On Tuesday, August 14, Erich Merkle, U.S. Sales Analyst for…
Chris Baccus and I are back with what will be our final analysis of the auto ads found in the world’s most watched football game. Now that other outlets are covering car companies’ use of major advertising dollars, we’re going to bow out on a high note and a round number.
As mentioned in our teaser post, Chris was the first person I ever collaborated with on Be Car Chic. Just a few months after the site launched, we covered the first Super Bowl automotive ads together in 2010. His marketing prowess and my ability to have an opinion on just about anything has made for what we believe is an honest, 360-view of the ads automotive brands have spent millions on for the Big Game.
Please enjoy our account of each ad from the automobile manufacturers below. We’d love to hear your feedback as well in the comments!
BMW i3 – Newfangled Idea featuring Katie Couric and Bryant Gumble
MB: The scene opens in 1994 with Katie Couric and Bryant Gumble asking producers on The Today Show “What is the Internet?”. Fast forward 21 years and Katie and Bryant are riding in the all-electric BMW i3. They even call up “Allison” and ask her “What is i3?” BMW does well to connect the confusion of the emerging “www” technology two decades ago and the confusion people have with electric vehicles today. Perhaps BMW is predicting that, in a few decades, EV’s will be as ubiquitous and familiar in our everyday lives as the Internet.
CB: I’ve watched the Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel What’s the Internet segment from the Today Show more times than I care to admit in public. It’s classic and a great reminder of how disruptive things are when we first experience them. BMW uses this historic TV moment to their advantage in the selling of the electric car to the general population. It’s a smart reference that works and the first laugh of any ad early in the game, even the twerk reference was well placed.
2016 Kia Sorento “The Perfect Getaway” starring Pierce Brosnan
MB: I love the back and forth between Brosnan and the ad guy in this commercial. It’s funny because it shows how eager he is to be in a James Bond role again, yet plays on the audience’s desire to see him in that role on the silver screen again, too.
CB: Big movie celebrity Pierce Brosnan, thinks he is being pitched a film, but it’s just a simple Super Bowl commercial. I think you have to be a huge Brosnan fan to really love this ad. It’s likeable, but nothing really stands out. An early ad from mobile gaming company Clash of Titans used Liam Neeson in a way that showcased how to use a blockbuster star better.
Mercedes-Benz animated ad “Fable”
MB: It’s definitely different to see an animated commercial from a luxury brand touting an uber luxury sports car. I like it when the tortoise says “Plot twist” and then gets into the 2016 AMG GT S. It is fun, light-hearted and the car captures everyone’s attention.
CB: Mercedes arrived with a highly animated, big production commercial near the end of the game. They must have expected a solid game and it was to the very end. Of course the AMG GT is an amazing, showstopper car and by the reaction in our house its looks grabbed everyone’s attention.
Nissan “With Dad” featuring a sneak peek at the all-new Maxima
MB: Nissan does well to tell a story in its 90-second spot and to a song that consists of a strong, emotional story as well. At the end, the Dad – a racecar driver – gives up his dream to spend time with family. Naturally, he picks up his teenage son in a family-man sedan, but not just any boring four-door. Did you see how good the new Maxima looks?
CB: Nissan’s first Super Bowl ad in 18 years featured Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle”-one of my favorite songs growing up. Love the message of the dangers of racing but the safety the vehicles provide. It’s a heartfelt ad showing a family through the years. It’s sweet and leaves everyone feeling good. Way to make racing appealing to dads, moms and kids. Many most likely missed this nuance, but the ad revealed the new Maxima at the end. This spot was the best NEW automotive ad of the night.
Lexus NX “Make Some Noise”
MB: This ad didn’t stand out for me more than a regular TV ad. Why spend the money to have it in the Super Bowl? I think the Lexus NX is one of the best-looking, most exciting compact SUVs out there; this commercial didn’t do it justice. The ad could have been on TV five years ago and been edgy, but today, it just didn’t feature the car in a way that made a strong connection with the audience.
CB: The all-new Lexus NX is a stunning crossover on the road. The Super Bowl ad tried to capture the exciting lines and energetic angles and in many ways the ad does just that. Unfortunately, it wasn’t memorable in a sea of ads with big celebrities and attempts at humor.
Lexus RC 350 “Let’s Play: Precision Drifting”
MB: I like the play on “RC” for all of us who loved remote control cars, and Nintendo’s R.C. PRO-AM, as kids. (I could never do anything like that with my RC car – at least not on purpose!) Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear that there was a guy doing the stunts with an RC car until the very end of the commercial. I would have liked to have made the connection sooner so that people could appreciate his talent.
CB: Anything with remote control cars is a win in my book, but for Super Bowl it didn’t really have the impact it was attempting. Good ad, but not super.
Toyota’s #OneBoldChoice Ads
“How Great I Am” with Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy
MB: To the voice of Muhammad Ali, Toyota shows U.S. paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy, who is clearly extremely talented, determined and beautiful on the inside and outside. I liked this feel-good ad from Toyota, but I felt Purdy’s story was more memorable than the car.
