Mercedes Focuses Entire Super Bowl Ad Around Hey Mercedes Voice Assistant

BRET KINSELLA on February 4, 2019 at 11:12 am

Voice assistants in Super Bowl ads are not just for Amazon and Google anymore. Mercedes ran a one-minute ad for its new A-class sedan but the car didn’t appear until the final 16-seconds. When it did, you saw the car exterior and then the dashboard. However, only one feature was promoted: the Hey Mercedes voice assistant. The first 44-seconds were dedicated to a series of fantastical use cases where a man asks for things to happen out loud such as for a golfer to make a putt, to change a cross-walk signal status, to find a lost cat, and more. Then the man gets into his Mercedes, issues a few commands by voice and the car responds.

POSITIONING THE VOICE ASSISTANT AS A SUPER POWER

The 44-second lead up to the “Hey Mercedes” moment conceptually offers the idea that asking for things to be done and then having them happen is something out-of-the-ordinary. It’s presented as a power to will things to happen by simply speaking and asking for them to happen. That story culminates in the car, where the driver doesn’t have to push a single button or navigate an infotainment screen. He simply asks the Hey Mercedes assistant for the colors to change, to make the car cooler, and to play his favorite music. He seemingly wills the car to make changes by speaking. It’s a concept that depicts voice interaction as distinct from previous interfaces and super power-like.

CONSUMERS USE AUTOMAKER INSTALLED VOICE ASSISTANTS

Voicebot research conducted in collaboration with Voice of the Car Summit and Drivetime.fm found that half of U.S. adult car owners have used a voice assistant while driving. The two most common voice assistants used (both at 32%), were the installed voice assistant provided by the automaker and a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone-based assistant.

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Many of the voice assistants provided by automakers have historically been rudimentary in their capabilities and required users to employ a strict set of grammar and phrases to issue commands. Mercedes has attempted to get beyond those constraints by customizing a solution that leverages both Dragon Drive from Nuance and Houdify from SoundHound that enable natural language interactions and support a broader set of use cases. Mercedes drivers can also access Siri or Google Assistant using Bluetooth or Apple CarPlay and Android Auto respectively. However, those solutions will not enable drivers to control car features such as climate and cabin settings. “Hey Mercedes” is designed to address these in-car features as well as a wide variety of newer voice assistant use cases.

In order to raise awareness around Hey Mercedes features that set the auto brand apart, the company bought the most expensive ad space available. There were plenty of robot themes in Super Bowl ads this year and Amazon engendered the most pre-game hype around voice assistants with its humorous look at Alexa concepts that never made it to market. But, Mercedes showed that Super Bowl ads can focus on voice assistant capabilities even if there is not a smart speaker involved.

ARMANDO CERON