Mercedes-Benz Taps Top Instagram Shutterbugs For CLA

Mercedes-Benz had a major presence at the Super Bowl this year, with its name on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome,  literally, and a buzzworthy ad buy for its new entry luxury -- or gateway -- sedan, the CLA. But the CLA launch was actually months away. A bridge was needed to span the long gap between January and September this year. To cross the chasm, the company has been using digital media to keep awareness up and buzz going -- a tactic largely intended to appeal to the Gen Y target. 

The online efforts began with a video program in which (Gen Y) filmmaker Casey Neistat  started shooting what will ultimately be four films, the last of which is slated to be a 60-second anthem ad for the actual launch campaign. Now the company is taking the next step, with photo -- and now video -- platform Instagram. This time the company is tapping five of the top Instagram photographers to do with photos something along the lines of what Neistat is doing with video. 



The photographers -- chosen for aesthetic, sheer fan numbers and fan engagement -- will get behind the wheel of production model Mercedes-Benz CLA's, and hit the road. Each will take a five-day road trip -- staggered between July 18 and Aug. 23 -- and capture and post their experiences. The photographer who gets the most “likes” during their week wins a three-year CLA-Class lease. 

Bernhard Glaser, VP of marketing at Mercedes-Benz’ Montvale, N.J.-based U.S. sales arm, tells Marketing Daily that each of the photographers are in different parts of the country and get to choose their own route. He says the Instagram campaign is the best possible sequel to Neistat's videos -- the first two of which has gotten close to 600,000 views, and the third of which goes live next week. "Instagram has 40 million active users; it pulls you in, and it's easy and simple to use: you take a picture, choose a filter and add a caption. For younger people, it has to be quick, and that's why Instagram is such an immense and growing platform, partly because it's very simple to use, and it's where digital natives hang out." 

There's also a consumer element here. Anyone can go to and submit an Instagram handle so their feed becomes their entry portfolio. The five road-trippers will choose the winner, who gets the lease and also gets to take the sixth road trip.

Glaser says Mercedes-Benz will boost views partly by pulling from its own network -- the brand has about 1.7 million Facebook fans -- for the Instagram program, "so we will cross-pollinate the two platforms." 

The company worked with Publicis digital agency Razorfish, which picked the five photographers, per Glaser, who says that neither Neistat or the Instagram participants have to mention, include images of, or in any way apotheosize the car. 

"It's all about credibility, not pushing out marketing messages on Instagram or YouTube," he says. "[Neistat], like the consumer we are reaching, is 32 years old -- a filmmaker who sees the car and brand his own way, and that's our approach for CLA. We're not trying to push marketing messages out; we are using social media holistically and telling a story. Casey and the photographers are on their own." 

The five photographers are: Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious, 432,000 followers); Tim Landis (@curious2119, 523,000 followers); Michael O’Neal (@moneal, 487,000 followers); Alice Gao (@alice_gao, 538,000 followers); and Chris Ozer (@chrisozer, 503,000 followers).

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