CB: Add snowboarder Amy Purdy, Muhammad Ali’s voice, and finish with bold campaign language. The redesign inspired a different kind of Super Bowl ad from the #1 selling car in America. Unfortunately, like a lot of car ads the spot didn’t have the ingredients of a killer Super Bowl ad even if it was a good ad for the Camry.
“My Bold Dad”
MB: This is a tearjerker not starring a cuddly, furry friend. Dads were definitely trending, but not in the way they usually are – bumbling around incapable of doing anything right. Dads were cool this year; they were responsible, caring and loving, which was a nice departure from the humor we’ve seen before.
CB: Being a dad is a big theme this year. Storytelling of father and child was something Nissan brought and Dove too. Dads finally outnumbered puppies for the first time ever in Super Bowl advertisements. The Bold Camry with a daughter leaving for her Military Service is a big bold message for a drop-off at the airport.
2015 Jeep Renegade “Beautiful Lands”
MB: I love how this ad showcases the world that we live in and how we, as humans, have more in common than we do differences. Having recently spent a month traveling in Asia, I enjoyed seeing some of the places I visited. The challenge for Jeep, however, is that it’s very similar to an ad that The North Face aired in October of 2014. See here. Outside of that, I thought it was a well-done spot.
CB: I’ll ignore the possible copycat of a North Face ad. Moving away from the America pride ads of previous years, the newly named Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) goes with a global celebration of driving the world in a Jeep. Oddly they do it using a poor song choice about the grandeur of America, “This Land Is Your Land.” It’s a beautifully shot ad for sure, but it lacks the connection of prior big image, big messages of Chrysler and Dodge Super Bowl ads over the years. Feels like Jeep got short changed on this attempt of emotional connection. The end tagline also needs some clarity. It’s not memorable: “The World is a Gift. Play Responsibly”
Dodge Challenger Hellcat “Widsom” | #DodgeWisdom
MB: Does it get any cooler than centenarians talking about the lessons they’ve learned in life and then – BOOM – in comes the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. This was my favorite ad of the game.
CB: The first half of this commercial kept you guessing who was the marketer. Dodge mixes it up with a message about learning from our elders. It was an interesting spot that I guess was trying to find some connection to their current campaign that reaches back to the Dodge brothers; though, no mention of the brothers. There was just a nod to the experience age gives us, perhaps that’s what they were going for.
Chevrolet Colorado 4G LTE “TV Blackout” tricks all of us
MB: Most brilliant ad was the one that Chevrolet used to highlight its 4G LTE service in its vehicles. The picture cut out as though your TV went blank, and then the phrase – in white letters – “What if your TV went out?” came on screen. Chevy cleverly says “You could stream it in your Colorado”. This one’s impact isn’t going to be the same watching it online versus in real-time, but definitely clever. Kudos to the ad agency who came up with this one.
CB: Chevy got everyone’s attention right as the game started. Faking a cable outage didn’t really win a lot of fans. Many shared on Twitter how ticked off they were at the brand. On the other hand it was an attention getter that made you sit up and wonder what was going on. Score one for Chevy for getting everyone’s attention.
FCA Fiat 500x “Blue Pill” | #500X
MB: Hilariously European as always, Fiat introduces its new, “bigger, stronger and ready-for-action” 500x in a way that – let’s say – probably resonates with the majority of Super Bowl viewers. It’s also a bit of a play on the ubiquity of male enhancement drug ads aired during regular sports programming.
CB: I watched this ad probably too much back in November 2014 when someone shared it with me on YouTube. It’s no doubt one of the best car ads of the game. It’s apparently never aired on TV until the game. Talk about build up. Most brands pre-release a week ahead of time, not 3 months!
Honda’s #FitforYou narrated by QuestLove
MB: As an orchestra nerd, I loved how this featured an upright bass fitting into the Fit. I’m sure our friend and auto critic, Cello Mom on Cars, also enjoyed this! I like how Honda positioned this car for a younger demographic, perhaps one that you wouldn’t normally think would be interested in this compact car.
CB: Fairly normal ad for a small car showing you can “fit” more than you think in a compact car. It’s been done quite a bit in this segment. Adding QuestLove to narrate lifts it beyond the typical car ad. The tone and look definitely fits the target millennial audience the car does relate to. Unfortunately, like a lot of car ads this year it failed to stand out when everyone is paying attention.
2016 Mazda CX-5 starring magicians Penn & Teller
MB: I found this ad to be a bit cheesy. Plus, why aren’t they featuring the awesomely adorable new CX-3?
CB: I can pretty much tell how this ad came to be. The agency showed up with a Vegas Penn and Teller theme and probably some comedic ways to integrate them into the ad. Some marketing manager saw and likely said, it needs more product in it. So the original, likely better ad, went into the trash can and instead we got this watered down product heavy ad. Oh well, it tried.
About my SB partner in crime…
As an executive director of Digital at communications agency Golin in Los Angeles, Chris Baccus drives digital and social media strategy for a variety of clients including Toyota, Nintendo, PetSmart and many others. He also spent several years in digital marketing for Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. His blog The Auto Marketing Blog has covered automotive campaigns since 2008. His latest endeavor is The Digital Strategy Quarterly focusing on long-form analysis of digital topics each quarter. Chris holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in English from Hillsdale College.
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