Two German companies. Two ads. Two strikingly—suspiciously?—similar slogans.
“The Ultimate Lighting Machines.” Holtkötter. Page 161, New York Times T Magazine, March 22, 2015. In non-logo appearances, the name is spelled Holtkoetter.
“The Ultimate Driving Machine.” Screen grab from the 30-second BMW “Hello Future” spot that aired during the 2015 Super Bowl.
“The Ultimate Driving Machine” has been BMW’s tagline since 1975, when it was created by the American ad agency Ammurati & Puris; the company filed for trademark protection of the line in 1981. (In 1990, Rawlings Golf in Northridge, California, registered the identical slogan for use with golf clubs. That trademark was abandoned in 1992, possibly under pressure from Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft.) Just before the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, the carmaker took a detour with a campaign called “Joy” that was supposed, according to the company’s vice president of marketing, to “warm the brand up.” BMW loyalists were not impressed, and in 2012 “The Ultimate Driving Machine” was once again in the driver’s seat.
“The Ultimate Lighting Machines” has a shorter history. (BMW has been BMW since 1916; Holtkötter Leuchten GmbH was founded in West Germany in 1964.) Holtkoetter Lighting, Holtkötter’s Minnesota-based U.S. division, was denied trademark protection of the slogan in 1997, and abandoned its claim. It tried again in May 2013 under a new dba, St. Paul Lighting, and two months ago—on February 3, 2015—the mark was registered. The record is mum on whether BMW USA raised any objections during the process.
Like BMW driving machines, Holtkötter/Holtkoetter lighting machines are not for bargain hunters. The slender chrome floor lamp in the ad costs almost $1,000; a starkly dramatic chandelier will set you back more than $2,000.
The trademark database also shows that Holtkoetter has received trademark protection for at least one other “ultimate” slogan: “The Ultimate LED.” That product, a light bulb, is not to be confused with “The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience,” a tribute band.