How do you build a brand? By not compromising. I have come to learn that Mercedes makes very few compromises in all they do. Be it cars, like the somewhat odd looking, yet screamingly fast Mercedes Benz SLS supercar (be it gasoline-powered OR electric), or be it car ads that use equal parts humor and excellent narrative that have won many awards. And their 2010 E-Class, possibly the biggest cash cow these sly Swabians produce, is no exception in this regard.
Mercedes has been a leader in all things automotive, and this is why it’s one of the strongest global brands out there. The E-Class is the foundation for the brand at the moment, and it’s rock solid. They just don’t produce any flops. Many others would agree, and I’d say it’s not just the car that reinforces this granite-like myth. It’s the car ads too. Except for one ad that really was out of character for the Boys from Stuttgart. To be honest, when I saw it, I shook my head and thought someone in the marketing department let this one slip through accidentally.
But first let me show you four fantastic M-B E-Class ads that demonstrate how creative Mercedes Benz is at showing off their wares before we get to the flop.
When you think of the Mercedes Benz E-Class, you tend to think of senior and upper middle management, conservative, reliable and steadfastly non-experimental. So here you get that image reinforced by Mr. Republican Dad, well-off, opinionated and distrusting of all things “hippie-like.” Up comes the new boy friend in his E-Class, you can see dad nearly fall in love with the guy until he sees the “BlueTec” badge on the car, Mercedes’ environmentally-friendly diesel technology. So naturally, this guy is a tree-hugger -- with a $60,000 car.
This ad is a little strange, very creative and keeps you watching right til the end. I don’t know who came up with the concept of a passel of beautiful women on horses, galloping through a medieval town, past a couple of old men who barely glance at this spectacle. You could do a film thesis on jaded beauty or something a student of Freud might conjure up, but when you get to the punchline, with the lovely green E-Class coupe driving through, you realize what a great ad this is.
Ah, this ad has it all. Sexy cars, irresponsible driving, great pacing, the juxtaposition of old and new, fast and slow. And the director, probably on some mood-altering drug, comes up with this outlandish idea to have the new E-Class coupe bust through the glass of the Mercedes Museum and pull a 180 to take its place among a storied line of cars. Brilliant concept for a commercial, and moving the brand image from safe and stolid to just 2 degrees shy of reckless fun. Well done.
Dreams Can Wait
Was Salvador Dali’s spirit floating around in the marketing department when they came up with this ad to showcase Mercedes’ Sleep Assist technology? I had to think about it for a moment, because the characters you see crawl out make you pause for just a moment and ask yourself what the heck is going on. And what characters they are. And then it all becomes clear, falling asleep at the wheel and going off into la-la land won’t happen in the E-Class. Banish all those wild fantasies and dreams because the E-Class is for driving and safety.
The Best Or Nothing
For a company whose motto is “The best or nothing”, this ad is very far from the best. For a company that spends more money on technology and advertising than most of the African continent, this is a weak ad. It crams in way too many messages, way too many images, was poorly dubbed from German, and it just doesn’t translate well. I actually saw it in German, and then it made slightly more sense, but it just isn’t up to Mercedes’ high standards no matter how fancy the filming or imagery or editing. You know what they want to say, but it’s not convincing. In short, it's a rare flop from an advertising powerhouse.