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Net#work BBDO and visual effects and animation agency, Sinister Studios, have delivered on a brief from Mercedes-Benz South Africa above and beyond the client’s wildest expectations. The brief was to launch the new range of Mercedes-Benz roadsters and cabriolets by bringing to life the sense of child-like wonder embodied in the range, and appealing to the emotions of the brand’s fan base, both young and old.

Sinister’s CEO, Christian van der Walt, says that Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) has set the benchmark for innovative ways of pulling fans and customers closer to the brand, and the studio’s challenge was to top everything that had gone before.

“We decided to use virtual reality to expand on Mercedes-Benz’s global television campaign, and its popular #LookUp campaign. But we wanted to push the boundaries, we wanted to push past the limits of what virtual reality has been used to do in the past. We wanted to make the experience fantastical.”

Sinister developed four test-drive videos, with the first one showcasing the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé and the second the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Both of these utilised technology to profile the cars’ features in ways not previously possible.

“The tricky part of filming cars,” says Christian, “is that there are lighting and depth of field issues to reconcile. When filming, the interior of a vehicle is generally darker than the environment it’s being driven in and this needs to be compensated for. So what we did was use a ‘pod’ of cameras to shoot a 360-degree view of the outside world, and then we completely created the cars’ interiors with computer graphics. This allowed us to seamlessly integrate the two aspects.

The third video saw the Mercedes-AMG C 63 being tested at high speed at the Kyalami race-track. Again, computer graphics and 360-degree film combined to create a fantastical experience. We later superimposed Lewis Hamilton, pilot of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 car, into the test drive, another first. The success of this approach is entirely due to the technology we used.”

But the fourth video – featuring the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet – pulled all the elements together in an overlay of characters, fantasy and animation that we’ve never seen done before.

“This digital world is truly experiential and allows viewers to ‘feel’ as if they are the protagonist of the journey. Our video incorporates fantasy creatures similar to those in the global commercial, which takes the virtual experience to the next level.”

As a teaser, Sinister Studio and advertising agency Net#work BBDO filmed a short video featuring three children and a dog in the back of a Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet. The children were asked how they felt driving in the cabriolet and what they saw when they were asked to #LookUp, and their responses were amazing… “animals without feet” and “it feels like I’m on a bubble that’s flying away”. Their thoughts and words were used in the virtual reality overlay to physically portray what they saw and express how they felt.

“This type of Virtual Reality campaign has not been produced by any other automotive company, and has the potential to build love for the Mercedes-Benz brand by appealing to the emotions of our fan base,” says Selvin Govender, Marketing Director, Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa.

“Users are able to view the content as a 360-degree video on their PCs, smartphones and tablets, or they can familiarise themselves with the full virtual reality experience on devices such as the Samsung Gear VR or even the Google cardboard, using their own mobile devices.”

“We believe that Virtual Reality could offer fans and customers the convenience of having an incredible experience that could come as close as possible to driving and enjoying the thrill of a new product, while in the convenience of their homes with their personal devices,” says Govender.

Van der Walt says that the innovation rests on the rendering of a virtual reality test drive in 3D graphics, in a fantasy realm that allows you to immerse yourself in Mercedes-Benz’s world. “Technology is offering mind-blowing possibilities to completely transform the traditional advertising industry. If this is the future of advertising, I’m all for it.”

In other motoring related news, Volvo has made its new S90 available in South Africa.