It was one of the most iconic TV ads of the ’90s: a man has an accident on Chapman’s Peak Drive, plunges over the cliff, and he survives… all because he was safely strapped into his Merc. Now see what Mercedes-Benz has asked him to do – 28 years later….

Mercedes Benz just asked the man who became famous for surviving a 30-story plunge from Chapman’s Peak 30 years ago, to drive the same road again… in a self-driving car.

Same treacherous road, same driver, same brand… an indescribably different drive. Welcome to the Future!

In a dramatic documentary-style content piece, Mercedes-Benz takes viewers on a journey along Chapman’s Peak Drive with Christopher White. White survived a crash 30 years ago in which he lost control of his beloved Mercedes-Benz after a moment of distraction, and plummeted the equivalent of 30 stories onto the jagged rocks below – a crash that he survived only because he was wearing his seat belt and was driving a Mercedes-Benz.

A commercial made by Mercedes-Benz in 1990 told White’s story and first proclaimed that Mercedes-Benz cars are engineered like no others. It was one of the decade’s most iconic ads, and most South Africans surely remember it.

The 2018 kicker is that the S-Class is the latest rendition on the road to autonomous driving and White places all his trust in the brand that saved his life 30 years ago, by taking his hands off the wheel to let the car drive him safely along the road that so nearly took his life.

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Telling White that the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is known as the most intelligent car in the world didn’t allay his fears

The drive had to be felt to be believed.

At the start of the content piece, viewers feel White’s terror and his unwillingness to trust the technology. Throughout, the emotion is overwhelming, but the closing frames can only be described as euphoric. Mercedes-Benz cars are still engineered like no others.

Net#work BBDO, which has a long-standing association with Mercedes-Benz in South Africa, says that launching the S-Class range of Intelligent Drive vehicles into the South African market demanded an advertising approach at least as groundbreaking as the cars themselves.

Executive Creative Director Brad Reilly says that the decision to launch the five-minute documentary instead of a more traditional 30-second ad-spot is a brave one in today’s world of selective viewers and channel-hoppers.

“As a brand, Mercedes-Benz is leading the industry towards the future of mobility. The concept we presented was, in that sense, brand-relevant.”

Reilly continues by saying that the content is riveting and the creative approach heightens the emotional impact to levels not attainable in a shorter format: “We knew that this was the only way to do justice to the concept, to the cars, and to the brand.”

The content piece takes viewers through White’s 1988 crash in second-by-second detail, breaking footage from the original ad up into jagged segments of action interspersed with White remembering what he was seeing, feeling and thinking at the time, and featuring media footage and comments from the first responders to the accident scene.

“For White, Chapman’s Peak was a place of horror”

The mood is surreal and as White, who moved away from Cape Town and has never been back to Chapman’s Peak, gets behind the wheel to drive along the treacherous bends and corners in the 2018 hands-free iteration, the tension is palpable.

Reilly says: “It’s five minutes of drama and emotion that are manipulated and dramatised by the short, sharp editing style. It’s five minutes of a terrifying roller-coaster ride that almost goes on too long to be comfortable. It’s five minutes of history best forgotten melding into an unimaginable future that Mercedes-Benz has actualised.”

Selvin Govender, Marketing Director of Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa, says that the S-Class is the automotive benchmark in efficiency and comfort – not least because the driver can feel absolutely comfortable about the car’s ability to get them to their destination safely.

Govender concludes: “Moving forward from 1990, from a time when autonomous vehicles couldn’t have been imagined, to today, when the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a reality, we needed to do the unimaginable. For White, Chapman’s Peak was a place of horror. We asked him to revisit it, to drive it again, but this time to let our car drive him. His fear, his trepidation, his emotions, are evident to start with. It’s heart-wrenching. But then you see him relax. You see the wonder on his face. You see the future of driving.”

Sources: Mercedes Benz South Africa
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