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Mercedes asks Twitter users to decide outcome of TV ads - but did they care?

As part of its ground-breaking interactive experiment, Mercedes-Benz ran three separate commercials during this weekend's instalments of The X Factor.

In the first - broadcast at 8.10 pm on Saturday - viewers learned that the authorities in an unnamed European city (that looked a lot like Lisbon) were trying to prevent a British musician (who looked a lot like the rapper Kano) from performing at a secret gig.

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The crafty so-and-so sticks it to the man by climbing into a Mercedes-Benz driven by a glamorous young woman and making his way through the streets in a sensible and orderly fashion - this being a car commercial, the two protagonists were obliged to obey all applicable traffic laws.

At the end of this ad, the audience was invited to use Twitter to decide what should happen next. They could vote for Kano's character to #evade or to #hide by using keywords in their tweets.

Mercedes-Benz had paid Twitter to ensure the hashtag #YouDrive had a prominent position in the evening's 'trends' on the social networking site and they'd been busily promoting interest in the event. Some viewers were keen... they were already using the hashtags #evade and #hide before the first commercial was broadcast - heavily suggesting they might be campaign insiders who'd jumped the gun. Oops.

Some seasoned viewers had already noticed that choosing between two pre-recorded options is a pretty minimal level of interactivity:

Others were excited though:

Once the first commercial had run, there was a flurry of activity on Twitter as literally hundreds of viewers began choosing between the two options. Not all of them were 100% clear about what they were supposed to be doing... possibly because they were blinded by their love for Kano:

But casting Kano was paying dividends for this campaign. Not only is the East London rapper hugely popular, he has an impressive number of followers on Twitter and he was doing his bit for Mercedes by urging them to watch the ads and to vote using the hashtags.

Some of his followers didn't feel Kano would get very far in a swish motor without attracting attention from the Feds, innit:

And not everyone recognised Kano - some mistook him for the actor/director Noel Clarke. As one tweeter unhelpfully put it:

Ultimately, there were so many people tweeting Clarke to congratulate him on his winning performance that it started to threaten his enjoyment of The X Factor (and the "nasty" Chinese takeaway he'd told his followers he'd ordered):

In the end #evade won 60% of the votes and at 9.25 pm the second instalment was shown.

Watching the #YouDrive Twitter feed, it had been pretty clear that #evade would win as literally dozens of people were voting for it and it was actually a surprise that it was even close. The evading was done at a pretty sedate pace and this clearly disappointed some viewers:

Others noticed that there was a fair bit of 'hiding' going on in the second ad. It surely wasn't possible that only one version of the second commercial had actually been filmed, was it?

The end of the second commercial opened the second round of voting. Viewers could now choose between #switch and #lift. But some were disappointed that they'd have to wait until the following night to see the conclusion:

There was no way to dampen the enthusiasm of others... just because the 'chase' had been conducted at 30mph it didn't mean that the conclusion wouldn't be exciting:

But we'll never know what we might have seen if #lift had won as #switch prevailed with 51% of the vote and instead we saw a sequence in which the two climb into an identical car (after safely parking the first in a sensible location, naturally).

So what did the Twittersphere make of this? Some were very positive:

But others felt the conclusion was an anti-climax and the whole experiment had been a bit of a let down. One Tweeter directed a message to Mercedes's account to let them know what she thought:

She didn't get a reply.

The Tweets put out by Mercedes and AMV - their agency - suggested that they couldn't have been happier with the outcome.

Without wanting to rain on their parade, I asked them about the level of participation - it looked to me as though only a few thousand people had voted (around 0.05% of The X Factor's audience):


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