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Mercedes-Benz has struck gold

Mercedes-Benz has struck gold with "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," the Nicolas Cage action-adventure that opens December 21.

Two of the automaker's models were used in high-profile chase scenes for the Disney sequel, and the company did not have to pay anything for the exposure. By contrast, General Motors spent millions on TV spots and other media to support its vehicles' starring roles in "Transformers" during the summer.

Mercedes' newly designed 2008 C-Class sedan, which went on sale in the U.S. in August, is featured in the film's main chase scene, with Nicolas Cage behind the wheel. Its GL-Class SUV is used in a Washington chase scene. Combined, Mercedes believes its vehicles will get screen time of five to seven minutes.

Lisa Holladay, manager of brand experience marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA, said the integration stemmed from the automaker's long-term relationship with the film's producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, who owns several Mercedes vehicles.

However, once Mercedes saw footage of its vehicles in the film at an early screening, it decided to sponsor a game on the "National Treasure" Web site titled "The World's Biggest Treasure Hunt" and to provide the game's grand prize, a C-Class sports sedan signed by Bruckheimer and Cage. It also signed on to sponsor the film's New York premiere Thursday, providing Mercedes vehicles to transport the talent.

Mercedes also paid the costs of transporting and outfitting six C-Class and two GL-Class vehicles for filming -- all eight of which were destroyed during production.

"When we did see the placement -- which is really what we call 'hero placement' of the vehicle because the placement is so good -- we decided to go forward with a full-scale marketing activation program against the movie," Holladay said.

Holladay declined comment on how much Mercedes is spending on its online game and other sponsorships but it is believed to be far less than what most major promotional partners spend on TV ads and other marketing support for tentpole films. Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films also declined comment.

By Gail Schiller

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter


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