BMW picks FCB Canada

The luxury automaker brings on a new AOR as it looks to realign its brand strategy and enhance its market position.

BMW Canada has selected its first new creative shop in more than two decades, naming FCB Canada as its new agency of record.

Four agencies were invited to participate in the six-month, procurement-led review – including incumbent Cundari – as BMW looks to realign its brand and communication strategy as a way to enhance its position in the Canadian market. FCB’s assignment is set to begin in August, and the first major project the agency will tackle is the launch of BMW’s new X3 crossover SUV.

“[FCB's] strong strategic competence really shone through,” Sebastian Beuchel, director of BMW brand management for BMW Canada, said in a press release. “They presented truly inspiring creative concepts; their broad, multicultural knowledge and insights into retail marketing were exceptional; and their digital strength – a key pillar for us – was particularly strong.”

Tyler Turnbull, CEO of FCB Canada, echoed Beuchel’s statement, telling strategy the agency was looking to stand out from a strategic point-of-view first, and building creative, digital and dealership activities off of that foundation. Looking forward, he says the major opportunity he sees for BMW is continuing to “double down” on the brand’s position as one the top premium automakers in the world.

“There’s a strong appetite among Canadians for luxury,” Turnbull says. “I think BMW has a premium brand that can be leveraged even further across many aspects of the marketing mix, whether that be digital or innovation or brand building. Our partnership is really about unlocking the true potential of the brand in Canada.”

With the new assignment for FCB comes the end of a 22-year relationship between BMW and Cundari, which have been working together since 1995. Among that agency’s most attention-grabbing work has been the “M Powered Films,” which have seen BMW vehicles show off their performance capabilities by doing things like manoeuvring through narrow gaps in walls and doing donuts on top of buildings. That work has earned Cundari honours at the CASSIES, CMAs and One Show, with the “1M Launch” being named the top auto campaign globally by Warc in 2014.

Cundari’s more recent work for BMW included a campaign that drove an i3 electric vehicle through a quiet library, which was adapted globally.

“It was 22 years, and we had a great run where we did lots of great work,” says Jennifer Steinmann, president of Cundari. “It’s emotional, for sure, as an agency who has had the business for so long, but we’re looking forward to what’s next.”

While sales at BMW slid by 10% in the U.S. in 2016, the company’s sales in Canada grew by a total of 8.6%. That was largely due to a 31% jump in the sale of SUV and crossover vehicles making up for declines in car sales, a trend seen across the luxury automotive category. However, so far in 2017, BMW sales growth has slowed to 0.8%, while car sales are surging not only at Mercedes-Benz, but also at Audi, which threatens to take BMW’s spot as the second-best selling luxury brand in Canada.

For FCB, the BMW win follows picking up the Fountain Tire account in May and renewing its assignment with Ontario Tourism in January. This year the agency has also added a pair of new creative directors and new leadership in its Toronto and Montreal offices.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated the BMW sales were down by 11% through May. In fact, that sales figure was for cars alone. Strategy regrets the error.