LOOMIS’s Julie Ondrusek Explains How BMW Uses AI to Find Driver Insights
Ever heard of the Hofmeister Kink? No, it’s not a band. Or a hair product. And it’s nothing that will return any NSFW websites when you Google it. The truth is, if you’re not a BMW lover, or at least a car enthusiast, you’ve probably never heard of the . The term refers to the unique angular shape of each BMW’s side back windows. Named for its creator, Wilhelm Hofmeister, who led the BMW design team in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, it’s something that’s been a design feature on nearly every BMW model since 1962.
In a unique celebration of both the Bavarian carmaker and the 60th anniversary of the Hofmeister Kink’s now legendary design, Performance Art, BMW’s CRM agency of record, recently launched a new campaign being driven by the power of artificial intelligence. You may not have heard of the Hofmeister Kink until today, but thanks to AI, we now know there’s a better than even chance you’ve driven it.
AI in service of creativity.
Over the past decade, much has been made about the role AI will play in the creation of advertising. While the industry’s not quite ready to turn copywriting, art direction, and design completely over to the computers, BMW’s new campaign is a fantastic example of how AI can be used to find fascinating insights and information agencies can use to create engaging and unexpected work.
To tap into that appreciation, Performance Art used AI to identify more than 56,000 roads in the United States that share the same general shape as the Hofmeister Kink. That alone, would make for a really fun headline. But for owners of the ultimate driving machine looking for the ultimate driving challenge, Performance Art stepped on the gas.
Looking at 60 years with fresh eyes.
Imagine trying to find 56,000 roads with the same shape. Twenty years ago, that concept would have been virtually impossible. But not today. Performance Art Chief Creative Officer Ian Mackenzie recently spoke to Ad Age about their quest to light up BMW drivers across the country. “Our goal is to help the world rediscover this incredible, iconic brand asset by seeing it with fresh eyes — and then literally driving it,” Mackenzie said.
Much ado about something.
While certainly high on the cool factor, to most drivers, this campaign may seem like much ado about nothing. BMWs are incredibly fast. Super sleek. The kidney grill alone is sexy. But here we are celebrating the back windows. Interesting that they’ve been virtually unchanged for 60 years? Sure. But something that BMW drivers will really care about? Yes! And for the same reason that this campaign is so fantastic. It’s personal and it leverages a profound understanding of the intended target.
At the risk of stating the obvious, BWM drivers love to drive. And not on straight roads. BMWs (and their drivers) are built for curves. Winding turns. They like S-hooks. Corkscrews. Lombard Street in San Francisco. And yes, all 56,000 of the Hofmeister Kinks.
The next evolution of BMW’s legendary Hofmeister Kink is here. And it’s written in the roads you drive. Harnessing computer vision detection, we built an AI to search and pinpoint precise road patterns across the US that match the exact shape of every BMW Hofmeister Kink since 1962. And we found more than 56,000 of them. Search, track and drive this iconic shape.
Below this was a link to a map of the United States with all 56,000 roads shaped like the Hofmeister Kink plotted for me to explore. I was challenged to “Drive the Hofmeister Kink. To, 1) Search the map for Hofmeister Kink-shaped roads, 2) Track the ones I’ve driven, and 3) Build my stats!” (For the record, my favorite is the Pordoi Pass in the Dolomites).
This was advertising. Now, it’s a game and to get me to do what? Drive and have fun. Effective work always begins with a keen understanding of who it is we’re talking to and finding an insight that can be leveraged for connection. When engaging creative can tap into details that make that connection both fascinating and interactive? Well, that’s the ultimate.