By Barry Janoff
January 27, 2017: Mercedes-Benz is returning to the Super Bowl broadcast for the fourth time and is bringing a heavy dose of nostalgia with it.
The automaker enlisted as directors the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan (Fargo, No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski), brought in actor Peter Fonda and re-envisioned the classic 1969 movie, Easy Rider, for a humorous 30-second spot, "Easy Driver," set to the music of the original film’s theme song, Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild,"
The spot, to air during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI on Fox on Feb, 5, is part of a larger campaign celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Mercedes-Benz performance sub-brand AMG and the upcoming debut of the high-performance Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster.
According to Drew Slaven, vp-marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA, "The goal with the spot was to pay homage to the history that brought us to this point with something iconic but authentic that would resonate with people who have a passion for open-air driving, who live for the call of the road and who share a little of that rebellion from the norm.
"(Easy Rider), which came out late in the '60's, as did AMG, was the perfect vehicle for a fast drive down memory lane," said Slaven.
In the movie, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper (who was also the director) take a cross-country road trip on their Harley-Davidsons from California to Florida (where they plan to retire with the cash they received from a major drug sale and which they have hidden in their bikes).
En route, they encounter an array of late 1960’s attitudes (think rednecks vs. hippies) and people, including Jack Nicholson (in one of his early screen roles).
The Mercedes-Benz spot opens in a biker bar whose customers and decor pay homage to Easy Rider overall, and Fonda (whose face from the movie is tattooed on the large bicep of one of the bikers) and Hopper in particular.
"Born to Be Wild" is playing on the juke box (it's actually the only song on the juke box).
As we hear the lyrics — "Get your motor runnin’/Head out on the highway’Lookin' for adventure And whatever comes our way" — a huge guy bursts through the front door. "Blocked in," he growls, such to the chagrin of the patrons.
It turns out that their row of parked bikes is blocked by a Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster. But their anger turns to delight when it they see the vehicle is owned by Fonda. "Nice rides," Fonda says to them as he drives off on Route 66 to the Steppenwolf song.
Text offers, "Born to be wild. Built to be wild."
In addition to the spot, the campaign includes an extended cut and behind-the-scenes footage for online platforms, four 10-15 second teasers, digital, social media and a Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster video brochure.
MBUSA said it would also be a co-sponsor of "Rolling Stone Live: Houston" on Feb. 4.
MBUSA will air a second spot, which ran during last year’s Super Bowl, "Snow Date," in the pre-game show.
"Born to Be Wild," which was released in 1968 reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, might sound familiar to a new audience. It has been covered by numerous artists (including The Cult, INXS, Ozzy Osbourne, Etta James and Wilson Pickett). Since Easy Rider, it has been used in one form or another in more than 50 movies or TV shows.
Agencies for the campaign are Antoni (Berlin), lead agency for Mercedes-Benz in Europe; and Merkley+Partners, NY, MBUSA's lead marketing agency.