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Ian Schafer: Mercedes-Benz Sells Its Soul For A Teaser Ad [Super Bowl 2013]

Even though the car company has released a cheaper model, that is no reason for such a radical departure from its brand identity.

Ian Schafer, Deep Focus
Ian Schafer, Deep Focus on February 10, 2013. @ischafer

Where do I begin? The teaser for Mercedes-Benz’ new CLA did not put the CLA in “class.”

The teaser, literally, was more “Carl’s Jr.” than luxury car. Titillation has never been part of Mercedes-Benz’ mystique, and this teaser spot felt very “off-brand.” Affordable car or not, resorting to a model, walking in slow motion, with football players drooling over her felt very tired. And desperate.

Carl’s Jr.’s 2007 Ad Featuring Paris Hilton. Look familiar?

Another teaser, featuring the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil, did seem to hit the mark however (though felt strangely completely different than the look, feel, and tone of the Kate Upton teaser). It alluded to the fact that something big was going on, and it built anticipation for an entirely new car — and class — that Mercedes was going to offer. So yes. That’s news. Oh — and it involves the Devil, probably.

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Ok, so now we’re headed somewhere, and it’s probably Hell.

When the final Super Bowl spot aired, a storyline as old as time unfolded. Man wants something, Willem Dafoe shows up, man contemplates if selling his soul to get what he wants is worth it. Now look. I consider myself a Willem Dafoe fan, the man is one of the best character actors of our generation. I would have paid to see him playing the devil in a movie. But after seeing him in the spot, I was disappointed. I guess I expected more from him than the performance he delivered.

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Mercedes-Benz has always sold aspiration. It is the car you dearly wanted to be able to afford. It has had a legacy of luxury and performance. Now, there is an affordable, sub-$30k model that it is much more attainable. By providing a more accessible entry model, Mercedes-Benz chose to generate aspiration not for luxury or performance, but for “scoring girls.”

I get it. All advertising to men is probably about this in some way (though not always as overt as Axe). And this probably appealed to a lot of young males that not-so-secretly want to get with Kate Upton, or be in an Usher video.

But I can’t help but feel that after today, Mercedes-Benz strayed off their brand just a little too much. This spot probably answered a brief very, very well. But its use of cliche, and wasted casting of Willem Defoe not only lowered the bar on affordability, but lowered it on the brand.

It may make many people happy that they can now afford a Mercedes-Benz, but that’s the price of doing that. The TV spot wasn’t as “big” as the news that a sub-$30k Mercedes-Benz now exists. And instead of giving a younger audience (which Mercedes-Benz typically doesn’t speak to) a way to start moving towards the car (as heavy users of social media, there is clearly a path to a lifelong relationship), they aimed right at the hormones.

In that regard, the CLA, missed out on the start of some beautiful CRM.

Mercedes Benz

Check out more Super Bowl 2013 coverage on the site today, and check out the Google Hangout we had on the on PSFK homepage.

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