Mercedes Appeals to Reason

NEW YORK Mercedes-Benz USA’s $75 million campaign to launch its 2010 E-Class model touts new technology, such as a dashboard device that monitors the alertness of drivers, in a bid to underscore the added value of a car whose base sticker price is around $48,000.

“Rational red meat” is how Mercedes vice president of marketing Steve Cannon describes such selling points, which figure prominently in TV spots and print ads created by lead creative agency Merkley + Partners here.

“We definitely have to give [consumers] the rational reasons to buy,” said Cannon. “That’s why we spent a lot of time highlighting [features such as] the attention assist, lane-keeping assist, blind spot merger, this automatic breaking system — life-saving technologies that matter to this consumer whether you’re in a recession or not.” (Read Adweek’s Q&A With Steve Cannon.)

Merkley CEO Alex Gellert added that the brand “has always been marketed emotionally and rationally…It always straddles those emotional and rational sets.”

In addition, Mercedes is turning to mobile Web applications for the first time as a means to drive consumers to showrooms and test-drive events. Other online tactics include Web banner ads, rich media units and 15-second vignettes illustrating the car’s technological advancements on www.mbusa.com. Microsoft’s Razorfish in New York crafted the digital efforts.

“While the E-Class will be the first, it will only be the beginning of some mobile applications that we will develop for our marketing mix in general,” Cannon said. “We’ll start here and eventually we’ll be able to deliver the full mbusa.com experience in a mobile app right up to and including a digital walk-around for the vehicle. That’s the way the market is moving.”

The campaign comes at a downtime for the entire automotive segment, particularly luxury brands like Mercedes. Through May, the company had sold 69,933 units in the U.S. — down 30 percent from the 99,703 units sold in the same period last year, according to a Mercedes representative.

Merkley created three TV spots and four print executions supporting the launch. Two spots are driven by voiceovers and one, “Museum,” lets images tell the story. The tagline is, “This is Mercedes-Benz.”

The image-driven spot cuts between shots of adults and a child touring the automaker’s museum in Germany and images of an E-Class coupe roaring down an open road. It ends with the car crashing through a glass wall in the building, suggesting that it belongs alongside vintage models from the past.

The voiceover-led spots, “Ignite” and “What It’s Made Of,” focus on the new technology and how Mercedes ensures that its cars are safe, respectively.

“This is a history of over 50,000 crash-tested cars and 889 safety patents,” says the male voice in “What It’s Made Of,” as images of crash tests fill the screen.

The first of the spots, which were directed by Jake Scott, break Monday on morning news, prime-time and sports programming. The print ads will first appear in August issues of lifestyle, sports and travel magazines.