Spectacular Mind-Control In BMW Advertising

by Thomas MORADPOUR on December 12, 2010 · 14 comments

Eating popcorn, waiting for the feature to start, the cinema audience is watching the usual tunnel of movie trailers and ads. In one of them, Ruben Xaus – World Vice Champion of Superbike – tells the audience “why he races“; a question he gets “every day“.

Should the audience feel particularly interested? Well, the photography is beautiful, wide and low, in black and white; the edit is a good-paced blend of speed and human emotion; the story has got tension, in particular when Ruben concludes “…it’s my dream and it’s your dream too – close your eyes and you will see it.

The only strange detail is the total absence of branding. Other than that, is it remarkable? Probably not.

Except that when asked to close their eyes at the end of the film, the audience can now see a very distinct BMW logo appear in front of their shut eyes. Magic? Mind-control? Or was it what they wanted to see all along? One thing is for sure, they will be talking about this BMW ad for longer than they will talk about the feature they purchased a ticket for.

You’ll have to watch the video below to find out how BMW did it. It’s actually much simpler than you’d think and borrows more from simple medical knowledge than from the secret codex of a Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

To me, the learning is that when you do truly “remarkable” and hit your audience with a punch they really did not expect, you can achieve all three elements of brand building at once – the creative teams behind this amazing ad turned a common Broadcast occasion into a unique Brand Experience, and will be driving scores of Buzz & Sharing. Yes, it cost them more than the standard advertising slot. Yes, it will also be controversial as it conjures up old demons of subliminal advertising and other neuro-marketing fantasies. But I’d say well worth it, well done BMW!

Let’s just hope the logo did not permanently embed itself on spectators’ retinas :-)

What do you think?

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  • http://www.thechasescene.com Chase Adams

    ‘Involve Me’.

    If they could figure out how to put that into TVs without people knowing, I fear we’d be doomed.

    What a great find and right up Tom! Interested to see what direction this type of marketing takes and how people will take to it. A lot of people may be open to being marketed to this way…

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      To me the fact it’s in a movie theater makes it more acceptable than on TV (forgetting the technical question).
      The whole audience gets it at the same time and you can see from your neighbors reactions that you are not going “crazy” or being brainwashed. It’s all done in the open.
      Thanks Chase!

      • http://www.thechasescene.com Chase Adams

        That’s the brilliance of it. You can only do it once though to make it a truly memorable experience, otherwise it becomes like an onslaught of billboards driving a 6 hr interstate roadtrip.

        You don’t remember much. What are your thoughts? Can diff. companies do this (in a theater for example) without losing the impact of how cool it is? Maybe through using more elaborate images?

  • http://www.redesign2.com/blog.html Paul Biedermann

    Fascinating and well done, Tom! It is rather gimmicky but something this cool makes the gimmick work and in this case, it’s almost sublime. Chase is right — you can only do this once to achieve real impact.

    The key, I think, is coming up with something else completely different but using either the same technique or something else just as innovative from which to build the creative concept. In this case, I could see the whole “close your eyes” thing getting old very quick. What I take away from great, creative efforts like this, is the inspiration to find that one, unique technique that hasn’t been exploited yet in order to create something amazing.

  • http://tedrubin.com Ted Rubin


  • http://www.instantdane.tv Dane Findley

    Hi Tom — I just read 3 of your blog posts, and they are interesting and well-written. I’ll keep coming back!

    For me, it’s helpful to hear social media from the side of someone who is working with one of the biggest brands. So much of my “think-tanking” is done with other bloggers, entrepreneurs, and small brands. Now I’m getting a fuller perspective.

  • http://lefreddie.posterous.com lefreddie

    one part of me loves this, it’s new, it’s fresh, never seen before, and one that is a real conversation starter as you said in one of your earlier posts.
    the other part of me is a little bemused. While I love brands playing, how far does this go? I would imagine that in France this would create a real stir with the old subliminal advertising fantasies coming out.
    But one way or the other a big congrats to those who invented, and those who dared!

  • http://socialmediaforsmartpeople.com/back-channel-conversations-social-media-manners-smmanners-chat/ Michele Price

    It does make you wonder. I have been a student of brain technology for a long time. When does using it to forward your companies purchasing power cross the line and when is it savvy business?

  • billspink

    First, what a terrific brand “impression.” The technique is effective because it is so novel, and the ‘magic’ of having the image appear is very cool. How long a person will recall this experience at times when seeing a BMW logo I can’t say, but I have to believe it’s far greater than a typical commercial. I love when a communication is able steps beyond its native medium—having it come alive again, literally inside a person’s head…wow. And, to me, what a fine example of a creative tactic dovetailing with the heart of a brand’s personality, position and value proposition. Thanks for sharing, Tom!

  • http://carolweinfeld.com/ Carol L. Weinfeld

    Consumers will not take kindly to the logo burning/brainwashing. It would have been better to “get inside people’s heads” to find out how the brand could add value for them.


  • Good Mike

    Tom, this is GoodMike from Twitter (@MeetGoodMike) I am blown away by this new technique. However, I disagree with the idea that consumers may not take to this. This is educational as well as innovative. It shows how our brains work in ways we overlook. Congrats to BMW team. The urban market that I’m tapped into… paired with this technique… Unlimited possibilities!

    • http://tommoradpour.wordpress.com tommoradpour

      Hey Mike!
      Thanks for the comment. I’m with you that I would not be offended by this as part of the audience.
      Some people have raised this concern though. Kudos to BMW for taking that “risk”.

  • GoodMike

    By the way, when I say new technique, I mean “new to me” :-)

  • http://www.themountaintop.ca Jeff the Sensei

    The time to become concerned is when it used to drive an action, not just awareness via the experience. That’s the difference between this and what they used to do in the movies long ago.

    While this test created a positive reaction, how about being exposed to it dozens of times? If you didn’t close your eyes you wouldn’t have consciously registered the BMW image, but your sub-conscious mind would have.

    I know its cool and all (and tastefully/honestly done), but the real danger is if this technique catches on. If we realized just how susceptible the sub-conscious human mind is to suggestion, we might be a little more alarmed about this.

    Maybe i just have a hard time trusting… Great find though.


    Jeff – Sensei

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