Saturday Star

Mercedes’ Super Bowl ‘Easy Rider’ ad born to rule the road


IN THE ad world, the Super Bowl weekend in the US – the biggest annual sporting event – is a huge deal. Brands spend tens of millions on making the commercial­s, which will be flighted during the hour-long Super Bowl spectacula­r. They then pay even more multiple millions to buy the air time.

If it’s done right, people will talk about your brand for years – and there have been many famous Super Bowl commercial­s over the years.

For Mercedes-Benz, to quote a line from the 1960s Steppenwol­f classic Born to be Wild, there was no alternativ­e this past Super Bowl weekend than to “fire all of your guns at once and explode into space” with its commercial for the AMG GT Roadster.

The car is what they call in the trade a “halo model” – the top of the tree when it comes to price, performanc­e and sheer bling. Mercedes would be the first to admit that, even in the US, land of long highways and cheap gas, they will not sell many of the roadsters. But that’s not the point. The point is to showcase the brand as funky, edgy and to make it stand out from the rest.

They did all that, and more, in the ad.

First, continuing in the vein of Go Big or Go Home, Merc’s ad agency engaged the services of the Coen brothers, the American film-makers renowned for their dark, wild, different movies.

What they came up with is artistry. It pays homage to one of the iconic movies of rebellion, freedom and motorised machinery, the 1969 film Easy Rider, which starred Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper as chopper bike-riding rebels who hit the road in search of adventure and freedom.

We see the survivors of that era together in their favourite roadside bar. Outside, their “hogs” still send a message to the world they’re rebels and not to be messed with – the receding hairlines, wrinkle and paunches notwithsta­nding (it’s a shrine to Easy Rider).

One grey grizzled biker goes to the jukebox to put on some music, and the only selection available is Born to be Wild.

As the music reminds them once they were a “true nature’s child and… born to be wild”, an angry comrade tells them they’ve been “blocked in”.

There is no worse insult to a biker – many people have died for less; so out they charge to see a gunmetal silver Mercedes-Benz AMG GT Roadster parked behind their irons.

But before they can whip out the chains or knives, the owner of the car, with a huge leather American flag sewn into his leather jacket, arrives. They’re stunned when they see it is the real Peter Fonda, looking none too worse for wear despite being in his 70s.

He gets in and drives off and, down the road as he puts foot, he throws the two-fingered peace sign.

It’s a classic ad because it showcases the Merc brand but it also speaks to the sort of people who can afford the AMG GT, and who are probably, ah, shall we say “mature”, that being a little bit wild is not the preserve of youth.

I am sure the ad will flight here so it gets a pre-emptive Orchid from me.

Talking about cars and ads, someone with a naughty sense of humour has been at work on behalf of Joburg radio station Hot 91.9. On the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Republic Road, is what looks like a secondhand car dealer. It is packed to the brim with Kugas, perhaps sent by a local Ford dealer or bought up at bargain prices because of the cars’ reputation for catching fire.

On a Kuga closest to Jan Smuts Avenue, there is a Hot 91.9 sticker with bright orange and red flames.

I don’t believe it’s a coincidenc­e… not when the station is run by the mischievou­s, push-the-limits Darren Scott. It gets you noticed, guys, which is the point of marketing. So an Orchid for news-driven advertisin­g.

Sometimes, you can have too much of a good thing. That is particular­ly the case in advertisin­g, where a commercial which is cute, different and amusing the first few times you see it can, after overstayin­g its welcome on your TV screen, make you want to scream.

Such is the case with the blackand-white-spots for MiWay Insurance featuring Mpho “Popps” Mpodikane in the lead role.

The worst is the way he and his lady, Tumi,giggle away in their open-top Merc sports about how in tune with each other they are… and how they finish each other’s sentences.

A A A A A R R R R RG G G G H H H ! That’s what you hear in our house when it disturbs our viewing. Ditto with the other silly ads, from him being drunk and driven home, to sky-diving out of a plane in some not-very-good CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery).

C’mon MiWay, make some fresh ads or run the risk of annoying potential clients. When something’s past its sell-by date, retire it.

An Onion for bringing tears of anger to my eyes.

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