Super Bowl XLIV: Which automotive manufacturer got it done?

The sentimental favorites won the Super Bowl…at least the football game part.

Generally speaking I thought the advertising game within the game was just OK, not great.  Within the automotive segment, six manufacturers stepped up for the Super Bowl:

As I said in an earlier post, the tough part about advertising in the Super Bowl is that while the football game is the primary draw, the advertising contest comes in a close second.  As an advertiser you have to be willing to do work that will stand out and entertain because the very next day the “results” of the ad contest will be published in USAToday.

I always watch the Super Bowl hoping that one or more of the automobile manufacturers will break out of the category mold and amaze us.  Here’s my take on the automotive commercials, from best to worst:  

I think Audi was the automotive standout this year.  A lot of industry veterans would have lined up to say that advertising a diesel on the Super Bowl was a waste of money because Americans don’t like diesel. As they have done for the last year, Audi takes on America’s perception of diesel.  Audi recognized that Americans are interested in being environmentally responsible but at the same time find the “green movement” a bit over the top.  The “Green Police” was a nice idea with enough oomph to do well in the ad contest.

Volkswagen’s “Punch Dub” commercial was the second best automotive entry. While it was a little bit more of a traditional car commercial, I thought it was fun to watch and did a nice job of illustrating the breadth of the VW product line with the warmth and humanness that we’ve come to expect from VW.  The Stevie Wonder ending was a master stroke.

I know that Hyundai’s ads introducing the new Sonata will be criticized by the advertising industry as “expected.”  Despite being more traditional category commercials, I think that they did a good job of making specific points that communicated an overall sense of quality engineering.  Better quality paint than Mercedes-Benz and the idea that the car is “handmade”   spoke to quality while the film itself made the product look terrific.  These ads won’t win any advertising awards, nor did they do well in the ad contest, but they got their message across and the product looked great.

The Dodge Charger commercial was certainly a departure from the category norm, particularly for Detroit. Some have said that they thought advertising the Dodge Charger (high performance/in-efficient) seemed out-of-step with current societal sensibilities. Perhaps, but I was left wondering if the notion of the “hen-pecked” male was even more out-of-step.  I hope that there is a segment of the male population who will identify with this commercial and go buy a Dodge Charger to affirm their manhood.

I sincerely hope that Kia’s execution appeals to young families as intended. While entertaining, I found the commercial silly and didn’t learn anything.

Honda’s ad for the Crosstour seemed forced, although I got the point that it offered a a level of utility in a sporty package.

Overall, my take is that VW, Audi and Hyundai made good use of their Superbowl investment, the others did not.

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6 Responses to “Super Bowl XLIV: Which automotive manufacturer got it done?”

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  3. Kim Serota says:

    I would give the nod to our friends at Volkswagen. The bit with Stevie Wonder punching Tracy Morgan and going “Red one” was the perfect clever ending to a well crafted inventory review. However, I think you guys are giving Audi too much credit. Advertising the TDI is a good idea but the car was nearly missing in action. My Management Strategy students at Oakland University described the “Green Police” commercial in one word: “Huh?”

  4. Fran Kelly says:

    I think you’ve ranked the creative performances correctly. Audi has as strong a lineup of cars as any brand today and their marketing is fresh and smart, just like the cars. Hyundai has come farther as a brand over the past two years than any other. They are becoming a high quality value brand, like a Target or Jet Blue. The VW spot was fun and pulled all of their strong models together for the first time in years. It is too bad only one American model had the confidence to climb up on the Super Bowl stage this year. Detroit is making better cars. It will need even better marketing to reconnect with American drivers, especially the all important under 35 segment.

  5. Cameron says:

    I agree that they could have done a little more with the car but all in all it was a job well done. I do feel as if they missed the opportunity to hammer home a factoid like 30% better MPG. American’s need to be “sold” on the advantages of diesel and while I do believe that Audi has done more than anyone else to promote diesel, we’re a long way as a country from appreciating its benefits.

  6. Jeff Ford says:

    I agree on the Audi “Green Police” call, acknowledging a bias, of course! Not quite enough register the car itself, though. So happy to see someone with the courage to promote diesel as green, and on the Super Bowl! First, diesel as perrformance, and now, diesel as green. Excellent analysis, Cameron.

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