Mercedes ties car to 'Men in Black II'

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Mercedes-Benz USA's 2003-model E-Class is going Hollywood.

The automaker is prelaunching the sedan in an estimated $8 million co-promotion with Columbia Pictures' "Men in Black II." The deal is part of a global effort from the marketer's parent, Germany's DaimlerChrysler, and as part of the promotion, the E-Class appears in the film. A 30-second spot from Mercedes' German agency, Springer & Jacoby, Hamburg, breaks in the U.S. on June 24.

"[MIB II is} hip and so is our new E-Class," said Dave Schembri, VP-marketing at Mercedes-Benz USA.

A sweepstakes on the marketer's Web site at mbusa.com offers trips to the movie's Los Angeles' premiere. Omnicom Group's Rapp Collins, New York, created a direct mailer that will go out to 1 million prospects and current owners of the model in June. Recipients can opt in for tickets to the film, which opens July 3. Hasbro will produce the "Men In Black II" Strike Cruiser spaceship, which morphs into the E-Class in the movie.

Since the average age of current E-Class owners is roughly 45, Mr. Schembri said the film deal will help bring E-Class to a broad target.

But John Bulcroft, president of consultancy Advisory Group, believes the audience may be younger than E-Class prospects. "At one time Mercedes knew who it was," he said. About two years ago the marketer decided it wanted younger, hipper buyers and began offering lower-priced models. "I don't think Mercedes knows ... who it wants to be."

The brand sold 206,638 vehicles in 2001 vs. 205,614 in 2000, according to Automotive News. Through April, Mercedes sold 68,694 units vs. 63,619 during the same period a year ago.

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