Mercedes-Benz widens media buys for M-Class intro

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Mercedes-Benz of North America is broadening its media schedule to launch M-Class, its first entry in the hot sport-utility vehicle segment.

In expanding its cable and network TV schedule, Mercedes becomes the name sponsor of TNT's National Football League post-game show, part of a 14-week NFL appearance that includes NFL games on ESPN.

The carmaker also added Fox to its mix, including "The X-Files," part of an eight-week prime-time run. On NBC, Jay Leno will introduce Mercedes as a new advertiser before a spot runs during "The Tonight Show" Sept. 18.


The media strategy matches the luxury carmaker's repositioning to a less cold, more fun brand to appeal to a wider audience. The M-Class launch is part of an $80 million advertising push from September through December for four new products--the most ever for Mercedes.

"We want to emphasis the approachability of Mercedes-Benz to prospects who wouldn't consider Mercedes-Benz in the past," said President Michael Jackson, who oversees marketing.

"Our designs are full of emotion and our products are full of innovation, but you still get the sense of security and our 100-year-old tradition," he said.

Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, created three humorous M-Class spots. It also created a fourth for Mercedes' "Fall in Love" promotion, the carmaker's biggest dealer initiative.


An earlier branding campaign that broke in February "created an expectation we have to deliver on and we will with M-Class," Mr. Jackson said.

The first new spot, showing Ed Sullivan in vintage footage with special effects from Digital Domain introducing M-Class, breaks Sept. 14 on CBS. Scenes of M-Class are mixed with jugglers, ballerinas, a ventriloquist and a Kate Smith look-alike, ending with comedian Jackie Mason lamenting, "I gotta' follow an act like that."

The vehicle's smooth ride is touted in another spot; the third spot features a toddler sitting in a back-seat safety seat belting out "Big, Bad Dad," a takeoff on "Big, Bad John," with lyrics about safety and handling.

Mercedes expects to sell up to 35,000 M-Class vehicles by next September. M-Class will compete against limited-edition Jeep Grand Cherokees from Chrysler Corp. and Ford Motor Co.'s Explorer.


In addition to M-Class, Mercedes' new vehicles in 1997 are the SLK roadster, CLK coupe and E-Class E320 wagon.

Last week, Mercedes reported record eight-month sales of 66,125--a 13% jump from last year. It expects to break the 100,000-unit sales mark in the U.S. this year for the first time.

Copyright September 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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