BMW Shares Super Bowl Ad for i3 Electric Car Online Head of Big Game Debut

When it comes to sport, very little stirs the emotions of the stereotypical American sports fan than the annual NFL Super Bowl. Considered to be an unofficial American holiday by many, Super Bowl Sunday is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption in the calendar, coming second to Thanksgiving.

Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel get behind the wheel of a BMW i3.

Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel get behind the wheel of a BMW i3.

In addition to being one of America’s biggest sporting events, the Super Bowl is also one of the most watched television broadcasts in U.S. history, beating even the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing for U.S. attention for total viewing audiences. As a consequence, it has also become the most expensive and best-placed television advertising opportunity for companies wishing to advertise their products to as many people as possible.

After a four year break from the Super Bowl, German automaker BMW is back with a Super Bowl ad this year. And this year, it has chosen to focus its attention on its cutting-edge BMW i3 electric car in an ad called “Newfangled Idea.”

[youtube id=”U1jwWwJ-Mxc”]

The ad, released online yesterday by BMW, is a 60-second short focusing on how a new technology is often perceived as strange and alien, yet can soon become part of everyday life.

Featuring well-known TV anchors Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel, the ad looks back 21-years to when the duo first encountered email on NBC’s popular Today show back in 1992. Confused about what the ‘@’ sign represented in the email address, the two banter on screen about the show’s new feedback email address, leading to one of Gumbel and Couric’s better known exchanges:

Gumbel: “What’s the Internet anyway? What do you write to it like mail? ”

Couric (To producer):”Alison, can you explain what the Internet is?”

It’s an exchange that anyone under the age of 30 would struggle to understand. A time before the Internet. A time where commonly-used phrases like email, Internet and Twitter were unknown. Yet today, just 21-years after those famous lines were uttered, the humble ‘@’ sign has become so well-known that we don’t give it a second thought.

"She said this was a car?" asks Gumbel.

“What do you mean, there’s nothing under the hood?” asks Gumbel.

And it’s a conceit that BMW plays to its advantage in the second half of the ad, which shows an older Couric and Gumbel driving a BMW i3 through the streets of Manhattan, arguing about what the BMW i3 really is. Both are as equally confused about the i3 as they were 21-years earlier.

Gumble: “What do you mean there’s nothing under the hood?” [To a cyclist stopped next to him at the stop light] “Katie said this was a car.”

Couric: “Yeah.”

Gumble: “And it’s built using wind? Like from a windmill?”

Couric:”Or a fan…or a turbine…or a fan-bine…”

Gumble:”Wow…. I mean, what is ‘i3’ Anyway?”

Couric (On phone): “Alison? Can you explain what ‘i3’ is?”

The ad then continues by telling us in big, bold letters that “Big Ideas Take a Little Getting Used To,” before a standard automotive-style voice-over discusses the BMW i3’s lightweight carbon-fibre construction (powered by windmills) and its high performance.

It finishes by cutting back to Couric and Gumbel in the car, with Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue playing on the stereo.

Couric (Dancing in her seat): “Loosen up, Gumble,”

Gumble: “Can you twerk?”

Couric: “Maybe….”

We’ll admit the tongue-in cheek style of the ad may not be to everyone’s tastes, but considering some of the terrible electric car adverts we’ve seen over the years, this has to be one of the better ones. And while we’ve generally sworn off ads which paint electric cars as strange and unusual, BMW’s Newfangled Idea works because it implies that electric cars — and the i3 in particular — will soon become as ubiquitous and everyday as the Internet.

Does the new BMW i3 ad make you laugh or cry?

Does the new BMW i3 ad make you laugh or cry?

So to be cool and hip, it seems to say, you need to buy an electric car now.

And frankly, we’re okay with that.

What do you think of the ad? Do you think it sends the right message? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.


Want to keep up with the latest news in evolving transport? Don’t forget to follow Transport Evolved on Twitter, like us on Facebook and G+, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInDigg thisShare on RedditEmail this to someonePin on Pinterest

Related News

  • heltonja

    Germans are famous for engineering, but marketing, not so much. The viewer is left with the unsettling image of Couric twerking as Gumbal plays the part of Robin Thick. Possibly more confusing than the VW Superbowl ad from last year. Too bad. It’s a great car, just a terrible ad.

    • BenBrownEA

      Nope. Sorry. I can’t picture it. But I can picture, because I experienced it, experiencing a whole technological change I had to catch up with. I remember the questions which are now funny and embarrassing to recall. I get similar questions about driving a Leaf all the time. That I can picture…I hope in 3 years or less people will be laughing at themselves.

      • Reggie Watts

        I experienced the birth and success of the internet too. I still cringed really hard at this ad. If you wan’t to have a really confusing drive to work, you should buy an i3.

  • CDspeed

    If you have an image of Couric twerking in your head, you took the little joke at the end way to seriously. The ad is a actually quite simple, if you don’t try to read more into it. The ad simply says, technology you thought you’d never get used to, will become a part of everyday life.

    • Personally, I love it. It’s the right kind of EV ad…

      • CDspeed

        So do I, I liked it the first time I watched it. I think it will give people an easy way to relate to the i3, I use technology as an example for battery development all the time. Of course electronics evolve much faster then batteries, but evolution is evolution.

    • heltonja

      I understand the goal of the ad, but as sometime who understood what the Internet was apparently a decade before the Katie Couric, I’m not sure I need to be talked down to. I certainly know more about the i3 than my local BMW salesman. When they rank the best Superbowl ads this year, BMW will not be mentioned. Wasted opportunity.

      • CDspeed

        They don’t have to make a short action packed thriller, or have a massive show of horsepower, it’s a smart ad. And I don’t think many of the ads care who’s was best, it’s about the attention they get. People can relate to the internet, and a lot of people remember when it started to catch on. So in a smart way, they’re trying to give people an easy way to relate to the electric i3. And you have to admit in 1994, people were just getting into the internet so a good amount of the world’s population still didn’t know how it worked. I got my first PC in 1995, I remember it because it ran windows 95, so I started using the internet for the first time in the mid 90’s too.

        • Reggie Watts

          I think it’s safe to say that it won’t effect the sales of their other vehicles, that’s for sure. The message is that it should be tolerated because sooner or later electric is going to take over if you like it or not. They didn’t tell me why I should want one though.

      • Reggie Watts

        It has a pretty good chance of making the worst SB Ad lists though!