Four wheels, two brothers and endless possibilities.

In between videos of gangsta rap, X-Factor also-rans and teenage popstrels, my in-house gym TV channel is running ads for the new BMW Series 1. Let’s pull up for a moment. Why do you buy the car you do? Probably because it fits in with your perception not only of the brand, but of yourself. So you’re a Mercedes person, or a Toyota person, or a Peugeot person. You’ll have guessed by now, if you read my post on specs, that I’m not really any type of person. Well maybe a no-name person, but that’s an advertiser’s nightmare. But back to the BMWs. In a mass-production market, how do you make your customers feel individual? Your cars come off a production line, but you don’t want your customers to feel like they do too. Simple. You create a difference – even where there isn’t one. BMW have done precisely that with this latest advert. There’s Adam and his brother Freddie. One’s an architect, one’s a model. One drinks ‘mini, skinny lattes’ and the other drinks espressos. The brothers look identical, apart from the hair (sober architect, funky model). Oh, and one drives a red BMW Series 1, the other a black BMW Series 1. They say that they never agree on anything. Until they pull up, double-park right in front of their destination (this is TV, remember) and look surprised and delighted that they’ve got the same car. So you can be the same and different. Who would have guessed?

Back to the feature

Now let’s stop for a moment here, and rewind. You can dash off and pick up the newest, coolest Beemer in a moment, but first, let’s look at the reality of the Adam and Freddie scenario.
  • They’re actors, not real people. So they’re young, handsome, charming and irresistible. Moreover, they’re probably played by the same actor, thanks to the magic of television.
  • They’re driving left-hand-drive cars on the left-hand side of the road.
  • The cars have German registrations (M = Munich).
  • There’s no traffic on the roads, so they’re obviously not driving at rush hour. That means they don’t work in offices like real people, to earn the money to pay for the car, or to get a company car.
  • And lastly, they’re not in Britain, with its narrow streets, dodgy weather and occasional riots. And despite the German registrations, they’re not in Germany either. So where are they, then? The answer is Cape Town, where untold car ads have been filmed over the years. Powder-blue skies, the N1 snaking through the city, and a glimpse of Table Mountain in the background.
So reality, then? Hardly. BMW has realised that they’re not selling cars. Or at least, not just. They’re selling sex, lifestyle, location, freedom, individualism, aspiration and coffee. Oh, and cars. Let’s not forget the cars. And most people (except hopeless cases like me) turn a blind eye to the obvious deception. It’s not that we couldn’t see if it we tried. It’s just that we choose to look beyond it, and accept fiction as fact. Or perception as reality. Remember that when you next write a blog post, draft an email, design a marketing campaign or write a sales letter. People are willing accomplices in your marketing magic. They see what you want them to see. So what do you want them to see? Find out more: