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The Story Behind BMW's Road Home Campaign

  |  December 18, 2012   |  Comments

BMW of North America was looking for quick hits in social media. Its agency, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners (KBS+), delivered a masterpiece.

BMW of North America was looking for quick hits in social media. Its agency, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners (KBS+), delivered a masterpiece.

BMW North America has spent the past year testing and learning about social media - what's the right message, what's the best tone? Before Thanksgiving, heading into the highest period of holiday stress, marketing executives asked the agency to come up with something light-hearted and funny.

"We've been talking to the agency about quick wins -- little posts on Facebook or Twitter, little videos on YouTube," says Trudy Hardy, department head, marketing communications and consumer events for BMW of North America. Her team is responsible for social media, and she recently designated one team member, Kate Alini, as social media and emerging technologies manager.

According to Hardy, KBS+ account executives had suggested taking a more emotional approach, but BMW felt that, with so much advertising overload and media fragmentation during the holidays, funny was right.

Meanwhile, back at the agency, Aaron Perez and Chris Lane were madly pitching ideas to their bosses.

"The prompt was, come up with a social campaign that would bring out some new ideas and bring some agency-wide camaarederi," says designer and junior art director Aaron Perez. Most of their ideas approached the holidays from a transportation point of view. "We were trying to wrestle in the idea of BMW and driving with some kind of holiday appeal that didn't say, 'Hey, buy a car please.'"As a designer, Perez knows how hard it is to get material to work with - and how crucial it is. He and Lane asked everyone at the agency to grab video as they headed home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Staffers used phones and video cameras to record telling details and vistas from their journeys: dogs jumping into cars, roller bags rolling, scenery flowing by.

After Thanksgiving, ideas were traveling up the food chain, from senior creatives at KBS+ to BMW. Time was passing, and Perez and Lane knew that the shelf life of their going-home idea was nearing its end. So they decided to just get it done while the holiday spirit was still high.

They edited the dozens of resulting videos into a two-minute piece with an original score.

KBS+ presented the video to BMW's social media team last Wednesday as a holiday gift. "It gave me goose bumps," Hardy says. "It was a very sweet and heartfelt moment."

At an all-hands BMW company meeting the following day, they screened the video, and things moved fast after that. First, BMW posted the video on YouTube, with the agency's permission. BMW Munich posted it in Europe, as well. BMW was in the middle of its year-end sales event, and the client saw the video could serve as a less product-explicit balance to the sales messaging.

BMW decided to put a 60-minute version in rotation for some of its TV spots, including NFL Sunday Night Football. While the two-minute video was a holiday gift, BMW compensated KBS+ for the new edit.

Hardy says: "It furthers my belief that great ideas come from every level of the organization.”

Hardy adds that the experience furthered her belief that great ideas come from every level of the organization, and it also showed that branding messages can work in social media. The social media lesson, she comments, was, "Great creative trumps all. It's the quality of that which will determine the engagement and emotional reaction of the piece."



Susan Kuchinskas

Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.

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