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Marty’s Marketing Minutia – Super Bowl Edition

Gridiron gridlock as 8 brands vie for a nation's attention.

by on Feb.04, 2011

Chevy hopes for some volcanic results from its Silverado Tommy Super Bowl ad.

Sunday, over 100 million viewers will turn their dials to Fox for the 45th broadcast of the Super Bowl, America’s annual homage to the NFL — and new commercials.  Auto advertisers are showing muscle on the annual broadcast, each kicking in at least $3 million per :30-second commercial (a record $100,000 per second!) — plus at least a million or two million bucks more for production, music and talent.

It will be gridlock on the gridiron, with Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, VW and Suzuki — along with auto sector players CarMax, and Bridgestone — popping for big bucks to convince, persuade, motivate millions to visit their dealers’ showrooms.  And don’t forget other makers, like Ford, who will establish a presence on the pre- and post-game shows or by targeting regional outlets, rather than network buys.  The real winner is Fox, with ad sales estimated to reach $280 to $300 million for XLV.

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History has shown, and research has proven, most American’s love Super Bowl commercials, it’s a significant part of the event’s entertainment and for some who really don’t like football, commercials become the event itself. But a commercial has to meet the rigorous Super Bowl standards of excellence and quality in every element and detail of the commercial; to start with, it must be entertaining.

(For another take on Super Bowl’s sundary auto ads, Click Here.)

Running just a regular product or service commercial is, many ad experts and media mavens believe, a total waste of money no matter the ad category. These non-entertaining commercials, other than the game itself are often the perfect time to take a bathroom break or grab a cool one.  There are just too many car commercials which I believe will confuse more than convince as the game goes on.

Which brings us to the car commercials which will appear during the Super Bowl XLV; historically auto commercials likeability has not been high and that’s not good news.  According to Ace Metrix, auto commercials did not rank in the top 5 commercials, even the top 10 commercials in last year’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLIV. In fact, they were in the last quartile. To refresh your memory here’s last year’s ranking of all auto ads with some rather surprising rankings from Ad Metrix.

Rank & Company Product Ad Title Ace Score
1 Audi AG Audi Green Car 550
2 Volkswagen Group Inc VW SB 10: Punching Game 546
2 Kia Motors America Kia SB 10: Joyride 546
3 Chrysler Group LLC Dodge SB 10: Man’s Last Stand 524
4 Hyundai Motor America Hyundai Full Line SB 10: 10 Years Strong – Featuring Brett Favre 501
5 Hyundai Motor America Hyundai Sonata SB 10: Built By Hand 498
6 General Motors Co Chevrolet Full Line Cars Are Put Through Real World Paces 481
7 Hyundai Motor America Hyundai Sonata SB 10: Painted Hyundai Sonata 463
8 American Honda Motor Co Inc Honda Accord Crosstour SB 10: Accord Crosstour 2010 463

Source: Ace Metrix 2011

In my hypothetical Super Bowl Commercials Hall of Fame, there are no car commercials. Try as I might, I was unable to recall some – hell any — really good entertaining car commercials over the past 45 years – and I’ve seen 44 of ‘em. Yet there are other categories whose commercials are evergreen and memorable, like Coke’s Mean Joe Green and, of course, the iconic “1984” Apple commercial that launched the Mac brand.

Will this year be any different? That depends, so my answer is yes and no. A few brands have released previews which I’ve viewed but have not seen all. Result? What follows is freewheeling punditry with predictions of consumer reactions based on one to four faces like these:


VW has premature commercialization

The brand that has had some truly great advertising will premiere two :30 second spots during the 2nd and 4th quarters showing two new cars months before they go on sale.  Odd timing, but the Beatle spot is unique and entertaining and the Passat’s is probably going to really resonate and entertain viewers. Prediction:

Chevy is counting on numbers to convince

Five Chevrolet commercials are running, one each for Camaro, Cruze, Silverado HD and Volt will run pre, during and post game.  This is a potpourri of commercials, some rather entertaining, some not. Prediction:

Hyundai is hoping for hit

Hyundai has three new commercials this year. Two are part of a campaign that was teased during the AFC Championship game for the Elantra, the third for new Sonata Hybrid. They’re all good campaign ads, but will they entertain as the Bret Farve spot did last year? Prediction

Kia’s been on a fun roll

Last year’s spot was tied for second in the chart above. The brand is having fun with its image and, along the way, is seriously selling more cars. Their commercials are individually entertaining and establish a strong brand likeability in the overall campaign. Prediction:  

Audi’s been audacious and ambitious

Audi’s Super Bowl ads have created lots of buzz on many levels including their positioning of the brand’s quality and luxury in distinctive commercials that stand alone in the prestige auto category. The road seldom traveled seems to be right for them as the numbers indicate. A top finisher again.

Mercedes is new to the big game

MB is certainly not a stranger to creating an attitude and reputation of fashion, style and exclusiveness in its commercials but will this be entertaining, involving and believable? Their pre-bowl Twitter campaign has gotten lots of hits. We’ll just have to wait til the game to find out. Prediction:

BMW may be boring

If last year’s Olympic Game commercials — remember the Joy campaign — is an example of fun and entertainment, then even with a new agency I don’t expect the ultimate driving machine brand to have the ultimate Super Bowl commercial. But I could be wrong. Prediction:

Suzuki is spending seriously

There’s no better place to launch a brand to millions of consumers but this is truly an unexpected entry to the Super Bowl world of high-sakes carvertising. This could be interesting. It’s a big investment for a company which has always had a limited ad budget. Will they be risky? Bold or cautious? Wait and watch. Prediction:


Another unknown but new advertising has an edge. Prediction:

At the appropriate time next Sunday sit back, chill-out, cheer for your favorite team and become an ad critic. For those really obsessed with commercials Ace Metrix will be live tweeting some of the Ace Scores and insights during the game on Sunday, follow @ace_metrix to get the breaking Ace Scores.  And I’ll be back late Monday with the actual results from their studies and analysis. So stay tuned.

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