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Why Google Exec Vic Gundotra Is Starring in Mercedes Ad

Touts Anti-Collision Technology for Helping Him Avoid a Crash

By Published on .

Google's senior VP-engineering, Vic Gundotra, is known for being the brains behind Google+, but he's become more visible this summer as the star of a new Mercedes-Benz commercial.

In the roughly 30-second spot, which started airing in July, Mr. Gundotra describes driving his Mercedes-Benz S-Class when traffic came to an abrupt stop in front of him, and the sensors of his car's collision system were activated to bring him to a halt before he could react to hit the brake. He calls the technology "magical software."

Steve Cannon, VP-marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA, said the origin of the commercial came after Mr. Gundotra sent a written thank-you letter to the company, which ended up on his desk. He was struck by the idea of a top Google executive praising Mercedes-Benz technology.

"To me that had all the right ingredients for a beautiful story," he said.

He ultimately persuaded Mr. Gundotra -- who wasn't paid for his participation -- to appear on camera to describe his experience, and taped the interview at Google's Mountain View, Calif., campus last winter.

The interview was originally cut into a three-minute video intended for web distribution -- along with six other testimonials by Mercedes-Benz drivers crediting their cars' potentially life-saving engineering that are also on the brand's website -- but the marketing team decided to repackage it for TV. It was the second commercial to be made using footage from those branded "Impact" video testimonials and it debuted in July with a small rotation, said Mr. Cannon. It's now up to 25% to 30% of the rotation, though that share will drop as the company starts to lean toward new car advertising this fall.

"We're leveraging the heck out of this," he said.

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