Superbowl 2011: The Year of the Car

Super Bowl XLV

The Volkswagen Passat ad was one of the most popular from Super Bowl XLV (Hulu). At least from my perspective, this year’s Super Bowl ads made automakers look good, for the most part. And at $3 million per 30-second spot, they really ought to.

All the rage this year was linking digital media and other social initiatives to the TV ads to boost the results and amortize the costs of the ads. It is, after all, far less expensive to invest in these channels than in the TV ad itself. Facebook integration into the ads was good and while Twitter saw less action from the advertisers themselves, there was no lack of commentary on the ads while the game was on. Ad Age estimated that 59 percent of viewers sent an e-mail or text about the game, 18 percent checked out ads online from their phones, 18 percent visited advertisers’ websites, and 32 percent posted comments about the game on a social network. So, how did the auto guys do? You can judge for yourself but if you read the USA Today this morning, you may have been as completely shocked as I was to learn that the Doritos ad with the dog launching itself through the door was tied for the best ad along with the Bud Light commercial with the dogs playing servants at a party. According to the USA Today Ad Meter, VW’s Passat “Darth Vader” ad was the 3rd best ad of the night. Now that I get.

Creative Car Ads Highlight Audi and Chevy’s

This is the ad where two old-school money types are trying to escape their luxury prison. The guards try to slow their escape with music from Kenny G., highly groomed and unthreatening dogs, only to find two get-away car choices: a Mercedes and an Audi. The Mercedes is a trap, but one of the guys feels most comfortable in it, while the one who chooses the Audi gets away. Entertaining. Makes a point. Audi has been promoting via the Twitter hashtag progress for the past several days. There was no website integration but there was a bit of Tweeting on it last night and much love was directed toward Audi. Overall, the brand gets good marks for the spot and its digital effort.

Scott Keogh, CMO of Audi says, “You need television spots that are humorous and creative, that cause a conversation, that have some kind of cause or meaning behind it. The cause can only be sustained by social media.”

This spot revolves around a room of senior citizens watching the ad for the Chevy Cruze Eco. Except they are all hard of hearing, so continually misinterpret what is being said. I thought it was entertaining and remember “42 mpg,” as it was repeated over and over. Chevy was smart in extending the life of all its ads in that they had been posted on YouTube days before the game. Chevy also had a big area dedicated to the big game ads on its homepage.

Chevy Silverado HD
Grade: B-

“Tommy is stuck in a well!”… among other things. In this take-off from the classic film plotline of Lassie’s “Timmy Down the Well,” Chevy looked to show off the capabilities of its heavy-duty trucks. I was in a room of people with an average age of 40 but only two people got the Lassie connection.

Hyundai Elantra: Hypnotized
Grade: C-

“Have we been trained to think compact cars are good enough?” This was not Hyundai’s best effort. Good integration with its Facebook page though, with a section dedicated to the big game. The site also pointed to the ads and a link to vote for your favorite via Facebook. In this case, Hyundai’s actions off the big screen were far better than what it aired on it.

Kia Optima
Grade: B-

This action-movie ad depicted crazy James Bond-like stunt scenes with everyone from the wealthy, to the aliens, to the Aztecs going to extraordinary lengths to capture a Kia Optima. It sure is a departure from the brand’s campy Paul Frank-inspired ads, as well as the Hamster ad that has gotten it so much positive buzz. This spot was well done and certainly entertaining, even if it was borderline ridiculous.

Chevy Volt: Extended Range
Grade: B+

In this ad, Chevy did a good job of connecting innovation to its product, and in a way that spoke to the innovative spirit of Americans. Touching on our heritage in areas from science to rock and roll, it was all very Chevy-like and well done.

Grade: B

Touting its “American-ness,” with a plant in South Carolina and a design studio in California, BMW played up the fact that while others were getting bailed out, it was digging in. That every X3 in the world comes from the U.S. is not inspiring stuff, but it did help to connect BMW to the fabric of America.