Luxury Car Makers Seek Emotional Ties With Latest Ads : Marketing: Safety is fine, but BMW and Mercedes-Benz hope to conjure a bit of romance or a taste for adventure in touting new vehicles.


Mercedes-Benz and BMW have sold luxury cars for years with advertising that extols the precision with which the automobiles are designed and built. Now they are adding an emotional tug to the sales pitch.

Mercedes will be playing classic love songs from Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole while BMW will be riding the new James Bond movie's coattails in commercials that introduce new or substantially redesigned cars.

The commercials are part of multimedia marketing campaigns for the redesigned E-Class models made in Germany by Mercedes and the new BMW Z3 roadsters made in South Carolina.

Admakers for both companies felt a more emotional than cerebral approach would help attract prospective customers to the new cars.

"Customers have so much choice and there is so much competition across the entire spectrum that we have to build far more emotion into our products," said Mike Jackson, a top marketing executive for Mercedes-Benz of North America Inc. in Montvale, N.J.


Mercedes dug through the photographic and musical archives for its introductory ads for the redesigned E-Class cars that start at about $40,000. The company has invested $2 billion and three years in developing the cars.

It is running newspaper ads with photos of long-gone movie stars like Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Erroll Flynn and Gary Cooper posing with their classic Mercedes cars. "Born too soon," the ads say.

Bing Crosby is in one of the ads with his 1954 Mercedes. His 1935 recording of "Love Is Just Around the Corner" provides the backdrop for a commercial that provides glimpses of all the celebrities born too soon to enjoy the new E-Class models. The commercial starts running tonight.

It will be followed next week with four commercials, including one featuring three arrow-toting Cupids who turn head over heels after spotting an E-Class model as Nat King Cole's 1964 recording of "L-o-v-e" plays.

It isn't the first time Mercedes has used pop music in its ads. Earlier this year, it featured Janis Joplin's 1971 counterculture classic in which she pined for a Mercedes-Benz in an ad for its C-Class and old E-Class models.

C-Class sales are up 18.7% this year, while E-Class are down 22.5%. But the company said that drop in E-Class sales reflect deliberately lower production of the cars because of the impending model make-over.

Mercedes isn't relying solely on pop classics for its ads. The other three are classic-free. One shows the new cars catch the eye of a designer like Bill Blass or Donna Karan, while another shows people enjoy driving the cars so much they drive by model Paulina Porizkova, a trio of space aliens or Ed McMahon with a big sweepstakes check.

"This is not a music-driven campaign," said Lee Garfinkel, chairman and chief creative officer at Mercedes' ad agency Lowe Partners/SMS. "But we use famous pieces of music if it enhances the concept."


BMW's new Z3 roadsters won't go on sale until February, but it hopes to build anticipation for the two-seat convertibles by advertising its featured role in the new James Bond movie "GoldenEye."

In the movie, the British super sleuth drives the Z3 roadster, rather than the Aston Martin that earlier Bonds have driven, and BMW's agency Fallion McElligott of Minneapolis has developed two ads with film scenes that carry the story a little further.

In one ad, people are shocked by a newspaper classified ad for an Aston Martin with equipment like only the suave Bond would have it --stinger missiles and a champagne cooler. In another, a fictional member of the House of Lords announces to gasps that Bond has switched to a BMW and is driving "on the wrong side of the road."

Jim McDowell, a top marketer for BMW of North America Inc. in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., said the ads should establish the $29,000 Z3 as a "fun, exciting automobile that embodies feelings of freedom, romance and adventure."

Mercedes and BMW are using a variety of nontraditional media in marketing the new cars, in addition to the normal TV and print outlets.

They have each developed sites on the Internet so that computer users can get more information on the cars, and are offering CD-ROM products on the cars by mail to potential customers.

Mercedes is putting its "Cupids" ad in 2,000 theaters and is running commercials during videos shown on airline flights.

In addition to getting its new roadster placed in the James Bond movie, BMW authorized Nieman-Marcus to offer the car through its holiday catalog. There have been 4,800 inquiries so far.

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