For a German automaker to lean into the 1969 American classic film “Easy Rider” as a storyline promoting their new high-end roadster is risky, but Mercedes-Benz has done it justice with a balance of respect and humor thanks to a brilliant collaboration between their creative agencies and the Coen Brothers, who directed the brand’s latest Super Bowl ad. Already on YouTube, the commercial officially debuts during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 51 on Sunday, 5 February 2017. The spot opens in a bar full of rowdy older bikers, where homage is paid to “Easy Rider” and Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.” Upon finding out their bikes are “blocked in” by a car they head outside ready to fight, only to see Peter Fonda approach the car, nod at the bikers and say “nice rides” as he gets in, revs it up and takes off in his Mercedes AMG GT C Roadster. A big part of what makes this piece work is that the bikers are in awe of Fonda, star of their anthem film—they actually show no interest in the car itself.
Not apparent in the ad, but important to know is that Fonda is a long-time Mercedes fan and owner. Fonda remarks on his long “love affair with Mercedes-Benz” since he owned a 300 SL Gullwing coupé, and later a 600 limousine (with red leather interior) and a 450SEL 6.9—each one of the brand’s most iconic models. From this loyalty to the Coen brothers (who very rarely direct commercials) getting broad creative license, the authenticity in this work is noteworthy. While not stated, it also marks the 50th anniversary of Mercedes AMG.
The car is unbelievable… it looks at the road and says let me chew you up
Fonda notes, “The car is unbelievable… it looks at the road and says let me chew you up.”
Conceived by Mercedes-Benz’s Berlin-based European creative agency antoni, they realized the path to the best execution would be to partner with New York-based creative agency Merkley+Partners, the brand’s American agency. Together they grew the idea from a digital only execution into one worthy of becoming a Super Bowl ad. This is exactly the type of collaboration that Dr Jens Thiemer, the VP of Marketing at Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars, had in mind when he reorganized the brand’s global agency structure a few years ago, naming antoni, Merkley+Partners and BBDO (for China) as agencies for its three largest markets and the primary creators of all of the brand’s global advertising. A separate BBDO team manages Mercedes-Benz’s advertising in forty other markets. This collaboration has deepened the relationship between the agencies and spawned friendships, something creative directors André Kemper (antoni) and Andy Hirsch (Merkley+Partners) have especially enjoyed.
Management: André Kemper
Creative Directors: Stephan Schäfer, Marcell Franke
Producer: Mark Róta
Management: Andy Hirsch
Producer: Alexander Kobak
Film production: Company Films
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Executive Producers: Robin Brenson, Rochard Goldstein
Head of Production: Ari Schneiderman
Producer: Ron Neter
With contributions from Evan Orensten
Images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz