BMW launches controversial ‘Big Brother’ billboards targeting owners of old cars


BMW has announced plans for a new Big Brother ‘marketing initiative’ in the UK, using interactive display panels that can identify when a customer in one of their older cars is nearby, and display targeted advertisements for its extended warranties.

It says the signs use “vehicle detection technology” that can trigger “highly personalized real-time content” when a “handpicked vehicle type is directly in view of the roadside screen.” .

The move sparked outrage from customers and automotive reviewers, who have expressed concerns about the technology being used.

Experts at the Motoring Research website said the signs could be used to “name and shame” drivers, while others on social media said it could violate privacy laws.

The marketing ploy was devised by BMW and Allianz Partner UK to boost extended warranty sales.

The interactive display panels will be located in London, Birmingham, Newcastle and Manchester.

They will be installed at traffic lights on main roads and will only display information to owners when Vehicle Detection Technology (VDT) recognizes the car is stationary at a red light.

BMW says that when one of its 35-plus-month-old cars arrives, the panels spring into action with “highly personalized, real-time content” that “only fires when a type of vehicle is sorted out. flap is directly in view of the road screen ”.

Some reports suggest the system could identify if an older BMW has an approved warranty and only shows the ads to owners of those cars.

A BMW spokesperson told This is Money: “Vehicle detection technology is a proprietary technology from Ocean Outdoor that uses a mix of anonymized third-party data sources from the automotive industry to trigger more relevant content for the make or model of the vehicle that has stopped at the traffic lights.

“The VDT does not have access to any personal data, including the warranty status. ”

Announcing the interactive billboards, Steve Cann, Insurance Manager for BMW Financial Services, said: “Our customers expect a high level of customer service and personalized digital marketing is just one way we can engage with them at this expected level.

“Personalized message board messaging is a unique way to interact with BMW owners outside of their homes that we hope will leave a lasting impression. “

Liz Grindell, Guarantee Manager at Allianz Partners UK, added that the initiative “brings together digital marketing expertise and product innovation, is an exciting opportunity to reach potential customers on the go, at a time when l ‘physical interaction is restricted’.

The advertisements will be used despite the fact that many owners of older BMWs may already have an approved warranty extension, or similar products available from specialist vendors such as MotorEasy and Warrantywise – or have separate savings to cover the cost of repairs. car if necessary.

The move sparked outrage and anger from drivers online, fearing that the Big Brother-style signs would violate privacy if the billboards identify specific drivers known to have no guarantees.

A motorist posted: “The arrogance is breathtaking.

Another said: “BMW is once again showing that they have an excellent understanding of what the public wants and how they deserve to be treated.” Someone really needs to sit BMW down, slap him and tell him he’s drunk and come back when he’s sober.

One commentator added that the need for billboards “also means BMWs are so unreliable that they require a warranty.”

BMW reiterated to This is Money that the technician will not name the driver or post information about their specific vehicle, with the signs promising to only display advertisements for approved BMW warranty products.

This is the second time in just over a month that BMW has elicited a furious reaction from its customers online, as drivers reacted angrily to a Twitter message from the German auto giant last month.

The brand tweeted in response to a comment on YouTube regarding its new flagship electric SUV iX, mocking the baby boomer generation with the term of insult and derision: “OK, Boomer” – despite the individuals born in the “Baby Boomer” generation from 1946 until 1964, accounting for about half of the carmaker’s existing customer base.

In addition to receiving a storm of criticism on social media, the respected German newspaper “Die Welt” has also taken up the slack, telling its readers: “OK, Boomer. BMW insults its best customers, of all things. ‘

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