Mercedes Offers Up ‘Love’ In New Tour

Mercedes-Benz USA is upping the ante on car makers’ dueling ride-and-drive promotions, launching its largest experiential-marketing effort to date, the “Love Mercedes Tour.” The 12-city, three-month road show, which starts Friday in San Francisco, is the first to showcase Mercedes’ full line of vehicles.

The effort, via Omnicom Group automotive-marketing shop AMCI in Los Angeles, refers to the “Love Mercedes” ad campaign from Merkley + Partners in New York. Neither Mercedes nor AMCI would reveal spending, but AMCI president Gordon Wangers estimated the average ride-and-drive costs $3-15 million for programs with 10 or more markets. Mercedes spent about $135 million on ads last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The new tour includes three themed test-drive “pods”: a “Fun in the Sun” drive showcasing convertibles; a “4MATIC Experience” course for all-wheel-drive models; and “The Off-Road Adventure,” in which a pro driver takes consumers off-road in an M-Class or G-Class SUV. Also on hand will be gourmet meals, massage and spa areas, and exhibits from sponsors such as MSN Direct and Saks Fifth Avenue. Mercedes expects 30,000 total visitors for the tour.

Carol Goll, general manager, brand event marketing at Mercedes, said the effort targets prospective customers and owners. “For us, it’s generating a level of excitement in the brand and also generating traffic,” she said.

Similar efforts have launched or are in the works this year from Mitsubishi, Cadillac, Jeep, Lexus and Mazda. This year, Mercedes also ran a ride-and-drive for its C-Class line, which targeted mostly prospects.