When a new agency takes over an account like Mercedes-Benz, an advertiser that has enjoyed an enviable reputation for good work, the new shop has a difficult challenge. The agency must create distinct, compelling advertising without emulating the former agency's work. Merkley Newman Harty of New York faced that task when it won the Mercedes account from Lowe & Partners last year.
Ten new spots from Merkley hit the airwaves last fall. While all of them are good, only two stood out for me and really exhibited uniqueness. The spots, called 'Gang' and 'Slingshot,' weren't just different - they were distinctive. Fun, and funny with attitude. And I believe they sell a certain Mercedes feature or benefit better than the other spots.
The acceleration of the new ML55 sport-utility was presented with a spot called 'Slingshot.' It focuses on a group of five men exerting brute force to draw a slingshot back to its maximum length, at which time the men yell and scream.
As the men fly through the air, the sport-utility is seen roaring down the road. A tag then appears over the moving vehicle: 'Never before have 5 men gone from 0-60 so quickly.' The spot ends with the Mercedes logo and the word 'Speed' tucked neatly into the lower right of the screen.
The spot is not only dramatic and distinctive, but sells the high speed-acceleration feature of the sport-utility in a new way.
An often-perceived benefit of Mercedes-Benz is the cachet of ownership. It transcends the attribute of pride and goes more into the not-so-subliminal signals of monetary accomplishment and achievement. It's cachet meets cash.
So how does this relate to the new commercial called 'Gang'? By turning the social status thing inside out and upside down. And it's all based on the perceptions and reactions a driver and passenger have when a squadron of bikers appears in the rear-view mirror, or just ahead of you on the road.
Everyone has had it happen. It's the Hell's Angels alarm. Flashbacks from Marlon Brando and The Wild One. But the scenario is flipped in this commercial. Enter a biker and his biker chick roaring down the road. Cut to close-ups of the biker's tattoos, chain jewelry, helmets, leather and tough looking eyes.
The scene cuts to a close-up of the bike's rear-view mirror, filled with lights. And the lights are approaching. The chick asks, 'What is it?' Then an armada of 10 silver Mercedes-Benz CLK 430s moves into sight, then surrounds the bike. Terror. Fear. Intimidation. They're all in the facial expressions of the bikers.
Passengers in the coupes look smug, bored, sophisticated and fearless; a little girl makes faces at the bikers as the cars approach, then pass the bike and move on to the horizon. The spot ends with the Mercedes logo and the word 'Badness.'
This spot is a little off the wall, but the message that came through to me was Gordon Geckoesque intimidation. 'I've got it ... I spend it ... love it!' But it was not evil. It was fun, and will, I believe, appeal to those who want a nice ego toy like the 430.