Mercedes-Benz's new series of startlingly introspective films might get you really thinking about where life has taken you so far.
The "Grow Up" campaign, created out of the brand's European agency Antoni GmbH, based in Berlin, is what Mercedes says is the "most extensive content creation" in the brand's history.
Promoting its compact car family, five short films each pose what seems like a basic life lesson: be a good parent, get a job, start a family, spend more time with family, settle down. But the stories are far more complex than their titles suggest.
The "parent" film, for example, tells the tale of an older business man at a crossroads after something happens at his workplace. He ignores messages from his colleagues and instead dials up his estranged son, with the excuse that he lost his glasses. By the time the tale ends, you're not sure whether it was the father, or son, who was being the "good parent."
Another film, "Start a Family," seen above, explores the complicated relationship of a young man and woman who have a child. The tension is palpable as they make their way to a camping trip in the desert -- with another couple at an earlier, fresher stage of their relationship, not tethered down by children. The film manages teases out, bit by bit, that the first couple's struggles stem not just the day-to-day grind of being parents, but also perhaps from the challenges of actually growing up and accepting adulthood.
A third film explores two young women's attempt to mend a deterioriating friendship while a fourth gives new interpretation to the idea of "settling down" through the tale of a man looking to reconnect with his ex. A final film, "Get a Job," takes the campaign into the real world with rapper ASAP Rocky. In it, the performer opens up about how his brother's untimely death propelled him to move on and succeed. All the videos will be housed at mercedes-benz.com/growup and are excerpted in an anthem spot that will air on broadcast.
Outside of ASAP Rocky, other talents featured include actresses Lucy Walters, Julia Morrison, Anna Zahn and John Rue.
To be distributed through a media partnership with the Vice network, the films were directed by Gustav Johannson out of Iconoclast. The campaign will consist of more than 120 moving picture assets for TV, cinema, social and online video with 92 still elements shot by French photographer Alice Moitie.
In the end, it feels like the cars themselves are just part of the backdrop of the intense emotional tales. "'Grow up.' is much more than a major campaign about model series," said Dr. Jens Thiemer, vice president marketing Mercedes-Benz Cars in a statement. "It is a further move forward by the brand as a whole towards more modernity, progressivism and dynamism across the entire brand identity of Mercedes-Benz. With 'Grow up,' we are reinterpreting traditional values and attitudes towards Mercedes while showcasing their modern-day interpretation and relevance within generations X and Y."
The campaign's unexpectedly intimate approach brings to mind another story-based move from fellow automaker Volvo, which last year rolled out a cryptic series of films about a family making their way to a wedding.