Super Bowl 2015: 5 Questions with Mercedes-Benz on ‘The Big Race’

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Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl 2015 Tortoise Hare

Mercedes-Benz got dusted by BMW last year in the annual luxury sales race in the US, as well as in global sales volume competition, after Mercedes had held the US crown for two years. But both brands’ US sales grew significantly, and Mercedes-Benz certainly remains focused on the future as the automaker launches a new Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and GLC crossover, and the new Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe, this year.

The brand also is returning, after a year’s absence, to the Super Bowl advertising stage along with competitors BMW and Lexus, and a handful of other automotive brands. Mercedes-Benz’s Big Game ad will be its third major marketing platform in the US within a month, a run that began with a strong appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and continued with the Mercedes-Benz presentation at the ongoing Detroit auto show.

Mercedes-Benz marketers have only hinted at what we’ll see in its Super Bowl ad this year, which is being built around the classic kids’ tale, “The Tortoise and the Hare.”[more]

While Super Bowl marketers, yet again, debate the value of online teasers vs. Big Game reveals, MBUSA is going big in this pre-Game period with a Big Race contest driving the public to enter in a Game Day viewing party. The digital campaign includes a fake talk show starring former NFL star receiver Jerry Rice and a tie-in with ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning radio show.

For more on MBUSA’s strategy, brandchannel chatted with Drew Slaven, VP of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA.

bc: Two years ago, you ran a memorable campaign in the Super Bowl around the launch of the CLA entry-level sedan, starring Kate Upton and Willem Dafoe. In 2011, you did a general brand message in the Super Bowl with “The Best or Nothing.” What are you trying to accomplish this year in the Super Bowl?

Slaven: We have a story to tell, and the Super Bowl is the right stage to tell it. We are introducing people to the idea that there will be a game within a game with our advertisement—a Super Bowl-sized event happening within the Super Bowl—and it will be a contest that is known by both children and parents and grandparents, built around the tortoise and the hare. It’s a classic match-up, and we have a slightly different take on how this race will be won.

bc: How are you teasing out your Big Game campaign online and on social?

Slaven: We would argue that we have our best pre-(Game) commercial integrated program ever, in what will be our third run at the Super Bowl. We’re not done yet. What you’re seeing are elements of the process of teasing and beginning to build some excitement, but it’s not fully complete. While this may be cryptic, when the whole package is finally unveiled and looked at, including elements that will follow the [TV ad], you’ll see that it’s actually much more cohesive than we ever have been.

bc: Why have so many auto brands, including some luxury competitors, opted out of the Super Bowl this year?

Slaven: I honestly can’t answer why other manufacturers are not in this year’s game. I don’t think that’s a trend, something that a year from now we may see back to full array of manufacdturers. This year I’m not sure. I think, increasingly, this is less about a single TV commercial appearing once in a single TV program or sporting program. It’s  more about a full program, and for us that is very much a learning that we’ve taken away from how you execute the Super bowl well. One thing we’ve observed of the Super Bowl is that it’s an expensive piece of TV advertising that you’re purchasing, and to really extract ROI you have to understand how you bulid a much bigger program on that front and not just rest your ROI on that one spot. If you haven’t built that bigger piece of machinery, the ROI isn’t as good.

bc: You showed a handful of new vehicles at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, and also started to get people used to your new nomenclature. What is your most important overarching message right now?

Drew Slaven: Our Detroit [Auto Show reveal] was seven days to the day after [CEO Dieter] Zetsche unveiled the F015 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which showcases what we think the future of luxury is, specifically with autonomous drive as one of its core pillars. And that carried onto the stage in Detroit. It is certainly a cornerstone of Mercedes-Benz innovation.

bc: But is it risky to invest significant resources into building the Mercedes-Benz story around self-driving cars, given the uncertain future of the concept and the competition to get there?

Slaven: The technology is further than a year away but we’re a lot closer than a lot of consumers know with what autonomous driving is.

They have the initial reaction of, “I don’t want to lose control of my vehicle,” but the technologies on Mercedes-Benz vehicles may be only semi-autonomous at this point, but they exist, and consumers are responding very, very positively to them. They include collision-prevention assist plus and blindspot monitoring.

Consumers care more when there’s a tangible consumer benefit, not just the promise of what will be. But they want to peak under the sheet. And Mercedes-Benz has done an excellent job of providing clarity about what we have in store with autonomous driving.

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