In the older days, people had to cross natural barriers like mountains for survival purposes. Grains from one side of the mountain was traded with cloth from the other side, for example. Today, we trade images and visual information overload has taken the place of the the mountain.

One can imagine this trading trips our ancestors made could be tough endeavors. Dangerous slopes and treacherous wheather conditions can take their toll, up in the mountains. Not to speak of the physical challenge of to climbing a mountain, packed with trading goods. New technologies like tunnels, cars and helicopters made it possible to skip the long climbs that take a strain on your body and mountain climbing as a bare necessity died out, to make place for mountain climbing as a recreational activity.

Not coincidental, this went hand-in-hand with a newly achieved appreciation of nature in the 18th and 19th century. It where the artists who where at the forefront of this movement. We need only recall the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) here.

Who ever engaged in mountain climbing in the Alps, knows that at the tops of most mountains they keep log books, called summit books (In German: gipfelbücher) that people sign once they've climbed the top. Usually people write some short remarks about their climb, the whether conditions and of course the magnificent view; that’s what it’s all about!

Advertising agency BBDO Stuttgart (Germany) used this tradition to promote the extreme off-road ability of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class car series using a clever guerilla-style take on biomimicmarketing: the usage of images of nature to market products or services. On their invitation, an all-terrain team of copywriters, art directors and illustrators left the well-trodden communication paths and climbed to the peaks to immortalise this car series with artistic, hand drawn ads to prove: the G-Class goes further.

From left to right: Feldhorn (2.037 meters): ‘First!’,

Großer Widderstein (2.533 meters): ‘Great parking spot!’,

Mutterkopf (2.368 meters): ‘Nice view, excellent road!’

As climbing is very popular in germany and every climber looks into the summit book, the campaign resulted in 190 test drives at Mercedes-Benz dealerships within just a few days. Photos of the advertisements appeared in several climbers blogs, at and in local dailies. This high altitude campaign resulted in almost 200 test drives for Mercedes.

Ironically, it takes an important player in the automotive industry to remind us that our natural environment has been largely replaced by a world of design: the main reason we can afford to go mountain climbing as a leisure activity and appreciate the sublime qualities of a good mountain view (like in this advertisement) is the emergence of transportation tools – like the car!

Mercedes-Benz / Caspar David Friedrichs infotizement by Hendrik-Jan Grievink

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  • Wow, that’s a story. Thanks for sharing.

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  • This reminds me of the Lolo Trail in northern Idaho in the US. First it was a trade route across the Bitterroot mountains, for the native cultures on both sides. Then it was the route Lewis and Clark took on their voyage of discovery to the Pacific northwest. Then it was the escape route for the Nez Perce indians during the Nez Perce war. Then, a hundred years later, it was where Japanese American citizens imprisoned during WWII were 'volunteered' to build a paved highway through the valleys of the pass (google for 'kooskia camp project'). And now, there's a path for off-road vehicles to follow the old trade route across the top of the mountains. Too much irony to bear.

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