By Darren Gilbert

Advertising agency Net#work BBDO, and visual effects and animation agency Sinister Studio, have been on this particular journey with the brand. The brief was to launch the new range of Mercedes-Benz Roadsters and Cabriolets by bringing to life the sense of child-like wonder that embodies the range, while also appealing to the brand’s fan base, both young and old.

Net#work BBDO’s executive creative director, Brad Reilly, explains, “The idea was to take kids, who are the experts on ‘wonder’, put them in a C-Class Cabriolet, get them to tell us how they felt, and then turn that into a VR film.”

The result is a two-minute virtual reality film that places you in the driver’s seat of a Mercedes-Benz.

Going above and beyond the usual VR experience

Being the third such virtual reality piece that Net#work BBDO has done for the brand – here is the first, and the second – Reilly is acutely aware of the need to innovate.

“The first video was really all about dipping our toe in the water with what was essentially a test drive along a beautiful road,” he says. “We know we can’t always do that though, so what we have tried to do with each piece since is to build in more storytelling and more ideas.”

The video becomes both a brand and product experience.

“Most VR experiences let consumers immerse themselves in a fantasy world, but adding storytelling later above and beyond the technology is critical,” says Selvin Govender, marketing director for Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa. “That’s what makes the experience sticky. We’re not just pushing product or technology; we’ve giving people an experience built around a human story.”

Overcoming VR’s challenges by remaining innovative

Delivering the highest experience is one of the biggest challenges facing any brand working with VR. This is because the technology is still in its infancy.

“While your gold standard experience is going to be with a Samsung GEAR VR or an Occulus Rift, the majority of people are experiencing 360 degree video on YouTube and Facebook,” he says. 

Attempting that ‘gold standard experience’, but on a large scale, is a challenge specific to the entire VR industry, adds Reilly. As for Mercedes-Benz, the broader challenge is to not get stuck just doing VR.

“There is certainly an element of novelty to VR but, for Mercedes-Benz, this novelty must be coupled with innovation,” says Reilly. “It’s not imperative that VR needs to be part of everything we do going forward. What is important is we are constantly innovating and exploring technology.”

VR and the future of advertising

The future of Mercedes-Benz advertising includes a look at using both Augmented Reality (AR) as well as Mixed Realities (MR), otherwise known as ‘hybrid reality’, where the real and virtual words merge to create new environments.

This includes building a bot for an upcoming campaign. “Bots are starting to come into the marketing space,” explains Reilly, “so we want to explore that and get on top of it.”

The future is less about saying that Mercedes-Benz will be doing more VR, and rather about asking what the brand is going in the world of innovation.

Govender is excited about the prospects: “If this is the future of advertising, I’m all for it.”

To read more about the comic book they launched at JIMS 2013, click here. You can also read more about their Facebook Messenger chatbot here.

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