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Mercedes took risk to reach Gen Y

May 2, 2013


NEW YORK – A Mercedes-Benz USA executive at the Luxury Roundtable: State of Luxury 2013 conference said that taking a risk when it was not mandatory helped the brand avoid becoming irrelevant and stagnant.

During the “Balancing the Art and Soul of Risk” session, a Mercedes-Benz USA executive discussed the risk the brand took when launching its Super Bowl XLVII commercial for its CLA vehicle. The first CLA branded video featured model Kate Upton and was considered controversial before it went viral.

“This video is probably not what you would expect from Mercedes-Benz, but it was a key component for one of our most successful marketing campaigns,” said Bernie Glaser, vice president of marketing at Mercedes-Benz USA, Montvale, NJ.

“The video was part of one of the riskiest strategies that we have ever undertaken,” he said.

The Luxury Roundtable: State of Luxury 2013 conference was organized by Luxury Daily.

Taking the risk

The risky Mercedes video featured Ms. Upton was flaunting her assets around a number of football players who are washing a CLA class vehicle.

Kate Upton Washes the All-New Mercedes-Benz CLA in Slow Motion

The video was not Mercedes-Benz actual Super Bowl commercial, but it was designed to launch the conversation around the CLA vehicle.

The full CLA Super Bowl campaign had four main elements, which were the celebrities, the risky video, the teaser videos and then the final Super Bowl commercial.

By signing celebrities such as Ms. Upton and singer-songwriter Usher Raymond IV helped generate buzz around the campaign and target younger consumers.

“[The celebrities] generated a lot of interest in what was coming next in our campaign,” Mr. Glaser said.

“This buzz carried us,” he said.

Next, the controversial video featuring Ms. Upton was released. In the first 48 hours of the video’s release, it had more than 1 million views.

Now the video has more than 9 million views.

“[The video] is designed to get eyeballs,” Mr. Glaser said. “We wanted to get people focused on Mercedes-Benz and needed to break through the clutter of the Super Bowl.”

Then, Mercedes released teaser video ads in short videos on YouTube.

The automaker released 15-second and 30-second videos that had a different tone than its video with Ms. Upton (see story).

“This threw people off because they were looking for Kate, but these videos had a different tone,” Mr. Glaser said.

“[These videos] were designed to set up the Super Bowl spot itself,” he said.

The last component was the actual Super Bowl ad featuring a short cameo from Usher. The video was also promoted on the automaker’s social media pages.

“The final spot brought all of the pieces together,” Mr. Glaser said. “The final ad was not racy and it delivered on its promise [of the teaser ads].

“The car wash video quickly disappeared from the mix,” he said.

The pay off
The initial risk Mercedes took in with video commercials paid off in helping the automaker reach a new customer base.

With the lower price point of the CLA vehicle, Mercedes was aiming for the generation Y consumers, which is why they made video with Ms. Upton and the final commercial featuring Usher.

Mr. Glaser at the Luxury Roundtable conference

“The people who we wanted to talk to are interested in other things,” Mr. Glaser said. “They are interested in pop culture, celebrities, things that are risqué and unexpected and things that are edgy.

“The car wash video delivered on many of those fronts,” he said.

The automaker’s Super Bowl commercial was rated the No. 1 most effective automotive ad and the No. 4 most effective ad over all used at the Super Bowl, according to Ace Metrix.

The campaign also delivered by giving Mercedes a lot of media attention before the Super Bowl.

“Not that many ads were given that much media attention,” Mr. Glaser said.

“When your ad discussion follows a discussion of the Kardashians on one network and then followers a discussion of the fiscal cliff on another, you’ve done it,” he said.