Mercedes' Super Bowl ad has the makings of a baby boomer fantasy: It includes Peter Fonda, Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" and references to the 1969 classic flick "Easy Rider." But advertising aficionados might be more interested in the ad's directing credits: Joel and Ethan Coen.
The Coen brothers -- whose film credits include "No Country for Old Men," "Fargo" and "The Big Lebowski" -- have not directed a Super Bowl spot in years, according to Mercedes.
The ad, called "Easy Driver," puts a modern twist on "Easy Rider" by portraying a group of aging bikers at a bar. After a clumsy fight -- aching bones and all -- the men are told their bikes parked out front are "blocked in." They step outside to find that the man blocking them in is Mr. Fonda, who starred in "Easy Rider." He's not riding a bike. Instead he's in a Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster.
The agencies behind the spot are Merkley and Partners, which is the lead shop for Mercedes-Benz USA, and Antoni of Berlin, Germany, which handles the brand in Europe.
The ad is part of Mercedes new strategy of giving more marketing attention to AMG, which is its sports car and high-performance sub brand. "Real car aficionados know what an AMG is. What we are now doing is beginning a process of making AMG a brand in its own right and broadening that audience," said Drew Slaven, VP-marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA.
AMG -- which a couple of engineers started in 1967 in an old mill in Germany -- shares the same founding decade as "Easy Rider." Mr. Slaven said he does not expect viewers to immediately make that connection. But for the creative team, the chronology served as inspiration, he said. "Easy Rider" was all about open air, the love of the drive and "freedom as a the result of the machine you are on," he said. "And that to us set up a really nice parallel."
Asked how the Coen brothers were lured to do the spot, Andy Hirsch, chief creative officer at at Merkley, said: "They were excited that Peter Fonda was doing it too." It "all came together. It was a great collaboration," he added.
The brand released an extended cut of the ad today (above). In the game it will run as a 30-second spot in the fourth quarter.
Mercedes-Benz USA -- which relocated its U.S. headquarters from New Jersey to Atlanta in 2015 -- benefits from the Atlanta Falcons making the Super Bowl. The luxury auto brand has the naming rights to the new Falcons stadium that opens next season. Mr. Slaven predicted a Falcons win. "They will be the Super Bowl champs," he said without hesitating. "And in being so, when they open our stadium they will be the No.1 football team in America and that will obviously create a lot more interest."
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CORRECTION: The headline on an earlier version of this article said Mercedes' ad in Super Bowl LI was the first big-game commercial to be directed by the Coen Brothers. Prior Coen Brothers Super Bowl work includes a 2003 Super Bowl ad for H&R Block.