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After the United States mandated collapsible steering wheels in 1967, the British Mini Cooper retreated back to the United Kingdom and was not sold stateside for 35 years. Reintroduced in 2002 after being purchased and then reengineered by Bayerische Motoren-Werke AG (BMW), the MINI Cooper, as it was later capitalized, began a long series of unorthodox advertising campaigns. Whether it was being strapped to the roofs of SUVs or parked in the bleachers of sports venues, the car rapidly gained traction within the premium-small-car sector. While Volkswagen AG's New Beetle and DaimlerChrysler AG's PT Cruiser sales suffered in 2005, the MINI Cooper flourished under the brand's "Let's Motor" tagline. Hoping to not only to entertain consumers but also to immerse them deeper within the MINI Cooper brand, BMW released its "Counterfeit" campaign on February 14, 2005.
With an estimated budget of $25 million, the advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky launched "Counterfeit" across television, DVD, Internet, and print mediums. Airing only on cable networks, the campaign's one TV commercial warned viewers of fictional counterfeiters who were supposedly selling counterfeit MINI Coopers on the black market. The commercial directed viewers to www.CounterfeitMini.org, a website created by the Counter Counterfeit Commission (CCC), an equally fictional watchdog organization that educated consumers about MINI Cooper counterfeits. If website visitors wanted to learn more, they could order a DVD containing the 10-minute spoof "Counterfeit MINI Cooper," which absurdly documented con artists converting junk cars into look-alike MINI Coopers.
For March 2005, MINI Cooper posted its highest sales month ever and surpassed the previous March by 44 percent. At the Cannes International Advertising Festival in 2005 the campaign garnered a Gold Lion as well as the only American-won Titanium Lion. The ceremony awarded four Titanium Lions to work that the judges considered to be innovative and that utilized several mediums.
Even though the British Mini Cooper was an extremely popular car throughout the United Kingdom, its American stint ended in 1967 after collapsible steering wheels were required on every new car sold. Sales of the Mini increasingly dropped after its 1960s heyday. Eventually the Mini brand and other British automobiles were managed by the Rover Group, which was purchased by BMW in 1994. At first BMW was unsure of how to reintroduce the tiny car to the United States. Even after engineers modernized the
In 2002 Crispin Porter + Bogusky released what was the first of many innovative advertisements for the MINI Cooper. To promote the car's recreational qualities, MINI Coopers were welded onto the roofs of SUVs and driven cross-country. Crispin Porter + Bogusky parked MINI Coopers in the seating sections of sporting arenas. Supermarket tabloids warned about "mutant bat boy in MINI Cooper." Playboy magazine allowed a MINI Cooper to be featured as a centerfold in 2002. Worldwide sales for the MINI Cooper S skyrocketed 46 percent in 2003. As part of the "MINI Robots" campaign, in 2004 a booklet was inserted into consumer magazines such as Motor Trend, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone. The booklets were written by the fictional Roland Samuel, a journalist validating stories about robots made from MINI Cooper parts that prevented traffic accidents in Oxford, England.
Hoping to continue its string of innovative campaigns, creatives at Crispin Porter + Bogusky wanted to create a 2005 campaign with a "call to action," or advertising that motivated consumers to look someplace else for brand information. The ad agency reasoned that the more time a consumer invested with a brand, the more likely it was that he or she would tell others about it.
"Counterfeit" targeted men 18 to 34 years old. The campaign's 60-second commercial did not air on network television, where advertising cost more, but rather across cable channels popular with men, such as ESPN, MTV, and Spike TV. "Cable offers many more opportunities than the broadcast TV networks, at lower prices," Jim Poh, media director of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, told Automotive News. "Cable is going to be a more effective use of your dollars. In a nutshell, the viewers of these channels have the MINI mindset."
One requirement for the "MINI mindset" was a sense of humor. The campaign's TV commercial, along with the website to which it directed viewers, www.CounterfeitMINI.org, facetiously showed junk cars painted to resemble MINI Coopers. "Mini customers appreciate the joke. They are a group that doesn't like being hit in the face with traditional advertising," Pitney told the Wall Street Journal. "They are very much into discovery. They like to come upon something in an interesting way and learn about it on their own terms."
Volkswagen's Golf GTI and New Beetle were considered "premium small cars," the classification of high-quality, high-priced, petite cars like the MINI Cooper. To promote the 2005 Golf GTI, the ad agency DDB created a television spot that used computers to juxtapose actor Gene Kelly's face onto the body of a break-dancer. At the spot's beginning it appeared that Kelly was standing on the rainy street corner from his 1952 movie Singin' in the Rain. After a few notes from the movie's title song, the music escalated into an electronic-music rendition of "Singin' in the Rain" while Kelly began break-dancing. At the commercial's finale he appeared next to a parked Golf GTI.
Explaining why DDB used Kelly's likeness for the spot, Martin Loraine, the creative director at the agency, told the New Zealand Herald, "We looked for things which were icons. We thought about the Golf GTI when it came out. There are not many cars that invent a genre, which is what we thought was the most prominent thing about the GTI. It wasn't just a fast car or a nice car, it was an original, which is rare."
Starting in 1998 Arnold Worldwide advertised Volkswagen's New Beetle with its "Drivers Wanted" campaign. Television spots initially targeted nostalgic baby boomers with copy declaring "Less Flower. More Power" or "If you sold your soul in the '80s, here's your chance to buy it back." At first the New Beetle's popularity skyrocketed. More than 64,000 units were sold during its first year. By 2003, however, New Beetle sales began waning; critics referenced Volkswagen's problems to the quick boom-and-bust cycle that had haunted Chrysler's PT Cruiser after its 2000 release. In 2005 Volkswagen ended its contract with Arnold Worldwide and awarded
its $400 million advertising account to Crispin Porter + Bogusky.
The "Counterfeit" campaign displayed MINI Cooper's signature characteristics, such as the car's colorful graphics and performance capabilities, in a way that "entertains and engages people," Alex Bogusky, Crispin Porter + Bogusky's principal, told Adweek. "You can't just push things into enough eyeballs anymore," he said. "It has to be so much fun that it's worth their time, that you've entertained them and taught them about the product at the same time."
On February 14, 2005, a 60-second commercial began appearing across cable channels such as Spike TV, Speed Channel, Sci-Fi Channel, and Outdoor Life Network. The spot posed as a public-service announcement from the fictional Counter Counterfeit Commission (CCC). The CCC was supposedly alerting the public about a recent outbreak of counterfeit MINI Coopers. The spot first explained the counterfeiting of luxury watches, sunglasses, and most recently, MINI Coopers. Footage showed high-end watch and sunglass knockoffs in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro flea markets, followed by a dilapidated car that was decaled with racing stripes. The spot then announced the availability of a 10-minute DVD that educated consumers about fake MINI Coopers and included testimonials from previously defrauded consumers. A man with his face obscured and voice altered admitted, "I bought a MINI for $1,200 bucks. 'Let's Motor,' right?" To which the voice-over answered, "Wrong!" The commercial continued with additional humorous footage of counterfeit MINI Coopers, followed by beautiful images of the real thing. The commercial ended with voice-over explaining, "To order Counterfeit MINIs, visit CounterfeitMINI.org or send a self-addressed-stamped-envelop to the Counter Counterfeit Commission."
The DVD, which sold for $19.95, provided more tongue-in-cheek information about counterfeit MINI Coopers. Besides the campaign's main website, www.CounterfeitMini.org, which provided detailed informational...