Opinion: Newland on ... Mercedes

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When my brothers were small, they both solemnly promised my mother that when they grew up they'd each buy her a Mercedes. Such is the cachet of the Mercedes brand - it's what little boys dream about and big boys aspire to own. The long bonnet of a Mercedes is synonymous with wealth and power.

This makes it one of the best brands for which to create advertising; a Mercedes brief is a gift from the gods. The account was all it took to launch Campbell Doyle Dye two years ago and the agency's love of the brand has shone through the subsequent TV executions.

First there was "Lucky Star", a spoof film promo starring Benicio Del Toro. Its direction, by Michael Mann, reinforced the car's slick credentials.

This was followed by "movement", which compared the performance of leading athletes to that of a Mercedes.

Both ads did something that hadn't been done before. They were truly innovative and moved the category's advertising forward. Neither got much recognition at the various awards ceremonies, however, which I think was a shame.

As a consumer, though, the ads passed me by. Perhaps Mercedes' TV budget isn't big enough, because I only recall seeing the ads on TV once each time. Both executions had the kind of subtle plots that require repeat viewings, so I don't think historically Mercedes has been getting as much from its blockbuster films as it could have.

The latest spot, "clouds", will definitely need a big TV budget. It was only on the fourth viewing that I began to enjoy the ad. For viewings one, two and three, I was trying to work out what was going on with those clouds.

They are beautiful (credit to The Mill) and conjure up the same kind of magic that the white horses did in Walter Campbell's "surfer" for Guinness.

But the plot is unclear. I think the driver is trying to enjoy the sun, courtesy of his convertible model, and the clouds are trying to cast shade over him.

His car, however, is so agile it is able to thwart the clouds' efforts until they begin to fight each other in frustration, causing a thunderstorm.

Luckily, in this case, the intricacies of the plot may be pretty incidental to its effect on most viewers. They will see a beautiful car, demonstrating fantastic handling, driven by a handsome man underneath a magical sky.

They will see gods bothering to tinker with the life of a mortal, because he drives such a high-performance car.

The commercial will hold most appeal to existing Mercedes fans. To them, it is because he's driving a Mercedes that the man is able to cheat the gods.

However, the ad will speak less directly to non-Mercedes drivers. The reason for this is simple. The ad errs on the side of the generic. How many car companies have shown their car models driving through deserts with clouds of dust bursting out behind them? The answer is lots. Kia's current ad, a recent Turkey of the Week, is using a desert setting and there's been a Mazda "zoom zoom" spot set in the sand in all-too-recent memory.

I sense the hand of an insecure client here. While in both "Lucky Star" and "movement" the actual car played a more subtle support role, in "clouds" the car, and its performance, takes centre stage.

This makes the advertising less intelligent and less slick than some of its predecessors. In doing so, it looks and feels less like a commercial for Mercedes.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Maybe for The Mill's special effects.

File under ... G for generic.

What would the chairman's wife say? "The car looks great in that

desert."

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