BMW Mini Gets Supporting Role

DETROIT In what might be called product placement in a brand’s own ads, BMW Mini is rolling out a print, cinema and outdoor campaign for a series of Webisodes featuring the Mini 2007 Cooper S, but don’t mention it.

Consumers can see the car in billboards, in-cinema trailers and print ads for Hammer and Coop, a spoof of ’70s buddy-cop shows like Starsky & Hutch. The ads don’t mention the brand, though the “Coop” in the title refers to it. (Hammer is Bryan Callen, a former Mad TV regular. He speaks Knight Rider-style via the car’s radio as he handles bad guys, car chases and tricky driving maneuvers.)

Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, Sausalito, Calif., handles Mini’s account.

“It’s not as important that Mini be in the front of everything here,” said Mini marketing chief Jim McDowell. “We’re perfectly happy to stand behind and let the story be told. And the car is part of the story.”

Mini also is taking an unusual tack in print. The brand will promote the six-part Webisode series ( on flip issue covers of Rolling Stone and Premiere next month, with several pages of “editorial.” Hammer and Coop will also appear in various magazine fashion spreads.

Hollywood artist Boris Vallejo created movie posters. Billboards with fiberglass-dangling Minis will appear in the 80 U.S. markets with Mini dealerships.

The push is the latest quirky advertising effort from the BMW unit, which in January rolled out billboards that give special messages to Mini drivers via RFID chips. The marque has in the past run Ronco-style TV ads for fictional Mini devices like the G-Whiz, a g-force indicator.

John Butler, executive creative director at Mini’s agency, said the latest effort fits in with that brand image. “If you want to watch a new car being driven around, this is the perfect way to do it,” he said. “Mini is not a TV brand, but had always been at the forefront of viral advertising. This is kind of a combination.”

Mini spent $16 million on measured media in 2006, down $5 million from the year before, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.