Marketing master: Spending tens of millions of dollars making action movies just to sell cars, ‘pocketing’ 100 million views even when YouTube wasn’t born

VIDEO: This is BMW Films – The Hire – Ambush. In the saturated market and the brand is showing signs of being overshadowed by its competitors, BMW has done what few people think about is producing action movies to sell cars.

Twenty years ago, when the number of Internet users was only 415 million (about 6.8% of the global population), BMW made a mark in Hollywood history with short action episodes released online. .

These are not promotional trailers in which the company’s car runs on a winding road, but short episodes created by A-list directors like John Woo and Tony Scott and some stars like Madonna and Mickey Rourke.

BMW’s “The Hire” series has become a well-known example of using data to analyze customer segments, build integrated marketing campaigns, unique distribution, and sell effective products simultaneously. fosters emotional connections with customers.

4 years since “The Hire” was launched, YouTube was created. But BMW has achieved significant success with more than 100 million views.

Here’s how they run this marketing campaign:

What to advertise if there is no new product?

In 2000, BMW faced many difficult challenges. Sales reached $ 33 billion, down slightly from $ 34 billion the year before, as both Mercedes and Lexus have had strong marketing campaigns to boost sales of new SUVs. BMW’s challenge is that there are no plans to launch new mainstream products for 2001. So they have almost nothing to advertise!

As a premium brand, BMW realized it needed to do better than just broadcast a boring ad campaign like before. The question is how to increase growth without launching a new product in a context that competitors are outpacing BMW in sales performance and spending heavily on marketing.

In response, BMW collected and analyzed detailed customer data. Their popular clientele is 46 years old and has an income of $ 150,000. Among them, 2/3 are men, married and have no children. Another statistic shows that 65% of online shoppers and about 85% of BMW shoppers have used the Internet before making a purchase.

As digital video recording equipment companies like TiVo grow, viewers can skip ads to choose the show they want. That makes BMW’s advertising plans difficult.

Answer: Make an action movie!

Finally, after analyzing a series of data, BMW decided to make a movie!

Before that, the company has put its products in the famous James Bond movies to advertise. This time, however, with the help of innovative agency Fallon, they went a step further with a new marketing campaign.

Part 1 of “The Hire” includes 5 episodes, each of which is less than 12 minutes long. In the series, lead actor Clive owen plays the “Driver” who transports valuables under contract. His choice on every road is a BMW. Owen always wins chases with the villains because they only ride normal cars while he travels with the class BMW.

To give a sense of authenticity, unlike advertising, 90% of BMW’s $ 15 million budget is used to produce films with a host of quality A-list actors and crew.

Very quickly, the series’ suffocating action has attracted the attention of Internet users. The echo of “The Hire” was so great that it became a source of inspiration for the cult series “Transporter” later.

BMW sees the campaign as no different from releasing a real movie, with “tease” trailers, magazine ads and Internet marketing. They “leaked” news on popular movie sites, hung posters in clubs to pique viewers’ curiosity. Additionally, “The Hire” is available on United Airlines flights.

BMW even sought “The Hire” to participate in the Cannes Film Festival despite controversy because they are essentially advertising. However, the series has been highly appreciated by critics.

To view “The Hire”, viewers can subscribe to download or stream directly from (now discontinued). People can also order DVDs directly from BMW for negligible shipping. More than 30,000 people have ordered through this method.

Resounding success

In the first few months alone, “The Hire” was viewed more than 10 million times online. BMW’s stats make other marketers dream: 2.13 million subscribers on the web, 94% of viewers share the series.

With an appreciation from film critics, “The Hire” won the “Best Short Action Film” award at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. Besides, there are many other big and small prizes.

The second season of “The Hire” was released in 2002 with 3 episodes, costing BMW 10 million USD to produce. By June 2003, more than 45 million people watched the series, far exceeding its original target of 2 million. By 2005, when BMW stopped production, “The Hire” was viewed more than 100 million times in total.

Its unique approach has made BMW stand out like never before in the media. The first installment of “The Hire” created more than 250 stories aired on CNN, FOX and ABC, over 750 articles in Time, USA Today, New York Times and Wall Street Journal. On the Internet, they are also mentioned regularly on Business Week, Yahoo! and Entertainment Week.

According to one study, all of the above equates to BMW saving advertising costs up to 26 million dollars. And of course, most importantly “The Hire” is also successful in sales of cars for BMW.

Total sales in 2001 increased by 12.5% ​​compared to 2000. As a result, BMW became the company with the strongest sales increase in the US. By 2002, sales increased 17%.

While attracting core (rich and educated) shoppers, “The Hire” attracts a younger audience with lots of people visiting BMW dealerships. The number of people who can afford to buy expensive cars has increased by 550%.


Thanks to efficient user data mining, BMW has created a successful marketing campaign on all fronts. A key factor contributing to this success is the combination of entertainment and advertising. In the saturated market and the brand is showing signs of being overshadowed by competitors like it back then, BMW has done what few people think about is producing action movies to sell cars.

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