08/01/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

BMW Blows It With Ad Campaign Innuendo

Quick. What comes to mind when you see a close up of a flaxen-haired young lass with pouty lips and bedroom eyes that includes this caption, "You know you're not the first?" A slightly used BMW, no doubt!

The luxury car brand just made a big mistake by introducing an ad campaign for their used models and leaning oh-so-heavily on sexual innuendo (bet you hadn't caught that...). All of this to garner attention from those buyers who might otherwise appreciate the status and smooth ride (yikes, everything I write can now be considered innuendo) or simply want a vehicle with a great reputation. How does a sleazy ad campaign help here? Hmmm.

Two things (among many) to consider from the marketing angle:

1) Certainly, cars -- especially luxury brands -- tend to still be pitched to men. Tradition is hard to fight. But, need that pitch be so extremely "male" that it takes the shine off a brand that is otherwise held in high regard by affluent men and women? And, are the men for whom this approach might seriously appeal truly the target market for cars that are priced beyond most people's budgets?

2) Marketing to men can be as challenging as marketing to women. In both cases, and for brands that actually serve both genders (when you think about it, those are the majority), the idea is to use the humor, inside joke, copy tone, or graphic style that might appeal mainly to the core market, yet not horrify and inflame anyone else who may be just outside that core. Do you see where I'm going?

This ad is practically soft-core porn, which is anyone's private-time prerogative, but in an era of very sophisticated consumers with high expectations of brands and advertising, it is...unwise.

The one additional influence that so comes into play in this place and time is: the wrath of bloggers who learn of it, particularly those who are female. No surprise there, and BMW should have known better than to tempt fate this way.

Even if this particular ad campaign is only running in very few publications and/or in perhaps solely a few European countries, word has gotten around. I learned of it via the Muse Communication blog, which had seen it first on Copyranter (Look for the title: "My car is a woman. My right foot is a penis."). To say that the online discussions I've seen in the past 24 hours are vehement would be to put it mildly.

Be careful what you wish for, BMW, and try to calm your engines.