UPFRONT;CLASS CLOWNING

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The 40 grand-plus Mercedes-Benz E-Class has been launched with a quintet of commercials from Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, that offer a refreshingly lighter approach to the often weighty subject of German luxury motoring.

"I'd call the approach 'comic' rather than 'comedy,'*" says Lowe copywriter Marty Orzio. "The mission is to make the car, which has been perceived as pretty stodgy in the past, more accessible. The campaign is playful but not disrespectful."

A spot showcasing the new side air bags is a tour de force of Digital Domain effects directed by Bruce Doward; the car runs in an urban herd of rhinos, and those bags come in pretty handy in the event of a horned assault.

Other spots take a lighter look. The funniest of the bunch, directed by Propaganda's Michael Bay, features a guy having so much fun cruising in his Merc that he can't be bothered to stop to pick up the likes of Paulina Porizkova, a group of Martians, or Ed McMahon waving a giant check for a million dollars.

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