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Owning an out-of-warranty Bimmer has always been dicey, but now it could be publicly embarrassing as well.


Jon Wong/Roadshow

There are a lot of different ways to convince someone to buy a product. You can extoll its virtues on its own or compared to the competition. You can also offer it at a discount or make it seem exclusive and worthy of desire. Or, you can do what BMW is doing in the UK and use images of a person’s car on an electronic billboard to get them to re-up their warranty, according to a statement from BMW UK issued on Wednesday.

The German automaker is trying to get owners of its vehicles who have let their used car warranties expire to buy new ones, and its big plan to do that is to put personalized messages on electronic billboards. How are they personalized? By using images of the model of BMW you’re driving to attract your attention. The messages will be shown to most BMWs over three years old.

The means by which the cars are identified is not made clear, since the tech is owned by the company that operates the signs, but we suspect that the signs have some sort of license plate camera. The signs will be placed at traffic lights, ensuring that there are ample opportunities for drivers (and those around them) to read the messages while stopped.

“Our customers expect an elevated level of customer service and personalized digital marketing is just one way in which we can engage with them at this expected level,” Steve Cann, general manager for Insurance Solutions at BMW UK, told the publication Motoring Research. “Tailored billboard messaging is a unique way of engaging with BMW owners outside of their homes that we hope will leave a memorable impression.”

The billboards are reportedly being rolled out now in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle.


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Update, 1:44 p.m. PT: A previous version of this story stated that BMW UK was using drivers’ personal information to tailor the messages individually. This is not the case, and only the exterior of the vehicle and registration year are being used.