Perhaps this is a waste of brainspace and furthers BMW’s viral ambitions (a common lament on this blog), but I can’t pass on commenting about this horrendous excuse for invasive marketing. As you can see from the video’s presentation, audiences were subjected to the old afterimage trick of burning an image into their retinal cones so as to produce a floating BMW in their vision. This was one of the first experiments conducted by Descartes that led him to formulate his famous aphorism, “Cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am). He noted that the afterimage proved that all mental images were internal physiological impressions which could only mean that any thoughts we have would be essentially visual representations of reality– the same kind of thinking that dominates a mechanistic view of cognition.
In terms of marketing, it follows, then, that if the advertiser can impress in your mind its brand, it can then program your choices and thoughts. This kind of totalitarian view of humanity should send shivers up our collective spine. But instead, these kinds of tactics are hailed as revolutionary and worthy of awe. In BMW’s own hype-machine voice (“Involve me. And I will understand.”), the campaign wants to “astonish” the viewers, which is supposed to translate as some kind of empowerment. The ad gets even creepier when the motorcyclist says he pursues power because it is his dream, one presumably implanted by BMW like an “inception” (from the movie of the same title). The subtext, if anyone is paying attention, is that the dream of personal power and velocity (never mind the consequences for the environment and our culture of speed) is enabled by BMW’s invasion of our dreamspace. BMW wants its dreams to be ours, while letting us think the dream is our own.
Really? It makes one wonder what BMW means by “understand.” Luckily this vision of how the human mind functions in the environment is actually not what happens. From the view of ecological intelligence and communication, ideas are “disturbances.” They trigger responses, but don’t control them. Such was the case when I saw this video; the ad caused an oppositional response as opposed to the preferred reading that BMW intended (indeed, the anti-BMW responses on the video’s YouTube page are quite funny and telling). This won’t be the case for lots of people, but through education and interventions like this, perhaps the stupid conjuring of over-paid cognitive magicians will end up in the digital dustbins of history.