BMW just cursed and insulted old people (and mocked old BMWs)

There are many ways of selling new technology during CES. This one may not be ideal.

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What's going on?

Screenshot by ZDNet

I miss the noise of CES.

I miss the shiny stands. I miss the salespeople, shiny and standing there for interminable hours, invented smiles beaming.

Most of all, I miss the companies trying to make news in whatever way they can.

At this first virtual CES, there was one company that sped beyond the hard sell and toward controversy with an unnatural verve.

Famed corporate technologist BMW presented itself in a new ad by swearing, mocking old people, sneering at old BMWs, and generally trying to get you -- or perhaps only millennials -- interested in the magical, tech-focused nouveau future.

Here we have the new BMW iX SUV encountering an old BMW 7 series in a parking lot. 

The male-voiced 7 series isn't happy to see what it calls a "whippersnapper." In some far off wooden chair, Clint Eastwood stirs.

"Hey grandpa," says the iX, who has a female voice. "Have you been sniffing at the gas pumps too long?"

"Your time is over," purrs the iX. And then the insults begin (to accelerate). She adds: "It's just impossible to talk to your generation."

She may have a point. However, she seems to think there's something wonderful about the fact that anyone can talk with her iDrive technology. I can talk to my Comcast remote, but it doesn't make me happy.

Things descend further.

"Electric drive yourself to hell, Tamagotchi," snorts the 7.

To which the iX retorts that she's "smarter, better." I wonder how many older managers have heard precisely these words from millennial, um, colleagues.

It's at this point that the dialogue scrapes against sensitive ears.

"I am the intelligent fusion of sensing," boasts the iX.

"Bullshit," replies her elder.

Continues the iX: "An emotional connection to the people."

"Bullshit."

"An immersive experience," she insists.

"Marketing bullshit."

At this point, you too perhaps wonder whether this ad really does represent the ultimate marketing excreta machine.

The millenially spirited iX questions whether the old guy even knows what intelligent means.

(Yes, it means it'll be more expensive to fix it when it goes wrong. Please forgive this intrusion. Back to the ad.)

She boasts about her wonderful voice and gesture control. "And what can you do?" she sniffs.

"I can drive very fast."

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I confess I, too, would prefer to drive very fast in silence without speaking to a machine or waving my arms around. Unless I'm performing along with in-car Beethoven, of course.

"I provide natural and emotional interaction with a characteristic attractive visualization," the iX explains.

At this point, I had to pause. I had to wonder whom BMW was trying to impress and whether wealthy millennials would be sooooo excited to see grandpa getting mocked. Don't millennials buy a lot of vinyl and listen to Detroit Soul these days?

I don't intend to spoil the ending for you. I will, though, admit the iX does manage a little self-deprecation: "I know everything. I'm always online."

BMW offered a peculiar statement: "This film was created by BMW AG to highlight the evolution of iDrive over the past 20 years, as the next-generation system will be revealed in the spring. However, this clip is intended for certain worldwide markets and is not running in the UK or US." 

YouTube is still -- currently -- available here in the US. There, BMW adorns the ad with the #CES2021 hashtag.

Some might be bewildered that the carmaker believes the best way to sell its new technology -- in the body of a car that isn't the epitome of pulchritude -- is to reveal its older cars are half-witted tripe.

This isn't even the first time BMW has tried to mock elders. Last November, it tweeted an OK Boomer "joke" to sell the iX. It soon apologized.

There's something quite glorious, though, in seeing a car ad that actually achieves more YouTube downvotes than upvotes -- 800 more, at the time of writing.

Just as Webex is trying far too hard to seem miraculously hip, so BMW seems intent on shaking off an image of wealthy, older and, you know, driven by people you don't like.

I couldn't help offering a nod along to one YouTube commenter who mused: "Who is even making these ads? Who is the target? Who says OMG? Why do they hate themselves? What's going on?"

That's always been my question at CES: "What's going on?"