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Mercedes Touts C-Class

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NEW YORK Mercedes-Benz USA's new campaign for the 2008 C-Class plays up the model's engineering, safety features, design and luxury amenities.

One 60-second spot, from Omnicom Group's Merkley + Partners here, features a 40ish man talking on and off camera about the rigorous tests that each C-Class undergoes, be it for braking quickness, suspension stability or door hinge strength. As he talks, each test is illustrated. One frame, for example, shows four male engineers sitting on the sills of the car's four open doors.

After ticking off the litany of tests, the man says, "Why? Because we promised you a Mercedes-Benz. That's why."

By focusing on performance, Mercedes aims to show potential buyers that its entry-level offering, at a starting price of $31,975, is as solid and dependable as its most expensive models, according to Steve Cannon, vp, marketing at MBUSA. "It all comes back to product," said Cannon. "This isn't a shared platform. This is a Mercedes-Benz."

One version of the new C-Class has been redesigned to look more "sporty," with, for example, the Mercedes mark incorporated into the face of the front end but no hood ornament. And that version—which Mercedes hopes will appeal in particular to first-time buyers—appears in most of the new ads.

Besides two TV executions, which break Sept. 10, the campaign includes radio, print, outdoor, direct mail, Internet banners, a microsite, test-drive events and product placement in the upcoming Walt Disney Pictures' film, National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

Cannon declined to provide a budget for the effort, the first phase of which will extend into early 2008. But he described the campaign as the "biggest launch ever," with spots running on network TV for the first time in years.

Last year, Mercedes spent more than $200 million in major measured media on all models, including more than $33 million on the C-Class alone, according to Nielsen-Monitor Plus. Mercedes spending in the first half of 2007 totaled $75 million, per Nielsen.

Mercedes' core target for the C-Class is 35 to 45 years old, equally male and female, educated and with a household income of about $100,000, according to Cannon.