Ad of the Week: Mercedes-Benz drives to 'The Future' with style and grace

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The 30-second spot featuring a self-driving car outperformed nearly 100 ads tested in the category, writes Ace Metrix's VP of marketing

When Don Draper was working on ad concepts for the various automotive clients of Sterling Cooper, I’m guessing he never imagined creating a campaign for a car that drives itself. That is what struck me when his voice — or that of the actor Jon Hamm who brought the character to life — asks, "Is the world truly ready for a vehicle that can drive itself?" in the opening of Mercedes-Benz’s latest commercial, "The Future." The ad, which introduces the new E-Class, represents the very essence of innovation.

The 30-second spot delivers the simple message that "the future is here." Through the use of stylish and emotive imagery, and an elegant voiceover, the ad conveys a message that worked well in Ace Metrix testing. It garnered an Ace Score of 677, which is 19% above the Luxury Auto category norm. 

Perhaps more impressive is the fact that it is the top-performing ad, by Ace Score, in the category so far this year, out of nearly 100 ads we’ve tested. Behind it, after two other Mercedes-Benz ads, is Audi’s ad from the Super Bowl, "Commander" which won a Bronze Lions at Cannes last week. That ad also had an outstanding Ace Score of 650, but worked in different ways than "The Future." Let’s look at their Ad Personalities, which illustrate the relative strength of each of the measures we use to understand how an ad achieves specific objectives.

Ad Personality

Mercedes-Benz "The Future"

Ad Personality

Audi "Commander"

As these visual Ad Personalities demonstrate, the ads diverge in their strengths in Breakthrough and Communication. 

  • "The Future" really delivers on Communication (delivering Information and perception Change), while also showing moderate strength in Attention, Likeability, and Desire. 
  • In contrast, "Commander," the Audi Super Bowl spot, was highly powered by Breakthrough (Attention and Likeability), a common characteristic of Super Bowl ads. The ad also showed strength in its ability to drive Desire.

Viewers overwhelmingly called the "Visual Scenes" the Single Best Thing about the Mercedes ad, followed by the Brand (27% and 20% respectively.) Viewer comments are great indicators of how these elements really work. Said one woman (50+), "It was calm and it got my attention by being that way. The visuals were appealing and made me want to learn more." One female Millennial commented, "I think the ad itself was very visually pleasing. It provided a clear message in an appealing manner." In this case, high impact visuals and simplicity served the brand quite well.

Looking at the success of Mercedes-Benz’s ad among target groups, the ad exceeded the norm for every age and gender demo except Males 50+, with top performance for Males 36-49 (Ace Score 753.) Comments from the Male 30+ group indicate that they are the most skeptical of self-driving cars, in terms of safety and desire. Said one such consumer, "I’m not sold on self-driving cars. I guess I’m old fashioned." Another commented, "I hope we never get fully self-driven cars."

In contrast to this apprehensive audience, unadulterated enthusiasm over the new E-Class comes across in these comments:

  • "This was an exceptionally classy way to show the marriage of the best automaker in the world embracing and utilizing technology with panache. Bravo!" (Male 36-49)
  • "WOW! That’s all I can say. That car looks and sounds amazing! It makes me want to start saving!" (Male 21-35)
  • "Exciting and innovative. Looks like an amazing car with all the features you could want in a car." (Male 21-35)

"The Future" is a non-polarizing affair, landing in the top 2% of ads for viewer agreement. With a nod to the past, as well as the future, the spot ends with the long-running tagline, "The best or nothing." 

Jason Zazzi is vice president of marketing with Ace Metrix.

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