With the Cheeseheads’ victory hangovers a fading memory and the legions of Steeler Nation having uttered their last “Wait ‘til next year,” attention now turns to another battle: the battle for this year’s most memorable automotive Super Bowl commercial. As promised, we’ve gone through and analyzed the spots from each of the car companies who fronted the millions to make their voices heard. Here are our 10 faves.
Volkswagen, “The Force”
Put off though we may be by the new 2012 Volkswagen Passat, what with its having been bulked-up, dumbed-down and decontented for American tastes and budgets, we (and seemingly every ad industry analyst in the land) can’t help but love this spot. Sure, VW and its agency had to pay George Lucas a king’s ransom, but you can’t put a price tag on the amount of positive buzz created by this cute, clever and sincere ad.
Chrysler, “Imported from Detroit”
Moving from the sweet to the serious, Chrysler scored the other field goal of the night with this jaw-dropping two-minute(!) opus hawking the new 200, which is a decent revamp of the wretched Sebring. Motown’s prodigal son Eminem delivers a heartfelt and impassioned soliloquy that basically says Detroit may be a town that’s bloodied and on the mat, but it’s still got plenty of fight left. We and many other gearheads would have preferred the also new 300 be used, but then the tagline wouldn’t really have worked, seeing as it’s made across the river in Canada.
Full disclosure time: We’re diesel owners and enthusiasts, so we want to see compression-ignition cars and light trucks succeed in this country. Sadly, forces like outdated yet strongly held public perception, price volatility relative to gasoline and a downright militant legislative climate have stunted its growth. BMW seeks to overcome all that with this funny yet informative advert showcasing the amazing 335d (The same engine is also offered in the X5.). Yeah, we’re okay with laughs at the expense of cars like our 28-year-old Mercedes-Benz diesel. Who saw that coming?
Mercedes-Benz, “Welcome to the Family”
Speaking of Benzes from before we were born, a whole army of cars wearing the Three-Pointed Star starred in this very impressive ad. (If you don’t recognize it, this is the Web-only extended version.) While the build-up is long, it’s fun to see how many models you recognize before the warehouse doors open to reveal a quartet of new models: the SLK, the CLS, and two models that haven’t yet been officially seen anywhere else, the C-Class Coupe and the SLS AMG Roadster. Quibbles? We would have liked to have seen a W123 or W126 diesel prominently featured (There’s that bias again…), and the bit with Diddy at the end was unoriginal and unnecessary (though we have to give him props for being a part of something so humorous).
Hyundai, “Anachronistic City”
Often times, being the first on your block to have something isn’t always the smartest strategy. Late adapters typically reap the benefits of improved reliability, more features, and even lower prices. Hyundai seeks to drive the point home with this whimsical ad touting the Sonata Hybrid. Cyclists racing Pennyfarthings and coffee shop patrons tapping away on their typewriters is funny and draws viewers in and holds them until the payoff/punchline.
Who among us hasn’t floated an idea for a car commercial? Chevrolet’s ad agency took that one step further by having one fellow and his friend go back and forth, developing their own spot for the Camaro as they go along. The kicker? Their banter is accompanied by matching visuals, ranging from an old stakebed truck (Chevy, of course) hauling hay through the city to a gaggle of schoolchildren greeting their (secret agent?) teacher.
Audi, “Release the Hounds”
Audi has been lobbing proverbial bricks through the proverbial windows of the more veteran luxury nameplates for a few years now, but now Ingolstadt has taken it to another level by accusing drivers of “old luxury” nameplates of being prisoners of their favorite brands and their associated trappings. Two would-be escapees from Luxury Prison have to brave a gauntlet of escape countermeasures, ranging from (not-very-)ferocious Afghans to the mellow tones of Kenny G. But only one will successfully break out of his opulent funk.
Bridgestone, “Reply All”
Yeah, we know Bridgestone doesn’t make cars, but they do make things that cars need, so we say it’s fair game. Anyhoo, have you ever hit “reply all” on an e-mail when you really just wanted to hit “reply?” Like really, really just wanted to hit “reply?” This ad suggests that you can be confident in Bridgestone tire’s grip and durability when attempting to, uh, “un-reply all,” even when it isn’t necessary.
Kia, “One Epic Ride”
Over the years, the Super Bowl broadcast has been home to some truly epic advertisements. Kia has tried to craft the most epic of all by infusing it with…epicness. Evil genius? Check. A god from antiquity? Check. Aliens? Check. Mayans? Of course. Yeah it’s a bit discordant, over-the-top, and doesn’t really dwell on the Optima much, but it deserves credit for being a serious feast for the eyes and ears.
Every once and a while, a commercial comes along that makes you absolutely hate yourself for liking. In our case, this advert for the Chevrolet Cruze has managed to burrow its way under our cynical, romantically-challenged skin. A sweet, simple, and believable demonstration of one of the cars many clever gizmos. Funny may sell come Super Bowl time, but this works pretty well too.