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Bmw Films Case Study Solution Example

In 1999 Paxil, manufactured by SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline plc), was third among the pharmaceutical industry’s best-selling SSRIs, a class of drugs then used primarily to treat depression and anxiety related maladies. The drugmaker’s strategy for gaining ground on rivals Prozac and Zoloft included extending Paxil’s market by winning approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat other forms of mental illness. When, in May of that year, the FDA made Paxil its only approved treatment for social anxiety disorder, the drug finally found itself in a position, after seven years on the market, to outsell its rivals. Social anxiety disorder was a little-known condition at the time, but estimates by SmithKline Beecham put the number of potential Paxil customers in the United States at close to 10 million. Enlisting the public relations firm Cohn & Wolfe as well as Paxil’s advertising agency of record, McCann Erickson Consumer Health, SmithKline Beecham mounted a combined physician, PR, and directto-consumer branded campaign that was meant to inform Americans about social anxiety disorder and to let them know that Paxil alone had been approved to treat it.


Immediately after learning of the FDA ruling, SmithKline Beecham increased its spending on physician-targeted ads to get the word out about the new Paxil designation. Meanwhile, the drugmaker funded a public-service campaign meant to spread awareness of social anxiety disorder. Then, in September 1999, a $30 million push of the Paxil brand began its run on television and in magazines with national circulations. SmithKline Beecham focused its message about social anxiety disorder on professionals between the ages of 18 and 34, with an emphasis on men, who were believed more likely to seek help for the condition because of career concerns.


The PR campaign resulted in more than a billion media references to social anxiety disorder, up from roughly 50 in previous years, almost all of which mentioned that Paxil was the only approved treatment for the condition. Seven months after its launch, the campaign had made the Paxil brand name one of the most recognized prescription drugs in the United States, and the drug was responsible for a sizeable increase in the anxiety medication category. Paxil gained on its SSRI rivals and experienced sustained sales growth, a trend that continued as the drug won further treatment designations, and the company adapted its marketing accordingly in the following years.

Automotive companies constantly do battle to capture an audience of eager players at the right moment in the purchasing funnel who are interested in driving off a lot with a new vehicle. We are all familiar with the commoditized “zero money down, zero percent APR financing” tactics that many traditional auto ads espouse; most every ad touts features and benefits that would sound alike in a blind taste test of vehicles. What then can be the differentiator across brands? Can it be possible for a marketing campaign to appeal to the more intangible and emotive side of a consumer and use non-traditional advertising to do it well?

Such was the case in 2001, when the “Ultimate Driving Machine” became the ultimate interactive marketing campaign through BMW Films. Traditionally, BMW had always supported the release of a new vehicle with an advertising campaign designed to reinforce the brand promise of delivering the world’s most exciting luxury cars. But in 2000, BMW had a window of opportunity when it could do something purely for the sake of branding—sans release of a new vehicle—to deliver a unique message in an increasingly crowded luxury/performance car market. BMW knew that the average work-hard, play-hard customer was 46 years old, with a median income of about $150,000. Two-thirds were male, married, and had no children. As BMW sliced and diced its market further, an interesting statistic surfaced: Roughly 85% of BMW purchasers used the Internet before purchasing a BMW.

Led by Jim McDowell, VP of marketing for BMW North America, BMW embarked on a journey to develop a non-traditional concept to show consumers what makes a BMW a BMW. Combining the ideas of producing a series of short films and using the Internet in an advertising campaign, short films for the Internet was born with BMW Films. BMW assembled a cast of A-list directors and actors, and developed scripts within the basic framework of having a central character that helped people through difficult circumstances using deft driving skills—in a BMW. The car became the star. Each director who chose a script was then given complete creative control over content and direction, something they would be hard-pressed to find in Hollywood, and something that BMW ordinarily wouldn’t allow if filming a traditional advertisement.

Supported with TV spots that mimicked movie trailers, print and online advertising, the promotional campaign was designed explicitly to drive consumers to the BMW Films Web site for an entertainment experience found nowhere else. After a required registration step, viewers could watch streaming versions of the films or download the BMW Film Player, which served as a branded wrapper around the films, and included vivid descriptions of the vehicles used in each film, along with featurette subplots.

Never before (or since) had an automotive company taken such a strong stance to drive consumers to the Web, and the results are compelling. More than 10 million films have been viewed from Nearly 2 million people registered on the site, with 60% of those registrants opting to receive more information via e-mail. An astonishing 94% of registrants recommended films to others, seeding the viral campaign, and more than 40,000 people voluntarily responded to a survey. Visiting the site now, one is able to enter a contest to win the M5 used in “The Star,” the short film that was directed by Guy Ritchie starring Madonna.

As Arthur Chan of TeamOne Advertising says, “I think it’s great for the entire interactive industry … it gets people excited about doing great things online because the space is so unlimited creatively … and more auto marketers are now seeing tangible evidence of how effective online can be.”

With the recent announcement that BMW will make three more films, we all sit in eager anticipation for the next chapter of this truly effective integrated marketing campaign with measurable results.