowed the ads to occupy prime slots in ad auctions, for a relatively lower bid.

BMW supplemented the online campaign with an offline one. As of 2016, online advertising spend has crossed that of newspapers. Spend on online ads stands at approximately $144 Billion as compared to $140 Billion for newspapers. However television still rules the roost at $189 Billion. By 2019, digital media is expected to cross even television. However the present scenario requires one to appreciate the reach still commanded by television. As such, given the high stakes of this ad campaign, involving television advertising was a very pragmatic decision. Not only did it help to reinforce the messaging for those who were privy to the online campaign, but it also helped to capture an entirely different segment as well.

Image Credits: BMW

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