BMW to 'name and shame' customers without warranties on new billboards

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BMW has announced plans for a new Big Brother ‘marketing initiative’ in the UK, using interactive billboards that can identify when a customer who no longer has a warranty is nearby, and flashes up targeted adverts.

It says the signs use ‘Vehicle Detection Technology’ that can trigger ‘highly personalised, real time content’ when a ‘handpicked vehicle type is directly in sight of the roadside screen’.

The move has sparked outrage among customers and automotive commentators, who have blasted the German brand.

Experts at website Motoring Research described the signs as ‘naming and shaming’ drivers, while others said it breached privacy laws by flashing up information about individuals in a public space.

'Arrogant': BMW has been blasted online for plans to install interactive billboards around the UK that can identify when one of its cars without an approved warranty is nearby and flashes up adverts for its products

‘Arrogant’: BMW has been blasted online for plans to install interactive billboards around the UK that can identify when one of its cars without an approved warranty is nearby and flashes up adverts for its products

The marketing ploy has been drawn up by BMW and Allianz Partner UK to boost extended warranty sales.

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

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

When a BMW that’s not covered by an approved warranty pulls up, the signs leap into action with ‘highly personalised, real time content’ that’s ‘only triggered when a handpicked vehicle type is directly in sight of the roadside screen’. 

It is believed that cars will be identified using Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras as the location of the advertising boards. 

The signs will warn the driver that they no longer have cover via the manufacturer’s available products and flash up warnings about the costs they could face for repair bills if something were to go wrong with their car. 

This is despite the fact many customers will be using extended warranty services from specialist providers such as MotorEasy and Warrantywise, or have separate savings to cover the cost of car repairs if required.

Drivers say the marketing is a breach of privacy rules, and it identifies information about a specific person in a public space

Drivers say the marketing is a breach of privacy rules, and it identifies information about a specific person in a public space

‘Ads are served with pinpoint accuracy, delivering zero wastage,’ say BMW.

The tech has been developed by premium digital out-of-home media owner Ocean Outdoor – and the German car maker says it ‘does not store any personal driver or vehicle data’. 

Announcing the interactive billboards, Steve Cann, insurance provider manager for BMW Financial Services said: ‘Our customers expect an elevated level of customer service and personalised digital marketing is just one way in which we can engage with them at this expected level. 

‘Tailored billboard messaging is a unique way of engaging with BMW owners outside of their homes that we hope will leave a memorable impression.’

Liz Grindell, head of warranty at Allianz Partners UK added that the initiative ‘brings together digital marketing expertise and product innovation, is an exciting opportunity to reach prospective customers on the move, during a time when physical interaction is restricted.’

The German car maker says the billboard system 'does not store any personal driver or vehicle data', though it is certainly definable as Big Brother technology

The German car maker says the billboard system ‘does not store any personal driver or vehicle data’, though it is certainly definable as Big Brother technology

The move has sparked outrage and anger among drivers online, who have said the Big Brother-style signs will be a breach of privacy as the technology will display private information about individuals who are in a public space at that very moment.

One motorist posted: ‘The arrogance is breathtaking.’

Another said: ‘BMW once again showing that they have a tremendous grasp on what the public want and how they deserve to be treated. Someone really needs to sit BMW down, give it a slap and tell it it’s drunk and to come back when it’s sober.’

One commentator added that the need for the billboards ‘kinda also implies BMWs are so unreliable they necessitate a warranty’.

However, it will not name the driver or display information about their specific vehicle, with the signs promised to only show ads for approved BMW warranty products. 

It’s the second time in a just over a month that BMW has sparked a furious response from its customers online, as drivers reacted angrily to a Twitter post from the German car giant last month.

The brand sent a response tweet to a YouTube comment made about its new flagship iX electric SUV,  mocking the baby boomer generation with the term of insult and derision: ‘OK, Boomer’ – despite individuals born in the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation from 1946 to 1964 making up around half of the car maker’s existing customer base. 

As well as receiving a storm criticism on social media, Germany’s respected newspaper ‘Die Welt’ also took up the cudgels, telling its readers: ‘OK, Boomer. BMW insults its best customers, of all things.’ 

Bad taste: BMW was slammed on social media for posting a response to a YouTube comment about its new flagship EV with the quip: 'OK, boomer', which will offend some of the German brand's biggest customer demographics

Bad taste: BMW was slammed on social media for posting a response to a YouTube comment about its new flagship EV with the quip: ‘OK, boomer’, which will offend some of the German brand’s biggest customer demographics

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