• Retrospective on an advertising message.

Remnants of the past.

The S-Class from Mercedes-Benz has a reputation for combining cutting-edge technology with exceptional reliability and an abundance of safety features. Fittingly, the slogan used by the Stuttgart-based company in the early days was "Mercedes-Benz – engineered like no other car in the world." The company's unique history can be traced by means of advertisements which provide authentic glimpses into the past. Carl Benz was actually no great friend of advertising, for which the more genteel term "business recommendation" was used at the time.

1888: Carl Benz placed the world's first advertisement for an automobile, to promote his Patent Motor Car.

He held the view that the quality of a product should speak for itself. He nevertheless placed the world’s first advertisement for an automobile in 1888, to promote his Patent Motor Car.

For stylish moments - or racing victories.

An enduring philosophy.

The emphasis was now persistently on “goodwill advertising” as a trust-building exercise. The initial literature included claims such as “Absolutely safe”, “No special operating skills required” or “Always ready for service”. The battle to secure recognition and to assert the company’s credo in the face of the prevailing competition were leitmotifs running through the advertising campaigns of the time.

Some advertisements merely unassumingly stated the company’s name, while others were headed by claims such as the “peak of perfection”. Some examples presented orthodox graphics and conventional motifs, while others were altogether more bold and experimental. Advertising by Mercedes-Benz was generally serious in character, however.

Changing with the times.

It was not until the mid-1950s that the advertising acquired a more systematic, clearer and more modern character. "There is a long and rich tradition of advertising for the S-Class from Mercedes-Benz," explains Michael Bock, head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. "The term 'S-Class' was officially launched 40 years ago in 1972, with the 116 model series. But the ancestral line’s roots actually extend much further back – to the origins of the Mercedes brand at the beginning of the 20th century." The automobile increasingly came to predominate the advertisements as an object of desire. No other consumer product was a match for the car’s special lure and prestige value.

The S-Class in the style of the 1950s.

The automobile industry’s ascent to a leading position in the space of a few decades was also attributable in no small part to the strategies adopted by the advertising sector. Then, as now, every claim by Mercedes-Benz in the advertisements ultimately adds up to “The best or nothing”.

A trip back in time: Advertising for the S-Class.