By on February 4, 2013

Today, ad agencies all over the country crunch numbers to prove to their clients that the outrageous amounts of money spent for production and media buys of Sunday’s Super Bowl ads were well spent. Too bad their clients already saw on TTAC which ads were shooting stars, and which were duds. Oh, and Mercedes did not run the car wash ad. They had something more devilish in store.

No doubt each agency will find the most fitting metric to prove that their ad was great. Edmunds has a handy and free metric that shows how well an ad resonates. They call it the “lift.” Edmunds watches your clicks as they are driven to the respective cars on the Edmunds website. It’s a seismograph for the impact an ad has. If the clicks signal a lot of lift, the ad works, as far as Edmunds is concerned. If the needle stays flat, that ad is a dud. Here is the play-by-play.

First Quarter
Make Model(s) Ad Q1
Audi S6 Prom 316%
Hyundai Santa Fe Team 738%
Toyota RAV4 Wish Granted 110%

Audi did the umpteenth rendition of boy goes to prom. But did mother ally say (at 00:10) “Nowadays, lots of people don’t wet themselves?” The ad created decent lift, not just in the pants. Too me, the best part is in the kiss-off.

Toyota’s riff on “Genie” provided decent, but not earth shattering  lift. The budget must have been horrendous.

With 738% lift, Hyundai’s “Team” spot is the clear winner of the first quarter. The ballpark bully theme also isn’t new, but it works.

Second Quarter
Make Model(s) Ad Lift
Hyundai Sonata Stuck 36%
Volkswagen Beetle Get Happy 0%
Lincoln MKZ Phoenix 0%

This was the quarter of the duds. Probably, some agencies called and asked to “pull the plug” – something that created unintended consequences after halftime.

Lincoln’s MKZ “Phoenix” ad did look and sound like a re-release. Zero lift. Toss it.

Volkswagen valiantly had tried to stir the pot . Last week, the PC posse obliged and screamed “racism” and “stereotyping.” It didn’t help the ad. Zero lift. The folks who wanted to be outraged probably had already seen it a hundred times on YouTube. (More than 8 million views for free, and according to Edmunds, for naught.)

Hyundai’s “stuck” ad, extolling the benefits of a turbo, provided little acceleration of viewership:  A mere 34% of non-lift.

Half Time
Make Quarter Ad Lift
Jeep Half Time Whole Again 3%

During half time, Fiat-Chrysler did what is has done for a year or so: Jump up and down, screaming “Porca Madonna! No, we aren’t Italians. We are Americans! Get it? Get it?” Nobody seems to be listening. The wrapped-in-the-flag Jeep ad turned into unexploded ordnance, a.k.a. a dud. 3% lift.

Third Quarter
Make Model(s) Ad Lift
Kia Forte Hot Bots 132%
Lincoln MKZ Steer the Script 156%

The third quarter may have been powerless in stretches, but the ads gained a little strength. Lincoln’s curated tweets ad, panned by TTAC’s Panther Guard, generated more lift than the ashes-to-ashes Phoenix. But it failed to hit the ball out of the park – or is that the wrong game?

Kia had a new rendition of “dumb guy meets smart and sexy girl”: Dumb guy meets smart and sexy robot. Provided similar lift as the curated tweets, at a much smaller budget.

Fourh Quarter
Make Model(s) Ad Lift
Ram  n/a Farmer 7%
Kia Sorento Space Babies 206%
Mercedes-Benz CLA Class Soul 3067%

In the 4th quarter, Fiat-Chrysler was still screaming  “Non siamo italiani! We are Americans! Really, here’s our Green Card.” Even a Paul Harvey could not convince the viewership: 7% lift, a dud.

Kia’s  quest for “Where do the babies come from” provided decent lift, 206%. Sex sells, and a little child pornography can’t hurt either, as long as it stays within the limits of admissible bad taste.

And here, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the winner: Advertising and Mercedes go to hell, and give the CLA a moon-shot boost of 3,067 percent. Our Managing Editor Derek Kreindler had rightly told you that the budget CLA is the work of the devil. For that, he has his balls tonsils removed today, suits him right. It’s car wash ad, Mercedes did not have to run. Waste of money. It already is all over YouTube.

And there you have it. Again, ads that work well in theory and the boardroom put people to sleep. Old themes are always good for a revisit. And sometimes, one has to make a pact with the devil.

O.K. agencies. Back to your storyboards. I see a lot of pitches coming up.

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47 Comments on “Monday Morning Quarterbacking: You Grade The Car Ads Of The Super Bowl...”


  • avatar
    mike978

    The problem with the Mercedes CLA ad is that it is advertising a car that is not available until September. So people will look at the MB website and register a hit at Edmunds, then find the car is 8 months away. They will the most likely drift to looking/buying another car. The hit this ad provided will have dissipated by September.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Ads are for brands as well as models. It not only pushes the CLA, but also opens up the possiblity of a Mercedes to people who would not have considered it before. Of course, it would be better to have the car already in showrooms, but consider it this way–would the Mercedes brand been better off not running the ad now and instead introducing it in the fall?

