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Powered by strengthening sales, Mercedes-Benz of North America this year launches its largest campaign ever-a $45 million branding blitz. That effort will be bolstered by another $55 million in ad spending to launch three new products later this year as Mercedes aims to hit its first 100,000-per-year U.S. sales goal.


Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, created five TV spots for the brand campaign, Mercedes' first since the early '90s.

The initial media wave breaks with a 30-second spot on prime-time network and cable TV Feb. 13, and lasts about nine weeks. It will resurface later in the year.

The TV blitz will be accompanied by print, outdoor, transit and airport ads. Teaser newspaper ads broke last week in Mercedes' 10 biggest sales markets and magazine ads broke last week.

Mercedes' star logo is a prominent feature of the campaign, which cranks up the brand's emotional appeal from previous model ads like the C-Class. The campaign has no tagline.

"One of the reasons we don't use a tagline is to bring new attributes to the star," said Mike Jackson, exec VP-marketing. "The star is already one of the most admired [logos] in the marketplace. Now, we want to convince the marketplace this is the best car for them. This is going to be a remarkable defining of brand Mercedes in new ways."

Each of the six print ads shows an object that incorporates Mercedes' star logo, with a single word tied to the Mercedes brand. A yellow rubber duck, with the logo in its eyes, has the word "fun"; a monarch butterfly with the logo in its wings features the word "beauty." The word "Mercedes" isn't used in the ads.

The first TV spot, breaking Feb. 13 on NBC's "Friends," "Seinfeld" and "ER," shows a quick-moving montage of images, including a piggy bank, the rubber duck, a bald eagle and a lightbulb. It ends with a narrator asking, "Can a symbol stand for all these things?" The Mercedes star logo hits the screen as the narrator says, "It depends on the symbol."

The other four spots bow Feb. 20, with each focusing on a single emotion.


One commercial, using no narrator, shows Mercury, the mythical god of speed, being passed by an SL coupe. It closes with the word "Performance" on the screen and the star logo.

The "Passion" spot features the voice of Marlene Dietrich singing "Falling in Love Again." It portrays Mercedes' history with shots of vintage Mercedes' race car drivers and factory workers mouthing the song's words.

Another spot uses a cover version of Gene Autry's "Don't Fence Me In." A couple in the new SLK enjoys a romantic, starlight drive in the Southwest, which ends with a smiling moon and the word "Joy."

A :60 spoofs a Mercedes news conference, where the bespectacled presenter launches into a 1960s-style rock 'n' roll song about loving his Mercedes.


Mercedes showed the ads to its dealers last week in Atlanta at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention.

Kaleidoscope Holdings created a 13-minute video shown on 10 giant screens positioned around several hundred people. Each screen had separate video connected to adjacent screens for a full, surround-style film story. The humorous program featured former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Kevin Nealon visiting a psychic predicting his future, which involved Mercedes' vehicles.

Mercedes is trying to appeal to younger buyers while keeping its traditional customers, Mr. Jackson said.

The average age of a Mercedes owner is about 50. But C-Class owners average in their high 40s, while S-Class owners average 54 years old. Mercedes' upcoming M-Class sport-utility vehicle could attract owners averaging 42 years old, Mr. Jackson speculated.

The other two 1997 introductions are the SLK and CLK coupes.

Last week, Mercedes reported January sales of 7,143 cars, up 28.5% from last year and the automaker's best January sales since 1986. It sold 90,844 cars in the U.S. last year and plans to break the 100,000 mark this year here for the

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