Merkley+Partners' VFX-heavy spot combines automotive innovation, world-class media property and powerful creative that's simple in its concept but difficult to execute
The Masters is the golf world’s most celebrated event, where every year history is made. And even the Masters has followed suit in punctuating an already unprecedented year. For the first time in the tournament’s more than 80-year history, the matches will be played in the autumn, from 12th - 15th November.
It is in the DNA of champions to persevere regardless of circumstances. This is true of those determined enough to compete at Augusta National, and also of Mercedes-Benz, which has enjoyed a relationship with Augusta National Golf Course as an international partner since 2008. In 2014, the brand elevated its status to become one of just three global sponsors of the Masters.
This year, Mercedes-Benz will be making history as well, looking to agency of record, Merkley and Partners, and utilising its Masters cross-channel media support to announce the launch of the all-electric sub-brand EQ, with the flagship EQS set to hit salesroom floors in the second half of 2021.
How does the inventor of the automobile announce the arrival of a revolutionary car that will help pave the way toward a zero-impact, fully sustainable future? The intuitive leap turned out to be as creative as it was simple. If the impact on its natural environment cannot be seen or felt, the team thought to create a commercial that shows consumers just what they mean. For the launch of the first EQS, it developed a car commercial featuring an invisible car. To be precise; the EQS concept vehicle.
A simple solution - but as you will soon 'see' - a technically complex and logistically difficult undertaking. It would require the clear visualisation of a car in motion, without the car. To add to an already complex concept, the proposed production was set to shoot in late February 2020 just as Covid-19 struck. 'Invisible Car' became the last live-action commercial to be shot by Mercedes-Benz before the pandemic shut down global production.
The first task was to find a location. A place of lush beauty, viscerally evoking the kind of green future that we all look forward to with optimism – the northern coast of California, Marin County. Rural, untouched by development, with highways winding through redwood groves and along sea-swept vistas. As luck would have it, spring rains left the region so lush and green, that initial viewers believed the colour to be enhanced.
Next came the hard – but fun – part. Setting up the illusion of a passing vehicle, with no car. Merkley+Partners tapped the multi-award-winning creative studio The-Artery. Measurements were taken. Camera moves meticulously planned. For each scene in which the invisible car passed through, the camera moves needed to provide a focal point for the eye – and yet, there would be nothing there.
After each scene was shot came weeks of VFX work, again supervised by The-Artery. To each scene we added natural movement of grass, leaves – even the magic of an invisible tire splashing through a puddle. There were a few stock footage scenes used to amplify the storytelling, but those were also enhanced with VFX to match the technical execution and aesthetics of the rest of the commercial.
The end result leaves quite an impression. As Jon Hamm, the longtime voice of Mercedes-Benz says in the voice over: “Mercedes-Benz is poised to make their greatest impact yet – by leaving no mark at all.”