When I was a kid, my dad said success and failure are measured by the simple ability to follow the rules.
Growing up has made some of those “rules” more obvious than perhaps they were at the age of 8. Some are obvious benchmarks of adulthood: Go to college. Get a job. Get married. Start a family.
But those silhouettes of success have become murkier with time. What is a family, really? What does a “good job” look like in a world where people can no longer take corporate security for granted? Faced with a choice—leave for a dream job versus stay for a loved one—what’s the right decision?
Most of these things are too messy for a brand to get involved in. Advertising likes clarity and has just seconds to share it. Yet it’s all this that Mercedes-Benz hopes to tackle in “Grow Up,” an ambitious content project that will last throughout the year.
Conceived by its lead agency Antoni in Berlin, with production by Iconoclast and digital assistance from Pixelpark AG, the campaign kicks off this month with a trailer starring rapper A$AP Rocky, who’ll appear in other storylines, too.
The video begins, “As you get older, life becomes all about following a few simple rules,” before outlining the long, guilt-inducing litany we know well.
The next five videos break down different “rules” for adulthood while demonstrating how much harder they are to live than to say. Mercedes uses this chance to highlight how its market of target buyers has changed. (How far we’ve come from Cristal decrying its unexpected market of rappers!)
Sometimes it succeeds at telling these more diverse stories; other times, it fumbles. But in addition to A$AP Rocky, other characters include actress Lucy Walters, actress/producer Julia Morrison, actress/director Anna Zahn, and actor John Rue.
A$AP Rocky appears in “Get a Job,” co-starring the CLA Coupé. The rapper might be one of the biggest draws of the campaign, but this is literally the shortest video in this collection, clocking in at 2:25.
Still, viewers will relish the chance to crawl into the mind of Rakim, a little boy “who blazed his own trail to the top with nothing but a dream beat.”
A beat, tapped out by A$AP Rocky’s fists, doesn’t just set the ad’s rhythm; it creates a heartbeat against which massive mental stakes spool out, sometimes overwhelmingly.
At 4:19, “Spend Time with Family” is the story of Natasha and Kate, a once-inseparable couple facing a decision that could permanently rupture them, or force them to double down on their relationship. Also, you get some subtle but choice shots of the Mercedes A-Class.
The story wanders, but it’s a lovely illustration about the evolution of commitment (and, by extension, family). Oddly, though, YouTube commenters noted that while this is obviously a romantic relationship, toward the end, Natasha says, “Our friendship will last forever … just like that skyline.”
“Was this supposed to be ironic?” one wonders. “The whole story screams relationship.”
From another: “Is it only me or does this seem like Mercedes wasn’t brave enough to proclaim the love of these two women, but instead went for the easy digestible version by ending it with ‘Our FRIENDSHIP will last forever’?”
Talk about complicated! Mercedes here leans so hard into murky that it forgot to take the one stance it meant to.
“Be a Good Parent” kicks off with a corporate-conservative older man, Tomas, who lies to get his free-wheeling photographer son to come see him. (At one point he will, as if on cue, ask, “Have you entertained the thought of getting a real job?”)
This might sound like the opposite of good parenting, but it’s among the campaign’s more successful stories. The relationship between father and son is fraught for numerous unspoken reasons. And as their adventure continues, messages left on Tomas’ voicemail suggest something bad happened at work that day—the catalyst that sparked all this.
“You follow the same path your whole life, and one day you wake up and wonder: Is this it?” Tomas confides as the tale winds down. “If you love it, do it. Do it with all your might.”
This isn’t just a story about parenting; it’s about how we never really stop growing up. Also—hey! Check out the Mercedes B-Class.
“‘Grow Up’ is much more than a major campaign about model series,” says Mercedes-Benz’s vp of marketing, Dr. Jens Thiemer. “It is a further move forward by the brand as a whole toward more modernity, progressivism and dynamism across the entire brand identity of Mercedes-Benz.”
Speaking of modern, “Settle Down” brings us Dominic, who must rebuild his life without the woman he loves. This tale takes a tired trope—a woman calling a man to use a lame excuse, like a forgotten sweater, to see him again—and reverses it: Dominic makes that call … and his lost love firmly puts her foot down.
We watch as Dominic mourns the dissolution of coupledom in scenes of abject neglect and isolation, veering on self-destruction. There is blood, sweat and tears. There is begging. And there—provided you don’t blink—are fugitive shots of the CLA Shooting Brake, supernaturally pristine and solid amidst it all.
Lastly, “Start a Family” features a couple that started out as best friends—with benefits!—who, despite themselves, became parents. (They’re doing a lot worse than Tomas, trust us.)
What does this mean for them, and for who they are as individuals? Meet the family … and the GLA they moodily roll in.
Again, the comments are as entertaining as the content. “This is just depressing… I love the GLA but this ad just made it seem like it’s for broken families and cheaters! Weird!” laments one viewer, strangely peppy.
Another seizes the chance to share a personal Mercedes-Benz GLA story. “My family bought a Mercedes-Benz GLA the year they came out. never had a car meant so much to us. she was black with the AMG package. her name was Carrie. she was everything we ever wanted,” the viewers begins, before describing the circumstances in which Carrie was lost.
“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,” vp of marketing Thiemer goes on.
“Realized in collaboration with our agency Antoni, ‘Grow Up’ is an unconventional campaign, which, in terms of its consistent digital focus and the mechanics of its content, does not immediately come across as advertising.”
Gustav Johansson directed all the videos, but this is really just the start. Over 100 moving-image sequences and 90 lifestyle/product images were filmed, featuring “stories of a new generation”—one the brand describes as “people caught between the coolness of adolescence and the squareness of adulthood who embody the attitude to life of the new compacts.”
Explore the campaign’s digital hub, which invites users to help “re-write life’s unwritten rules.” Digital executions across social platforms will contrast those rules with “new” interpretations, like people kissing in a car under the motto, “Grow up. Start a family.”
Creative agency: Antoni GmbH
Chief Creative Officer, Founder: André Kemper
Managing Partner, Founder: Dr. Tonio Kröger
Executive Creative Director: Matthias Schmidt, Martin Pross
Creative Director: Veit Moeller
Art Director: Sol Oh
Writer: Sebastian Lyman
Executive Producer: Mark Róta
Creative Director Digital: Thomas Heinz, Veit Moeller
Head of Digital Design: Nuno Marcelino
Production: Iconoclast Germany GmbH
Managing Director: Nils Schwemer, Nicolas Lhermitte
Director: Gustav Johansson
Executive Producer: Jan Dressler
Line Producer: Tim Augustin, Björn Krüger
Director of Photography: Niklas Johansson
Editing: Sam Ostrove, Cut+Run; Leila Sarraf, Trim
Colorist: Sofie Borup
Producer: Clare Movshon
Music (stories): Universal Music Publishing AB
Score Composer: Petter Winnberg, Adam Hagstrand, Petter Tarland
Written by: Petter Winnberg, Amanda Bergman
Artists: Petter Sebastian feat. MishCatt,
Petter Sebastian feat. El Pero Del Mar,
Petter Sebastian feat. Amanda Bergman,
Petter Sebastian feat. Kleerup
Music (anthem): Universal Music Publishing AB
Song: Let me try
Production (Stills): Iconoclast Germany GmbH
Executive Producer: Jan Dressler, Felix Mondino
Photographer: Alice Moitié
Online/Web Special: Pixelpark AG
Project Manager: Maximilian Burkert