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BMW Art Cars- Robin Rhodes

Two weeks ago, we introduced two of BMW’s first Art Cars. Artists Frank Stella and
Alexander Stella created unique body paint designs for their BMW CSL 3.0’s, which proved to be a hell of a car to beat in a European race.

Let’s flash forward a few decades since then.

In 2009, Robin Rhode of South Africa was tapped to design the Z4 roadster. But the
commission hadn’t just chosen another painter. Rhode’s background instead is in performance art. And his design proved to be just as game-changing as the PR campaign that BMW used to promote it.

From Rhode’s performance piece “He’s Got Game.”

And rather than painting on the roadster, Rhode used the car as his brush.

Using Gerhard Richter´s series of paintings ‘Red, Yellow, Blue’, and optic animations and
German expressionist film as inspiration, from atop a 30’ tower overlooking a studio space in Los Angeles, Rhode remote-controlled two nozzles mounted next to the axles of the roadster. At the wheel was a trained stunt-driver who had been given explicit choreography.

Often times, the driver had to reverse in his tracks to add layers of paint without smudging the “strokes.” Tires were changed between colors. Occasionally, Rhode stepped onto the canvas, quadrants of canvas measuring 100’ by 200’, and touched up the paint.

Speaking on the painting, Rhode mentioned that “expression of joy” was really an “expression of painting in action – my hope is to communicate the power and thrill inherent in the creation of art”, says Rhode. “For me, the use of an untraditional paintbrush like a high performance car is a great way to investigate the relationship between emotion, technology and industrial creativity.”

And that’s not just a bunch of art-school hulla-balloo.

The whole process took over 12 hours from start to finish, and was documented by the late, great Dennis Hopper, an art collector and photographer for Vogue magazine for the June 2009 issue. Also in company there was a documentary film crew who was sent there as part of a campaign from GSD&M Idea City in Austin, Texas, and i-shop Dotglu in New York. The crew shot from over 40 different angles and had to coordinate in real-time with the performance, without the chance of a second take.

“BMW has always taken a traditional approach to marketing and is trying to move more towards digital. Yet it’s not a question of throwing out traditional media because obviously that’s still important for the brand. It was a question of what we could do on top of that”, said planning director at Dare, Toby Horry, who headed the augmented reality campaign.

The AR app allowed users to design and drive their own Z4 and were also given the option of recording their ‘painting’ in action through their webcam and uploading it to YouTube. This was followed with an iPhone app joined the top 10 most downloaded.

But “we are strong believers that if you understand your target, media fragmentation can
become your friend.”

 

And the campaign was an overwhelming success. By the end of the year, BMW had sold close to 3,500 vehicles and the agency went on to win the Mediaweek’s Media Plan of the Year award for print in the $10 million or less category.

Check again when we talk about Jeff Koons’ 2010 M3 GT2, which followed all the rules of a successful campaign without the performance to back it up.

 

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