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Here’s what happened when the Avatar franchise hitched its brand to Mercedes-Benz

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By Audrey Kemp | LA reporter

June 14, 2023 | 6 min read

The campaign won in the Automotive category at The Drum Awards for Marketing Americas 2023.

mercedes SUV with avatar styling

The Mercedes-Benz-Avatar campaign promoted new EVs, the new film, and most importantly, eco-consciousness / Credit: Mercedes-Benz

‘Earth is our Pandora,’ a co-branded campaign developed with ad agency Engine Shop for Avatar and Mercedes-Benz, was designed to inspire and inform consumers that every action counts in our journey to a fully electric future.

The campaign came as Mercedes-Benz was in a state of global transition, with the goal of a fully electric fleet by 2030. The first part of its transition was launching an all-new Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV in December of 2022. As a presenting sponsor of the second installment of the Avatar film franchise, Avatar: The Way of Water, a perfect opportunity presented itself to celebrate the EQS SUV and tell a co-branded story.

The Brief

The general theme of the Avatar films is that Earth is no longer habitable and that the characters must tap into otherworldly resources to help create sustainable life on a new planet. With current climate change concerns, this theme is more real than ever. The marketing challenge of this campaign was to identify a way to leverage the film’s likeness to humanize the education of the benefits and features of the growing Mercedes-Benz electric lineup of vehicles and showcase the all-new EQS SUV.

The film would also celebrate the strategic partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Avatar: The Way of Water and solidify a brand message that every action counts.

The Idea

To achieve objectives and overcome marketing challenges, creative agency Engine Shop launched an omnichannel campaign #EarthisOurPandora, and an activation at the film’s premiere on The Blue Carpet that took place in December 2022 featuring the Vision AVTR and the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV.

This campaign consisted of a TV commercial, a strategic partnership with Fandango, brand ambassador and influencer engagement, organic social media, an exclusive Mercedes-Benz employee engagement program and two immersive experiential touch points: the Earth is Our Pandora Theater in Dana Point, California, and The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Georgia Aquarium aimed to enclose Earth’s natural beauty – the crashing waves of the California coastline and the perfectly centered sunset or active underwater life swimming through the colorful reefs in the Aquarium. An EQS SUV and product specialist were also onsite, with a QR code to win complimentary tickets to see the film early.

Meanwhile, at the global premiere, guests were immersed in Avatar world, weaving through foliage and water features on ‘The Blue Carpet,’ before they experienced the Mercedes-Benz concept Vision AVTR for the very first time. This concept vehicle, with 33 solar-powered bionic flaps, neuromorphic hardware and four individually controllable electric motors, is the future of electric driving. Attendees had a chance (after Aaron Paul) to sit in the driver’s seat and engage with the Hyperscreen and motion-controlled steering on the center console.

After they walked the press line, they found themselves in front of the EQS SUV, which has been transformed into a portal of live underwater life. 17 minutes of precise pixel-mapped projection envelop the vehicle while a 40-foot LED screen guides you to over 24 underwater destinations from around the world – all of which were selected in partnership with James Cameron himself.

The Results

Tech and innovation were the driving forces of this omnichannel campaign and were leveraged to create a sense of awe, wonder and appreciation for the planet.

The Vision AVTR was a showstopper, becoming one of the most engaged with and most reported on spectacles at the premiere. The vehicle combined environmental awareness, technology and mobility of the future to spotlight the interaction of humans, machines and nature. The vehicle’s developers from Germany were on-site to help carpet-goers understand the design process, showcase features and answer questions before they got a chance to step under the glass butterfly-hinged doors into the driver’s seat.

The EQS SUV (colloquially called the EQuarium) effortlessly became an extension of the press line as movie makers, celebrities and carpet-goers took a journey around the world to experience the underwater life that exists here on Earth. Projection mapping is one thing, but projecting mapping to bring people on a clear journey that spotlights the value of our present-day underwater worlds, was the right way to shed light on the greater climate issues we’re all facing.

A simple yet strategic partnership with Fandango to enhance the activations in the beautiful communities of California and Georgia was seamlessly experienced by general consumers giving earth-lovers and film-lovers a chance to experience our Pandora and Avatar’s Pandora.

The results of the campaign were impressive. Over 100,000 engagements at the Earth is our Pandora Theater installations in California and Atlanta from December 5 to Dec 18 exceeded ticket availability of 3,000.

What’s more, 2,400 Mercedes-Benz employees and dealers enjoyed the campaign and the film with private screenings and the chance to walk the Blue Carpet and experience the global premiere in LA on December 12.

From the brand’s community activation, social performed well, with over 486,000 impressions at the time of measurement and over 29,000 engagements. At the premiere, the brand had over 549,000 impressions and 17,000 engagements, which were impressive for a one-night experience.

Finally, publications such as Bloomberg, Autoweek, Motortrend, Car and Driver, Arstechnica, BizBash and Slash Gear picked up the story.

This campaign won at The Drum Awards for Marketing Americas 2023. Find out more about The Drum’s Global Awards program or head to our case studies hub to read more award-winning stories.

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