Media: Good Ad Bad Ad
In which a leading advertising expert picks some of the best and worst around. This week, Richard Carman, creative director of the agency Mountain View, on TV commercials high and low
Monday 01 September 1997
This commercial has some beautifully filmed short sequences of vintage Mercedes-Benz motorcars, backed by the Janis Joplin track "Mercedes-Benz" (with the lyric "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?"). It ends with the simple line: "Consider your prayers answered... for pounds 19,990", which is the price of the C180 model.
The people who wrote this had such a difficult task. They had to make Mercedes more hip, to pull in a younger audience, and make it seem more affordable. Most importantly, they had to make the brand seem warm - because so far it had been seen as too cold, too engineered and too arrogant.
The ad folk have also needed to make Mercedes more accessible, because the A-class is on its way, and the new M-class has to grab a share of the young 4-by-4 market.
But the ad is so simple, and the soundtrack is such a gift; it was just sitting there waiting to be used, especially that brilliant line about everyone else driving Porsches. And while many car adverts simply try to use emotion without saying anything about the product - they give you nothing to buy except a lifestyle or an image - this gives you a very simple proposition: the car of your dreams for less than pounds 20,000. And although it's a price-entry ad, it enhances rather than demeans the product.
If there is any downside to the ad, it is that some older people might suppose the backing track was written by Mercedes ad men, and so think that the ad was arrogant - the opposite of what was intended. But that's just being pedantic; really, it's a wonderful ad.
Abbott Meed Vickers BBDO
A man and a women have an argument in a restaurant, and she storms out. Next, they're in a car, and she's driving, but alarmingly doesn't realise it because she asks the bloke to stop the car. He laughs at her, she storms off again. Then she chucks him out and he hits the bottle; meanwhile, that woman from Ballykissangel has been listening in to their conversation and tells us that we're supposed to phone and make up in situations like this.
Surely the whole point of doing a little story like this is for us to sympathise with the characters. But you hate the guy immediately, and all credibility soon goes out of the window because surely no one driving a car would say "Stop the car". Mr Smarmy laughs at her even more, and we hate him even more, and we're actually glad when you see his suitcases outside the door. And then he goes off to get pissed, and you think, "Hooray, he's got a weak personality too."
Where the whole thing really falls down for me is when the woman is being urged to phone him: how the hell is she supposed to ring him when she's chucked him out? Where does she ring? He's so obnoxious I doubt he's got any mates to stay with, and she can hardly ring him at work to discuss something so personal. Perhaps she's supposed to know what pub he's gone to. Who knows? Who cares? And they drive a BMW, which will alienate about 90 per cent of BT's target audience.
This commercial comes from one of the best agencies in the country, and so I reckon this is just a blip. I guess I admire them even more now, because this shows they're not perfectn
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