Ashee Sharma

Mercedes-Benz Project X: Is this the face of the new age ad film?

A look at 'Mercedes-Benz Project X', an ad with no creative agency on its credits list. The campaign has been created by media agency MEC and online broadcast network Qyuki. The ad features A R Rahman, but Ranjit Barot and Salim Merchant have composed the music for it.

A great ad? Well, chances are that the names of some of the top creative agencies will pop up. But, that is not the case with the latest ad released by Mercedes-Benz India. If you were wondering which creative agency is behind the new music video released by the auto giant, you are in for a surprise! There is none. The Mercedes Benz Project X, as it is called, has been put together by the brand's media agency MEC India, in collaboration with Qyuki, an online broadcast network for youth co-founded by filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, A R Rahman and Samir Bangara (former managing director - digital at UTV Disney).

Mercedes-Benz Project X: Is this the face of the new age ad film?

Project X, conceptualised by music composer and singer Ranjit Barot and Qyuki (which is also the producer), has India's top music maestros, A R Rahman, Salim Merchant, Shubha Mudgal, and Amit Trivedi lend their voice to the track Khushnuma.

Mercedes-Benz Project X: Is this the face of the new age ad film?
Mercedes-Benz Project X: Is this the face of the new age ad film?

Directed by Devanshu Singh, Khushnuma is the story of a young man whose passion for music clashes with his father's expectations of him. The boy, now a young man, leaves home in search of his dreams. Having realised them, he returns victorious in his very own Mercedes.

The track, which was composed by (Ranjit) Barot and (Salim) Merchant, was released at the 13th Auto Expo, where the company also unveiled the global SUV, GLC and the S-Class Cabriolet.

Mercedes-Benz Project X: Is this the face of the new age ad film?
Amit Thete, general manager, marketing and customer relationship management, Mercedes-Benz India, says that the video is targeted at young and progressive customers, who are the first-time buyers. In an
with afaqs!, Santosh Iyer, former marketing head, Mercedes, had shared that the average age of the Mercedes buyer had reduced by almost 10 years over the last four-five years. The message was that the brand was able to successfully transcend the perception of being an old-man's car.

Cashing in on this trend, and combined with growing consumerism, contemporary designs, and fresh communication, the company has geared up to target youngsters. In 2015, Mercedes launched 15 new models and dealerships in India, informs Thete.

And, this is precisely the reason that a non-traditional medium has been chosen for Project X. Thete says, "Since the average age of the luxury buyer has come down drastically, we have to use non-traditional mediums as it is more likely that the young would consume content on-the-go/online through social media. The video is, therefore, being promoted on digital platforms."

Young and indulgent

While discussing the luxury car market in India, auto expert Ranojoy Mukerji tells us how Mercedes has been battling the perception of being a car for the old (45-50 plus years) since the advent of BMW and Audi in India around 2006-07. Although it is the leader today, the competition is still close.

Mercedes-Benz Project X: Is this the face of the new age ad film?
""The growth of the luxury segment in India is quite recent, with most of it happening in the last six-seven years. Earlier, there weren't many luxury brands available, nor could people afford them. Since the older generation had seen some tough times, they preferred saving/investing money. But, that is changing. There is vast choice and the younger lot is now able to afford any kind of luxury at a much earlier stage in life. They have more opportunities and have seen money come in more quickly," he says, adding that it is therefore not surprising that luxury car makers are targeting them.

Mercedes has, in the past two years, launched a slew of younger-looking, jazzy and fun-to-ride cars. According to Mukerji, the market has responded well. There are more young people buying Mercs today, especially the A, B Class and the CLA and GLA. These models fall in the affordable luxury segment, almost 98 per cent of which is between Rs 20-40/45 lakh. This range suits first-time buyers who are growing in number every day. Hence, this segment drives volumes for the luxury car makers.

Yet another trend in the segment has been the surging popularity of the small luxury SUVs, a trend which is both image and need-driven. "People like the feeling of owning a big vehicle, sitting high and making eye-contact with the taller vehicle driver. SUVs are also very popular among women because they give them a feeling of authority. Their popularity can also be attributed to the fact that SUVs give one the flexibility to take on bad roads," Mukerji explains.

Test drive

Appreciating the video, Rajesh Lalwani, CEO, Scenario Consulting, and founder, Blogworks, a brand consultancy, says, "It's a powerful idea that understands the aspirations of an emerging India, and one which will resonate with those that 'have' succeeded and those who 'want to'. I look forward to seeing some real stories next."

Mercedes-Benz Project X: Is this the face of the new age ad film?
Lalwani also feels that the reasons for the luxury buyers' segment getting a lot younger are several -- higher disposable incomes, single urban lifestyles, and easy access to loans.

"Even as the dreams of young India are changing and getting manifested in multiple career paths they are choosing, some things continue to remain the same. Mercedes continues to be the perfect celebration of aspirations, quality and an iconic statement of success," he says.

As a result, luxury car makers are introducing entry-level products to target the first time buyer. "You may see other brands actively pursuing the audience/aspiration through new story-telling formats that go beyond the product and its appeal, going forward. India is moving up the value chain faster, and luxury brands like Mercedes are leveraging the phenomenon with initiatives such as this one," says Lalwani.

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