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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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?”
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.
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.
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