Can Mercedes-Benz make a creative comeback with its 2018 CNY ad?

Mercedes-Benz is turning things around after the slew of criticism the brand saw for its Chinese New Year ad in 2017. This year's CNY spot runs with a hashtag #PassDownTradition. This year, the luxury car brand wants to highlight CNY being "one of the most celebrated times of the year, and when beautiful traditions are remembered."

It follows the protagonist's trip down memory lane as she remembers times spent over CNY with her mother and learns about the various traditions associated with Chinese culture.

Posted on 12 January 2018, the latest three-minute CNY ad on Mercedes-Benz Malaysia's official Facebook page was conceptualised by GroupM's Vocanic and produced by reanimated studio's executive producer and director Gordon Ling and creative director Jiven Sekar, according to Mark Raine, vice president of sales and marketing at Mercedes-Benz Malaysia.

Raine added its CNY spot this year, focuses on the "passing down of time-honoured cultural traditions, the value of family and the memories that shape the lives of those who celebrate this auspicious occasion." Check out the ad below:

The brand is no doubt, making the effort to make a comeback after its last year' CNY ad failed to impress netizens with some calling the ad “terrible”, “meaningless”, “low class” and “a waste of money”. The ad went viral for its lack luster narrative. Take a look at the spots produced last year.

Since then the brand created several campaigns. For one, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia also collaborated with BBDO Malaysia and production houses Studio 20 Twelve and Graph Studio, to launch its 10th generation E-Class in July last year. The campaign, titled “The Masterpieces of a Masterpiece”, features a series of artworks, known as “Masterpiece of Intelligence”, which were created through the use of long-light exposure techniques.

While the quality of the film has improved, the basic "hero's journey" approach towards storytelling such as the fundamentals of what holds a good story together, good insights and dialogue, and finding the relevant human element has not been achieved, NagaDDB's executive creative director Alvin Teoh, said.

"The whole task of a story is to draw your audiences into it, engage them emotionally - and by that I am not just referring to tear-jerking. The story should also take consumers' feelings on a journey and bring them to a point the story - the message," Teoh said.

He added that storytelling is not an easy craft to crack, even for experienced marketers and agency professionals. While the art and intricacies of storytelling can be tough to master, Teoh added that marketers and agencies should keep trying until they get it.

Concurring with him is CEO of McCann Worldgroup Malaysia, Sean Sim, who added that while Mercedes Benz learnt from the backlash of last year's Chinese New Year ad and improved its production quality, he struggled to relate to the ad and find the main takeaways.

"There is a difference between storytelling and great storytelling. When you tell a story based on strong insight, there are always lessons to be learnt at the end of it," Sim said. He added that great storytellers in the industry are able to create stories from insights that are poignant and touching. The ad also failed to show the connection between traditions and Mercedes Benz as a brand, as well as its slogan "The Best or Nothing", Sim said. Hence, running the risk of product placement.

He added that great brand films always have a connection to the brand, regardless of whether they are overt or subtle. "Even when the brand connection is subtle, consumers must still be able to understand where the brand is coming from. The ad has to be holistic," Sim said.

Adding on to the conversation is Shaun Tay, FCB KL's CEO, who said the storyline is not compelling and the acting leaves a lot to be desired as the performance was neither believable nor moving. "Yes, it is better than last year’s ad but they really could have done much better especially in terms of production value. It is premium brand after all," Tay added.

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