– 7 August 2013

The Ad – Hair

The Ad – Colleague

Mercedes Benz has developed yet another pioneering, high-tech innovation, aimed at improving road safety. Studies show that around one quarter of all serious motorway accidents are attributable to sleepy drivers in need of a rest, meaning that drowsiness causes more road accidents than drinking and driving.

This latest piece of computing wizardry works on several levels to analyse a driver’s behaviour in order to detect if they are getting sleepy at the wheel, and then sound an alarm that brings their attention back to reality.

Of course, just showing this technology would probably induce sleep in today’s low attention-span TV audience, so ad agency Net#work BBDO mercedescame up with an amusing take on two ‘Walter Mitty’ type characters. The first features a good looking executive type, who catches his own reflection in the mirror while driving. He’s clearly in love with himself, as each time he looks in the mirror, his gaze lingers a little longer.

The music, a Sinatra/Perry Como-style song (created for the ad by Pulse Music New York) that harks back to the sultry lounge-lizard era, is a ballad about “You’ve either got it or not,” – something that this driver seems to think is the case.

As his hand reaches up to run his fingers through his hair, and you’re about to snarl “Keep your eye on the road,” a loud beeping snaps him back to reality. It’s a reality that is a bit of a shock, because now we see that he is, in fact, balding, and maybe slightly older than the ‘mind’s eye’ picture that we previously had of him. The beeping sound was, of course, the Mercedes Benz Attention Assist technology, that picked up the fact that the driver wasn’t paying enough attention to the road, and quickly brought him back to reality.

The byline is: “‘When your mind wanders, ATTENTION ASSIST brings it back.”

The technology is quite amazing: the on-board computer creates a profile of the driver at the beginning of the trip, which is compared continuously with the current data. There are several factors that could indicate driver fatigue or inattention, including steering characteristics and behaviour, the way a driver changes lanes, his use of indicators, and how he responds to traffic and road conditions. As soon as driver fatigue is recognised, a loud audio warning is emitted, and the car’s instrument display panel displays the words ‘Attention Assist. Break!’

Daimler-Benz has long been involved in developing safety systems for its vehicles, including pioneering use of crash-tests in the 1950s, innovations made to the Anti-lock braking system (ABS) in the 1970s, and the development of the Electronic Stability Programme, or ESP in the 1990s. Daimler was the first automotive manufacturer to present the driver airbag in a series production car at the Geneva Motor Show in 1981.

Mercedes will roll out the Attention Assist system next year on the S-Class models and, like most of these safety innovations, it will eventually become a standard safety fixture on all Mercedes models.

The second in the ‘Walter Mitty’ series features a Woody Allen look-alike, who is having a wonderful reverie about driving with a sultry Hispanic girl by his side – all set to the tune of “The Girl From Ipanema”. The Attention Assist beeping that brings him back to reality reveals that it is a colleague sitting next to him, and there is a lovely moment where the colleague is half-woman, half man, and then in the next shot it’s clearly a man, who is giving the nerdy driver a bit of a strange look.

All in all it’s a very creative interpretation of this pioneering technology, and the humour doesn’t detract from the serious message – this is potentially life-saving technology, and no doubt something that will be a major consideration for many people, when buying a car – so top-of-mind recognition is important.

The cinematography is perfect, the editing is slick, and the casting is impeccable. Kudos to director Bruno Bossi of Egg Films, and to agency Net#work BBDO for coming up with a suitable follow-up to their award-winning print and radio campaigns for the same product. The co-Creative Directors was Brent Singer and  Jenny Glover and Net#work BBDO’s Creative Chief was Mike Schalit.