Bruce Bildsten – Fast 50 2003


The best advertising is as entertaining as a Hollywood movie. That’s why Bruce Bildsten and his colleagues went Hollywood again. In October 2002, Fallon launched the second installment of The Hire, an Internet film series for BMW of North America. The three eight-minute films were directed by big-name Hollywood talent and distributed online. More than 20 million people have viewed the films, generating saturation media coverage and widespread critical acclaim.


Bruce Bildsten
Creative director, Fallon Worldwide
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Additional Team Members:
BMW Client Team – Jim McDowell, Tom Stepanchak, Pat McKenna, Wayne Schulte, Carol Burrows, Karen Vondermeulen, Robbie Cohen
Film & Advertising Creative Team – David Lubars, David Carter, Joe Sweet, Greg Hahn, Tom Riddle
Web Design Team – Kevin Flatt, Mark Sandau, Nate Hinz, Russ Stark
Film Production Team – Mark Sitley, Brian DiLorenzo, Ted Knutson, Vicki Oachs
Strategic Team – Ginny Grossman, Bjorn Gunnerud, John Blackburn, Brant Haenel


Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
As the creative director at Fallon Worldwide in Minneapolis, I lead a multi-disciplinary team of writers, art directors, graphic designers, interactive designers and technicians. Fallon is one of the world’s most critically acclaimed, creatively driven branding companies, and manages the consumer voice of some of the world’s leading brands, including BMW of North America. We had presented a few concepts for a new BMW brand advertising campaign, but we knew there was something better in us, and so did the client. After receiving an inspiring letter from them in which we were told to “take the gloves off and blow us away,” I briefed a creative team (writer Joe Sweet and art director David Carter) on what we needed to meet BMW’s challenge. We knew that their customers were difficult to reach using traditional media. We knew that 85% of them were actively online–with high connection speeds. The idea we developed was uncharted territory: to create extraordinary short films that were available only online; to team with top Hollywood directors and talent; and to ask consumers to come to us instead of us going to them. We faced major obstacles in the way of budget and buy-in, both from Hollywood and throughout BMW. Ultimately, we created The Hire Internet Film Series, five critically acclaimed short films in the summer of 2001, followed by three more in the fall of 2002. They were made available online at, and surrounded by an award-winning online experience.

What was your moment of truth?
There were several moments of truth throughout the process. The first came in the letter from BMW. From it, we bandied about words like “cinematic,” “interactive,” “challenging,” and “big,” and ultimately came up with the big idea. The next was selling the idea into BMW. It took us 30 minutes to present the idea, and 30 seconds for them to say yes, providing, of course, we meet the next challenge to address some tough financial and logistical questions: Proving to BMW that the high financial gamble was worth the considerable investment. Our response? To create a quantifiable measure that compared the cost of seven minutes of a prospect’s undivided attention to the media cost of a 30-second commercial. And getting big Hollywood names to join us for this amazing journey, not for the money but for the challenge. Almost overnight, we became screenwriters, film producers and casting agents. We secured people like David Fincher, John Frankenheimer, Guy Ritchie, Ang Lee, and Madonna in year one, followed by Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, John Woo, Madonna, James Brown and Gary Oldman in year two. And as we hoped to do, with Clive Owen as the Driver, we created and cast a leading man that put James Bond to shame.

What were the results?
To this day, more than 30 million people have viewed BMW Films, and the phenomenon has received widespread media coverage. In the past year, The Hire has dominated the world’s most prestigious advertising awards, garnering “Best of Show” honors at Cannes, the Clios and the One Show, as well as taking top prizes at several film festivals, and it remains in consideration for the upcoming Academy Awards. Most importantly, The Hire has helped propel BMW to the position of No. 1 luxury car brand in America in the last year and has dramatically transformed BMW brand perceptions. The result? Marketing executives all over the world are telling their advertising agencies to “bring me a BMW Films.”


What’s your parting tip?
When you’re given a longer leash, run with it. And collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.

Read more entries from the Fast 50 2003