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Prestige car brands, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus show how smart creative can shift units and improve affinity.

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CB_Lexus_Merc_DIGITALKey Take Outs

  • Achieving standout in the auto ad space is difficult. Readers are struggling to differentiate between car ads.
  • Car brands need to consider how they can standout versus the competition when producing print ads.
  • Readers associate uncluttered, spacious print creative with premium brands.


A total 2.2 million readers look at newspaper motoring sections each week with some 345,000 readers actively thinking about buying a car.

It’s reach like this that encourages prestige car manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz and Lexus to advertise in newspapers. Both brands recently used print ads to promote run-outs on demonstrator models at selected dealerships.

The Mercedes-Benz Creative


Mercedes-Benz has a reputation for producing sleek ads across all media and this full-page print ad continues the tradition.

It features three models framed beautifully, accompanied by a clever slogan – “Opportunity beeps”. Even though it’s advertising a sale on demonstrator cars, production values are high-calibre and no attempt is made to diminish brand prominence.

The Lexus Creative


Lexus promotes its demonstrator sale using a half-page print execution. The ad includes four models presented against a clean backdrop. The headline is larger than the one in the Mercedes ad with more prominent call-to-action that features website and dealership details.

Strategic RoleMap

Six strategic advertising roles of newspapers have been validated both qualitatively and quantitatively by The Newspaper Works, resulting in the creation of RoleMap. For more information on this map, click here.


The Mercedes-Benz creative performed exceptionally, driving brand affinity and call to action.

Some 27 percent of readers said the ad gave them a positive feeling towards Mercedes while one in four believed the ad would encourage them to take further action.

The Lexus creative scored well in terms of providing information but less so for improving brand affinity. One in five said the ad gave them a positive feeling about Lexus. The creative was not as successful across other strategic roles. Some felt the ad didn’t sell the benefits of the product:

“It doesn’t give any real information about what is on offer. All it does is try to tempt the customer to visit a showroom or dealer. It tells you nothing about the brand, the car . . . so is really only relevant if you already know about the brand.”


Newspapers are recognised as an effective medium for delivering a Call to Action. ActionMap, another proprietary newspaper metric, expands on this strategic role to provide an understanding of the types of action a newspaper ad inspires. For more information on ActionMap, click here.


Some 12 percent said they would visit Mercedes’ website and one in 10 would share the details of the ad online with family and friends. These are excellent scores considering the exclusive nature of the product and the frequency with which the population buys a car. The Lexus creative outscored the Mercedes ad in terms of encouraging web-search, a reward for giving the web address prominence.

Brand Perception & Consideration


The prestige nature of the cars is reflected in reader opinion of the ads.

Some 31 percent said they would be proud to own one of the Mercedes cars advertised, and 21 per cent said the same of the Lexus cars.

The demonstrator sale appears to bring these expensive brands into the consideration set.

One in five readers said they could see themselves driving a Merc or Lexus. Some 21% said the Mercedes ad was exciting with 13 percent saying the same of the Lexus ad. The average for car ads is 10% percent.



The Mercedes ad outperformed across a range of measures in terms of aesthetics. Two in five said the ad had a great photo, and 30 percent said it was clean and uncluttered.

Though perceptions of the Lexus ad were not as strong, there were positives. One in four said the main image was great and one in five felt the ad made it easy to see what was on offer.

The ‘Standout’ Challenge

Both ads could have performed better in getting noticed. A third of readers felt that both ads were too similar to others in the category. One reader said of the Mercedes ad: “It is about the same as other car ads.”

Another said of the Lexus ad: “It’s similar to other ads for expensive cars.”

Both brands could benefit from a reappraisal of their print ad tactics with the aim of differentiating their creative from the competition.


Mercedes proves that one newspaper ad can play more than one role. Their creative pushed brand affinity while simultaneously encouraging readers into action.

It took advantage of the space offered by full page print advertising. The creative used the space to tastefully incorporate branding and detailed sales information without clutter.

The Lexus creative performed well considering it was half the size of the Mercedes creative. It scored above average in driving brand affinity but did not encourage the same level of call to action.

There’s room for improvement for both ads when it comes to cut through. At first glance both ads appear similar, and readers felt advertising across the auto category suffered from this. A fresh approach to design with a view to differentiating ads from competitors could pay dividends.

Next Week: A Guide to Car Buyers

In our next insights article, we’ll help car brands tackle the standout challenge and reach car buyers. We’ll use emma insights to produce a guide to car buyers. We’ll look at how automotive advertising works and provide tips on how auto advertisers can differentiate their print ads.

‘Quote, Unquote’


“It’s upbeat and fun …  It makes Mercedes more accessible to a wider audience.”

“The ad was good in that it catches the eye and for a second even if you know you can’t afford a Mercedes-Benz, you still feel like reading the ad.”

“The ad highlights the prestige of owning a Mercedes Benz vehicle. Pity this vehicle is outside my price range as I’ve dreamed of owning a vehicle like this!”


“It doesn’t give any real information about what is on offer. All it does is try to tempt the customer to visit a showroom or dealer. Tells you nothing about the brand, the car, so is really only relevant if you already know about the brand.”

“It could have been brighter, there’s something about it looking cluttered and confined.”

“It captures my attention, and does inform me about the coming Lexus event. Also the ad makes me consider Lexus as a future car, and thus makes me want to find out more.”



Click here for strategies to turbo-charge car ads.
Click here to view an infographic highlighting some auto-advertising fasts facts.

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