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BMW to tune up Web film campaign

The automaker plans to relaunch an advertising campaign this fall that showcases its luxury cars in a new series of digital films.

    BMW is preparing to restart its online marketing efforts this fall, bringing back a popular campaign that features digital films starring its cars.

    BMWfilms.com said Friday that it plans to revive its digital movie series, "The Hire." The new trio of films will reprise with British actor Clive Owen, who will tackle a host of dangerous situations--from behind the wheel of a BMW, of course.

    Analysts said they were impressed with last year's series but are not convinced it will be a hit the second time around.

    BMW's "goal wasn't to get people to go out and buy a BMW because they watched the film. It was to build a brand and develop a relationship with the customer and develop a positive image while being entertained," said Jarvis Mak, a senior analyst at NetRatings. BMW "did that successfully, and they garnered a lot of attention...It was high-quality entertainment and tailored to the Internet."

    But Mak said the new series "probably won't make as big of a splash" because it's been done before. Research firm Nielsen/NetRatings reported that despite a strong showing when the first set of films was released in the spring 2001, traffic to BMWfilms has fallen below 100,000 unique users in recent months.

    The automaker's latest effort to promote its cars online joins a rash of campaigns by offline companies attempting to blend advertising and entertainment. Nike, Burger King, General Motors, ESPN and Pepsi are among those experimenting with Web marketing in the guise of entertainment, such as online games.

    BMW's films created a buzz last year, attracting an audience that fit its target market. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, more than half the visitors to BMWfilms had broadband access, and most of those Web surfers fell into an income bracket of $75,000 and higher.

    BMW said it is confident the new films will play to a full house, adding that its original series "exceeded" its expectations. The company said that since "The Hire" debuted last spring, BMWfilms has had more than 13 million film views.

    "The Hire was an unprecedented example of media convergence that both pushed and crossed boundaries," Jim McDowell, vice president of marketing for BMW of North America, said in a statement. "We had no idea how successful it would be, since we were going into uncharted territory when we started the project."

    The company has yet to release the actors and directors who will participate in its sequel series. Last year's popular campaign featured actors Owen, Madonna, Mickey Rourke and Tomas Milian as well as directors Guy Ritchie, Ang Lee and Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, among others. The new films will be executive produced by David Fincher and produced by Anonymous Content and Fallon Worldwide.