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Ad of the Day: Gus Van Sant Directs Trio of Breathtaking Spots for the BMW i8


Leave it to the auteur Gus Van Sant to take some of automotive advertising's biggest clichés—self-glorifying narration over footage of a luxury car in the desert—and somehow still turn them into something beautifully compelling.

Van Sant, best known for his Oscar-nominated directing of Hollywood hits Good Will Hunting and Milk, helmed three new spots for BMW's upcoming plug-in hybrid, the i8.

They are, as one would expect, artfully shot, using a shifting focal depth to bring some new perspective to the age-old images of a cutting-edge automobile tearing across barren wastelands. (Thankfully they're not salt flats for once.) And the minimalist visuals definitely help you focus on the car, whose sleek lines and sci-fi detailing are definitely not the usual BMW fare.

But it's the narration that truly drives the spots. Featuring actors Michael Pitt (Jimmy from Boardwalk Empire), Sam Hazeldine (Caleb on ABC's recently renewed Resurrection) and Mickey Sumner (co-star of Frances Ha), the ads describe the i8's unlikely evolution from Tron-like concept car to production reality.

"I am one no one believed, a vision, a dream, a crazy idea," intones Pitt, who played Kurt Cobain in Van Sant's Last Days. "I am millions of questions, the endless search for answers that no one has found before. Try, error. Try, error. Try, again and again."

The ads also bring something truly rare to a luxury car ad: a woman's voice.

Most high-priced car ads relegate women to looking elegant in long, flowing dresses while gently caressing the vehicle's curves. If women are shown actually driving a luxury car, it's usually some ridiculous art house scenario where they're fleeing a black-tie gala while throwing a head scarf out the window or some nonsense.

So, while it's not necessarily a Sandra Day O'Connor-level achievement to hear Sumner describing the innovative elegance of a hybrid sports car, it's a refreshing change from the ironic modern monopoly of Mad Men manly man voices Jon Hamm and John Slattery.

These are best viewed in full screen.

Adweek responsive video player used on /video.

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Client: BMW
Senior Vice President, Brand Management, Marketing Services: Steven Althaus
Vice Presidents, Brand Management, Marketing Services: Andreas Christoph Hofmann, Wolfgang Breyer
Head of International Advertising, Online, Social Media: Wolfgang Gross
Project Manager, International Advertising, Brand Communication: Heiko Kircher

Agency: Serviceplan International GmbH & Co. KG
Chief Creative Officer: Alexander Schill
Executive Creative Director, Worldwide: Maik Kaehler
Creative Directors: Nikolaus Ronacher, Nina Puri
Head of Production: Sandra Niessen
Agency Producer: Anne Hoffmann
Managing Partner, International: Markus Noder
Management Supervisor: Jens Hoffmann
Account Directors: Melanie Blankenburg, Florian Klietz

Production Company: Iconoclast
Director: Gus Van Sant
Executive Producers: Charles-Marie Anthonioz, Nicolas Lhermitte
Producer: Julien Lemaitre
Director of Photography: Kasper Tuxen
Postproduction: Angus Wall, A52, Rock Paper Scissors
Music: B.C. Smith, Allessandro Cortini
Sound, Design: Lime Studios

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