Automakers gearing up for a Super Bowl spending spree

By Dan Carney

There was angst in some quarters last weekend when the New York Giants defeated the Green Bay Packers, ensuring that the reigning Super Bowl champions won’t be returning this year.

I don’t know what show Packers fans saw last year, but what most of us clearly remember is Volkswagen dealing its competitors a stunning blow with their “The Force” commercial featuring a pint-sized Darth Vader. And VW will most assuredly return to this year’s extravaganza.

Super Bowl commercials cost advertisers $3.5 million for 30 seconds of air time this year, according to industry trade publication AdWeek, and some of the epic car commercials will run 60 seconds. The contenders take the field against one another in pursuit of the glory that comes with victory before an expected viewing audience of 110 million.

VW heads a roster of car companies advertising during the big game, including Chrysler, whose incredible “Imported From Detroit” commercial with Eminem would have otherwise been the big winner, and Audi, whose“Green Police” spot was among the top 2010 spots from the game.

The champs from VW are confident in their new 60-second spot.

“Last year’s Super Bowl campaign was an overwhelming success for the brand,” noted Brian Thomas, VW’s General Manager of Brand Marketing. “We see this year’s Super Bowl as a great way to continue this success.”

Among the automakers hoping for a breakout performance this year are Chevrolet (and probably also Cadillac from GM), Honda, Acura, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus and Toyota. Any one of these companies would hope for a “The Force”-like victory.

GM is pulling out the stops to ensure it has this year’s talked-about commercial. The automaker has put together five spots this year, and it hasn’t even decided which five it will run, according to spokesman Pat Morrissey. Here’s hoping the company will steer clear of the sappy commercials it has tended to run in the past with its “Chevy Runs Deep” tagline.

Four of the commercials were created by GM’s ad agency, but the fifth will be crowdsourced from among more than 200 entries by amateur filmmakers. We can preview those spots at this website.

Volkswagen unleashed “The Force” online days before the game last year, so keep an eye out for a preview of that company’s spot.

Chevrolet introduced its Cruz compact car to the public with last year’s commercial — a model that contributed to Chevy reclaiming its spot as the top-selling car brand in the U.S. last year, said Morrissey.

Audi has advertised in the Super Bowl for five years, and over that time the company has achieved record sales, record brand strength and higher transaction prices, according to Scott Keogh, Audi’s chief marketing officer. Audi returns this year with a 60-second spot that highlights the LED headlights on the upcoming S7 model.

“The Super Bowl is unique in modern American advertising,” observed Steve Shannon, vice president of marketing for Hyundai. “It provides a huge audience and one that actually likes to watch the ads,” he said. “What could be better?”

Hyundai’s sister brand Kia will use supermodel Adriana Lima, rock legends Motley Crue and former UFC champion Chuck Liddell in their spot this year, said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing and communications for Kia.

“After last year’s game, online search activity for the Optima increased 700 percent while online consideration increased 255 percent, so we know it’s the marketing event of the year in terms of reaching a mass audience and capturing their attention,” Spraugue said.

It is that ongoing interaction with potential buyers that sets Super Bowl advertising apart from other commercials, explained Keogh.

“With Audi in the Super Bowl you get these secondary and tertiary benefits,” he said. “Afterward, we got two billion (web) impressions. Now with social media like Facebook and YouTube, you get a massive multiplier there. If we run this very same ad on CNBC in March, you will never get all that.”

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