Ad of the Day: Mercedes

The automaker thanks the airbag for its years of service, as it tries to make it obsolete

It's a little odd to build an ad around receding technology. But that's just what Mercedes attempts in this new spot, titled "Thanks, Airbag," from German agency Jung von Matt.

Of course, the airbag isn't really going anywhere, at least not today. But with its Collision Prevention Assist feature—which uses radar to look for likely collision targets in front of your car, and adaptive brake assist to make sure you don't brake too lightly or too hard in response to them—Mercedes is trying to ensure the airbag is needed less and less. So, here it says an elaborate thank you to it, with help from some snazzy special effects.

"You have always been there when we needed you," says the male voiceover, as a stately string quartet plays. "Often you were the last resort. You protected us without looking after yourself." The spot then dramatizes vicious accident scenes, but without the vehicles—the drivers float through the air at night and slam into airbags as they crash into other drivers. The centerpiece image is a head-on collision, with both drivers flailing, as the voice continues: "Stay as you are, airbag. We will need you in the future. Just not as often."

Visually, the spot is a gem. (Electric Theatre Collective, which did the effects, was founded by three former stars at The Mill.) Stripping away the vehicles makes for some memorable imagery, and emphasizes the human aspect of the story—a trick dating back to Saturn's great "Sheet Metal" spot and surely further than that.

The trouble is, in the end, all you're left thinking about is airbags, not the Collision Prevention Assist feature at all. It comes off as a pitch for great airbag technology, particularly as it thanks that technology over and over. The message might be less cloudy if the automaker wasn't being so friendly to the old airbag, and in fact vowed to render it obsolete—a bolder stroke to match the unflinching visuals.

The agency gets points for trying to come at the issue from a novel angle. But if sci-fi has taught us anything, it's that when you half-kill a technology, it only comes back stronger.

Client: Mercedes
Creative Director: Michael Ohanian
Agency: Jung von Matt/Alster, Hamburg, Germany
Creative Directors: Jonas Keller, Michael Ohanian, Thimoteus Wagner
Art Director: Tilman Gossner
Copywriters: Georg Baur, Torben Otten
Account Managers: Sven Dörrenbächer, Sonja Stockmann, Kete Stodtmeister, Knut Simons
TV Producer: Thomas Nabbefeld
Production Company: Blink Productions
Production Company: Tony Petersen Film
Director: Lynn Fox
Producers: Carlo Walther, Nick Glendinning
Director of Photography: Lasse Frank
Editor: Joe Guest, Final Cut
Postproduction: Electric Theatre Collective
2-D/3-D Artist: Giles Cheetham
Postproduction: The Moving Picture Company
Colorist: Paul Harris
Postproduction: NHB Hamburg
Sound: Factory Studios London
Sound: NHB Hamburg
Sound Engineer: Wenke Kleine-Benne
Music: "Airbag Theme," White Horse Music