BMW's McKenna: Mobile Is Key To Telematics

BMW-B1

Patrick McKenna's expressed thoughts at the Mobile Advertising Summit at B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill in New York on Tuesday might have sounded familiar. The manager of marketing communications at BMW, reporting to the new head of divisional marketing Dan Creed, sounded the same themes as Ford's Matt VanDyke, who spoke earlier in the day at the IAB Mixx digital media conference.

BMW's onboard multi-media platform, like Ford's, is basically a dock for an array of mobile devices people bring into their cars. He said BMW is developing device and content deals with the likes of BlackBerry and Pandora, and also developing a platform to deliver audible emails in vehicles.

"In-vehicle technology is a two-pronged business for us. First, we are marketers looking at mobile as way to communicate the BMW brand. The second prong is a car's relationship to mobile with the car acting as a portal to mobile devices," said McKenna, who was interviewed by Matt Freeman, CEO of Mediabrands Ventures.

He said BMW marketers know from on-board data streams what devices owners are tethering to the onboard system. "The car itself tells us what it's pairing with it. Thirty-two percent of BMWs are paired with iPhone and 26% with BlackBerry."

He says automakers have to "surrender" onboard operating systems to mobile devices. "For many years, lots of technology was fixed, built in and designed to stay with the car. Now, what the car runs will come through a mobile device that stays in your pocket. Those apps run through the car but aren't based in it," he said. "Technology inside the car is a challenge partly because when it is fixed in the car and stays with car, it ages and depreciates at a faster rate than the car. If we can rely on mobile devices being operating systems, the car is neutral."

McKenna says that, from a marketing standpoint, BMW is mulling the car's access to digital media as a way to deliver time- and place-relevant messages, using BMW infrastructure as a place for luxury companies to deliver messages.

"It could be a luxury hotel or provider of luxury services seeking an affluent population," he said. "If you have people driving new BMWs, you are talking about a universe of people who are income-qualified. If you have the right people in the right places and know there's a five-star hotel nearby, that might be the time and place for an outside message. We haven't scratched the surface of that, but it's where it could go."

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