Mercedes-Benz Focuses On Icons

Mercedes-BenzMercedes-Benz USA is using the national broadcast of the Academy Awards ceremony as a springboard for its new marketing campaign, "State of the Art." The campaign throws the limelight upon the sixth-generation 2013 SL 550 Roadster.

The Montvale, N.J., automaker's campaign launches with a 60-second TV ad that is tied to a live broadcast from New York's Times Square and a digital extension on ("On The Red Carpet") where the company also touted the M class SUV.

The ad is a timeline of SL cars through history -- with history's passage expressed by the next generation zooming past the previous one, starting with the 1952 300 SL Carrera Panamericana racecar. The 2013 SL is introduced as "our most breathtaking model ever."



During the Oscars, the ad was simulcast on the Times Square super sign, along with other SL ad creative, promos and vignettes two weeks prior. The digital extension continues on YouTube whenever people search for content from the Academy Awards.

In addition to the Academy Awards premiere, there will be a six-week television flight in April and May to coincide with the vehicle’s retail launch. Broadcast placements include special events such as the PGA Masters, the NCAA Final Four tournament and network season finales. Print includes such titles as GQ, Departures, Forbes, Fortune and Town & Country.  

It is also the last campaign in which Steve Cannon will have had a direct hand. Cannon this year was promoted from VP marketing to president and CEO of Montvale, NJ-based Mercedes-Benz USA.  He says, by the way, that he isn't giving up marketing: "It runs in my veins." Cannon was very successful in his former position. He helped reinvigorate a brand that was hobbled and starved by parent Daimler's experiment with Chrysler earlier in the millennium.

But under Cannon's watch (with a little help from engineering), the brand re-established its core lineup, aligned nameplates like C and E to appeal both to loyalists and to younger, performance-oriented customers, and touted vehicle safety technology by featuring real owners. He also shifted dealerships into high gear for the tablet age. And there was that naming rights deal with the New Orleans Superdome, which probably couldn't have been timed much better.

Cannon tells Marketing Daily that the new campaign may focus on a relatively low-volume car, but that it deserves larger focus because of what it represents for the brand. "It has been an iconic car for us in every era and generation," he says. "Even though it's not a volume model -- and we don't have to advertise it to sell it -- as a leadership story; it's great brand-building."

On the Oscars, the spot ran just before Billy Crystal's initial monologue. Cannon says the ad will live on. "It works terrifically as a 30-second spot."

Last year, Mercedes-Benz did a similar -- albeit smaller -- program to tout its top-end sports car, the gull-winged SLS AMG. Although at around $185,000, it's not a vehicle that many people will go out and buy, "these vehicles make us different from other automakers," says Cannon. "While the majority of our marketing will always be focused on C, E and M, [the SL and SLS] let us flex our muscles. So we will continue to spend money on icons. These are not 'come in and buy' spots; they contribute to our brand position and mindshare with customers. It's something we get to do that others can't, and it's always good to draw a clear line between us and everyone."

In addition, Cannon says the campaign also has a "launch and leave" media commitment, but will have legs throughout the year, including during March Madness on CBS, and the U.S. Open tennis tourney, of which Mercedes-Benz is an official sponsor. 

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