One reason carmakers love television is the appeal of the visuals of their latest model speeding down a rain-slickened highway in some majestic setting. But a podcast helps show auto companies the power of audio to sell a vehicle. BMW has launched the podcast Hypnopolis that is far from a glorified car commercial. Instead, Hypnopolis is a science fiction podcast that is geared as straight up entertainment.
The production takes listeners on an adventure into the year 2063. In the show journalist Hope Reiser wakes up from a 30-year “sleep penalty” she has served for the murder of her husband. But she is convinced of her innocence. During Reiser’s nap, she has barely aged and now must find her way in a completely alien future, fighting for her past.
“It is entirely based on BMW’s vision of the future,” said writer Robert Valentine. “It gave me some very strict rules to play with in terms of I knew it was going to be in 30 or 40 years hence and dealing with a level of technology whilst by current standards is pretty remarkable, is still something that feels achievable and could be realized fairly soon if we have the resources.” Valentine said he was also excited by the assignment because rather than offering a dark view of the future, Hypnopolis offers a more “optimistic” take on what lies ahead.
Cora Güntert, Voice Marketing Manager at BMW, said the auto brand “doesn’t play a major role” in the story. “But we included some secret hints,” she said. “With the fictional storytelling podcast, Hypnopolis, we wanted to create great entertainment and inspire listeners to think about the future, about new technologies, and what role will mobility play.”
The podcast will feature six episodes of 20 minutes or less, for a total playing time of two hours. All the episodes have been released in a single drop. “We wanted to create something from binge-watching from the streaming [video] services to binge-listening,” explained Jörg Poggenpohl, Global Head of Digital Marketing at BMW. “The podcast is our joyful way of engaging with our community and our customers.”
BMW has produced other podcasts that have been more directly geared to the automotive world, and while Hypnopolis may be a departure from that, the German carmaker has long embraced branded content to sell its product. For nearly two decades BMW Films has been subtly marketing its cars in a variety of settings and storylines. The company sees the podcast as an extension of that strategy.
“BMW as a brand has a tradition of telling exciting and emotional stories. The most shining and internationally honored examples of this are the short film series ‘The Hire’ or ‘The Small Escape,’” said Jens Thiemer, Senior VP of Customer & Brand at BMW. “With our podcast Hypnopolis we now open the next chapter – movies for your ears.
Because the link between the sci-fi podcast series and BMW may not be obvious at first glance with just a few opaque references to the brand in the podcast, the company has also released a behind-the-scenes video. It features some of the people behind Hypnopolis who discuss some of the background of the project, including the series producers Kristian Nord and Malte Hagemeister.