Reflecting on the death of BMW’s Chief Marketing Officer, Jack Pitney.

September 2, 2010

The Chief Marketing Officer of BMW, Jack Pitney was killed the other day trying to remove a stump from his property. Something terrible happened and he died, crushed by his tractor. Jack was 47 years old. He leaves behind a wife and five children. If there is a more sorrowful story in today’s news I don’t want to hear it. (The story in AdAge)

Jack Pitney was also behind BMW’s newest advertising campaign called “Joy.” Apparently “the ultimate driving machine” yearned to put some humanity in their brand. Instead of just being a precision instrument, the agency, GSDM and the venerable German car company wanted to lighten things up. Recent communications likened driving these marvelous cars as an ode to joy.

From their anthem (posted above) the announcer states:

We realized a long time ago that what you make people feel is just as important as what you make. And at BMW, we don’t just make cars we make Joy.

Supers read: “Joy is youth,” “Joy is defiant,” “Joy was here.”

And now the architect for this campaign is dead. Presumably he died doing something he loved, both at home (working on his farm) and at the office, helping create work for one of the most famous automobiles on earth.

It’s unlikely the eulogy at his funeral will be about advertising. Nor should it be. He was a family man cut down in his prime. Grieving loved ones will want to know why this man is gone and some semblance of where he is going. They will seek comfort that advertising cannot provide. His goodness as a father, husband and man is what the priest (or whomever) will talk about.

Yet, I cannot help but reflect on the work. Because it was an ode to joy and joy is penultimate. Watch the commercial. Look at the older gentleman driving his convertible. He is happy, joyous and free. The car has given him this great gift and we are told it can give it to us too!

Did BMW make Jack Pitney happy, joyous and free? I didn’t know the man but I’m guessing that yes maybe it did. Look at the above commercial. It’s uplifting. It’s beautiful. Whether you agree with the strategy or not, does it not look like a film made by happy people?

Maybe they should play it at his funeral. The man died doing something he loved. And here is proof. “Joy was here.”

One Response to “Reflecting on the death of BMW’s Chief Marketing Officer, Jack Pitney.”

  1. brian said

    Thank you for writing this. I never knew the man, but I know what’s important in life. Thanks for the poignant reminder.

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