BMW Needs To Stop Being Weird About Old People

Illustration for article titled BMW Needs To Stop Being Weird About Old People
Screenshot: BMW

Back in November, I wrote about BMW’s strange marketing campaign in which the brand defended its ugly iX electric SUV by brushing off detractors with the phrase “OK Boomer.” I wrote then that this seemed like a questionable move given that BMW’s customers tend to be older. But BMW doesn’t seem to care, because the brand’s latest ad is arguably even more offensive to older people. It’s downright bizarre.

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BMW’s marketing has been incredibly strange, of late. There was the aforementioned Baby Boomer tweet defending the BMW iX’s styling; there was a video that did the same by asking “Did we somehow start to feel uncomfortable with the unknown? Or have we just stopped being open for anything new?”; and there was the “Tell us you drive a BMW without telling us you drive a BMW” tweet that resulted in scores of current and former owners embarrassing the brand by recalling their reliability horror-stories.

The Bavarian automaker, clearly uninterested in letting up on the embarrassing marketing, has a new ad meant to coincide with the Consumer Electronics Show:

In the ad, a sentient BMW 7 Series is made to sound like an old man, while the upcoming BMW iX sounds like a young woman. Clearly meant to describe the often-quarrelsome misunderstandings between Millennials and Baby Boomers, the 7 Series uses terms like “Whippersnapper,” and criticizes the iX for not being a “real car.” The iX tells the old man-in-a-car’s-body that his “time is over,” and that “it’s just impossible to talk to [his] generation.”

Then things get weirder. “I’m the intelligent fusion of sensing, an emotional connection to the people, an immersive experience,” the young iX says. The old car that brought the world BMW’s iDrive infotainment system responds appropriately to that sentence with: “Bullshit, bullshit, marketing bullshit!”

[Aside: I actually agree with the 7 Series, here. A sentence that describes a car by using all four terms “intelligent,” “fusion,” “emotional,” and “immersive” is absolutely marketing bullshit. I’m surprised BMW didn’t throw “dynamism” in there to act as the cherry atop the Dairy Queen machine-ejected-ice-cream shaped bullshit. Anyway, let’s get back to this commercial.]

The iX responds to the old man’s bullshit cries by sighing, and mentioning that she is the intelligent personal assistant. “Do you know what that means — intelligent?”

Damn that’s a burn.

Many YouTube commenters weren’t thrilled with the ad. “Bmw just told elderly people - ‘your time is over’. Frustrating,” writes one. “Everything is politics, everything is conflict, everything has to divide these days. Just stop,” says another. “Really shouldn’t have made fun of your past,” states a third.

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Screenshot: BMW

To be fair, the commercial isn’t just critical of Baby Boomers, it also pokes fun at Millennials by having the iX say things like: “I know everything, I’m always online.” Plus, at the end of the spot, the iX admits to the old-timer: “You are a true classic...I think I could learn a lot from you.” So it’s just one-sided criticism of old folks.

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Still, between the “OK Boomer” tweet in November, and this commercial making old people seem entrenched and, frankly, downright ignorant, it’s just a bad look for BMW, a brand with half of its new owners above the age of 56 according to automotive marketing agency Hedges & Company.

I reached out to BMW to ask how people are meant to interpret this ad. Here’s the brand’s response:

The video was only intended to highlight the innovative and pioneering nature of the original BMW iDrive system and tease the next generation, all-new BMW iDrive system (which will debut with the BMW iX) in a humorous way. More information on the all-new BMW iDrive UI/UX interface will be available in March.

For your reference, the BMW iX will come to the U.S. market in early 2022.

You may have noticed that this ad takes place at BMW Welt in Munich, Germany, and that the sentient 7 Series’ joke about how it “used to enjoy having a few liters too many now and then” isn’t using English units. You also might have been surprised by the use of the term “bullshit” by a major company.

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I’m going to guess that what we have going on here is a case of “Germans trying to be funny.” I was born and raised in Germany, so I can identify this all-too-common crisis quite easily. The use of the term “bullshit,” for example, might seem a bit harsh to Americans, who don’t expect to hear a curse word in an ad by a major company. But, I recall that my high school German dictionary’s translation for the rather mild German term “quatsch” was “bullshit.” So this just might be a case of cultural differences.

Not that it really excuses it, since it’s pretty easy to find an American to watch a commercial before releasing it and offending a key demographic in one of your most profitable markets.

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I’m no marketing expert, but unless there’s data showing that such a strategy will be advantageous to the brand’s image/sales (and I have reason to believe that such data does not exist), BMW should probably just stop being weird about old people.

Sr. Tech Editor, Jalopnik. Owner of far too many Jeeps (Including a Jeep Comanche). Follow my instagram (@davidntracy). Always interested in hearing from engineers—email me.

DISCUSSION

nakam
Nakam

America is a nation divided along many lines these days, but I believe we can all come together as one and agree, regardless of race, political leanings, age, or gender, that these new BMW designs are awful. This could be what saves the country from falling apart.