BMW Trumpets HD Radio Alliance

NEW YORK A month after disclosing that BMW would optionally install digital HD radio receivers in all of its 2007 models, the automaker has joined with the HD Digital Radio Alliance to launch an on-air campaign.

The alliance—a consortium of U.S. broadcasters promoting HD digital radio—will provide the automaker free airtime to talk up its premium audio offering.

The ads trumpet BMW’s brand simpatico with HD radio. For example, one spot says the “ultimate driving machine” now has “the ultimate radio.” Another claims the BMW driver can now take on “all kinds of new twists and turns with uncompromising performance—and that’s just the radio.”

The spots also hail the advantages of BMW’s high-tech rig: enhanced audio
quality and more programming—without subscription fees. (Car buyers who opt for BMW’s HD radio gear will pay about $500.) Created by Omnicom Group’s GSD&M, Austin, Texas, with its high-end car client, the ads will run on alliance-member stations and at

“We’re advertising HD radio on the radio to people who are listening to the radio,” said Peter Ferrara, president and CEO, HD Digital Radio Alliance. “Target marketing … just doesn’t get any better.”

BMW’s push is part of a $250 million ad effort from HD Digital Radio, up $50 million from its 2006 outlay. More than 1,100 radio stations across the country now broadcast in high definition, with some 600 FM stations offering a second multicast channel. Such HD2 multicasts have rolled out in 85 of the nation’s top 100 markets, some of which also have third tier (HD3) multicast programming.

The alliance approached BMW in the summer about mounting a joint campaign. “Impressed by the way the industry was able to come together,” the automaker embraced the “chance to showcase our innovation,” said Rich Brekus, general manager, product planning and strategy, BMW North America.

Brekus added that the group’s “very aggressive” marketing style—and the fact that radio’s biggest players were involved—won BMW’s confidence.

Based in Orlando, Fla., the 14-month-old alliance has a membership that includes Clear Channel Radio, CBS Radio, Cumulus, Emmis Communications, Entercom, ABC Radio (in Los Angeles and Minneapolis), Citadel Broadcasting, Beasley Broadcast Group, Bonneville International Greater Media and Susquehanna.

“To have BMW as a marquee name to implement HD radio is uniquely satisfying,” said Ferrara, noting that BMW is the first carmaker to offer the high-quality audio system in its entire product line.

“It sends a message to their customers but also to the broader consumer market at large,” he said.

BMW began courting HD radio technology several years ago. The automaker in December unveiled the first factory-installed HD radio with multicast capabilities in this year’s 3 Series convertible, and in June it announced that HD radio receivers would be an option in its 2007 5 Series models. Prior to that, in fall 2005, the company acknowledged that its 2006 7 and 6 Series models would let consumers order factory-installed HD radio technology.

In the past BMW brought satellite radio to its product line, and was the first carmaker to include an iPod adapter

“Our customers like to be on the leading edge,” said Brekus.