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Fair points. I just wonder if anyone waits for the CLA or spends more and buys a C class. When the car comes out this fall it would get free publicity with reviews, comparison tests etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Type57SC

      That makes the CLA ad simultaneously the best ad and worst ad decision of this year.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    I really don’t understand the point of paying someone like Kate Upton probably close to a million to be in an ad. Sure she’s attractive, but I’ve got to think you can’t swing a dead cat in LA and not hit an equally attractive woman who you could put in a car commercial for 10 grand. Yes, men like looking at hot women in car ads, but I don’t think we’re that particular as to which hot woman it is. Ali Landry was pretty much unknown before her Doritos ad and that didn’t adversely affect that ad.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    A brand-new, sub-$30k Mercedes sedan is a pretty good hook. There are a lot of people who are still sucked in by the caché of the three-pointed star and that price has just made it accessible to them. Even though the commercial itself wasn’t so memorable (none of them were), it was the most effective.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    For me, the Ram ad was the best. Paul Harvey – love him or not-so-much, he sure had a way with words. I guess it’s a generational thing.

    Whether God made a farmer to do all those things or not, the point was that we all need to be resilient and get the job done, whatever it may be, and not to expect too much from others. Kind of harkens back to “traditional values”, which is a thinly-veiled Bible morality that has seemingly fallen out of favor.

    What that had to do with trucks, I don’t know, but the ad was quite touching.

    For my money, though, the VW ad a couple of years ago with the mini-Darth Vader was the best of all time to me.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      But the ad failed, because it didn’t link the product to the story and most people would be unable to tell you what the ad was even for. If they had shot more of the scenes with the Dodge pickup in them, it may have been more effective.

      • 0 avatar
        Type57SC

        Does edmunds check Case New Holland traffic too? I’d add that to the Ram traffic points. It would have worked better as a Case ad, and perhaps will be used that way too.

      • 0 avatar
        Lumbergh21

        True, I was waiting through the commercial to find out if it was indeed the Chrysler commercial it smelled like. At least it was better than the Marshall Mathers commercial right after Fiat was handed Chrysler on a government platter.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    I thought the Ram ad was the best. The photography was very well done, and I think the whole Paul Harvey thing worked. The part that didn’t work was the final shot, a bling-ed out RAM sitting in front of the farm. Kind of counter acted the whole script about farmers hard work, sacrifice, yada yada. “Don’t get any mud on those twenty’s!”

  • avatar

    I thought the Audi, RAM Trucks and Volkswagen ads were, despite their artfulness, quite pointless. I particularly liked the Kia, Lincoln and Mercedes-Benz ads.

    And then I said, “Boy, Toyota is really trying its hardest to tout that ugly-as-sin RAV4″

  • avatar
    KixStart

    The marketing of the CLA may be questionable (timing, pricing for a Benz) but the “Pack with the Devil” ad was excellent, #1 for me in the car category. Maybe ironic, too, if we think “the Devil” is an allegory for “chasing volume at all cost.”

    I liked Hyundai’s “Team” ad for #2. The rest are all, to me, pretty much all tied for last. I’d like to thank Audi for reminding people why teens shouldn’t get expensive cars.

    Across all categories, I thought the Budweiser Clydesdale was far and away the best and GoDaddy’s ad the most sickening.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I suspect a big reason that the Mercedes ads resulted in so much more uptick was because it was a brand new model that relatively few had ever heard of. I only heard about it last week or so and I follow cars. Non-car people most likely had no idea this car was coming out. The other ads were for plain old boring cars that everyone already knows about. And the Chrysler ads were so obscure I wasn’t even sure at the end what they were promoting, and so long I doubt many stuck around to watch. And the Audi ad would have been way more impressive if the kid got to drive an R8, or even a TT. Wow, look at me, I got to drive my dads giant family sedan, I’m so cool. Only car geeks like us know what an S6 is.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    The only one that got my attention was the Budweiser Clydesdale ad.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Hated the Ram ad. Was waiting for the Cargill or ADM logo to pop up. Pure schmaltz. But not as bad as the MB ad, which may have generated a ton of hits – but I guarantee you none of them were the right customer. I’ve never seen a company take so much brand equity and blast it to smithereens so effectively before.

    On the other hand, the Koreans did pretty well in my book.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “Hated the Ram ad. Was waiting for the Cargill or ADM logo to pop up. Pure schmaltz.”

      Agree, it was co-sponsored by FFA, but I expected a Cargill or ADM logo to show up the whole time until I saw the blingy Ram grille toward the end. The ad fell flat for me and many others.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Looking back, the absolute best car ads always featured the worst cars. And when did sexual assault become tabu???

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    What’s with the masonic ring in the devil’s hand? Or am I reading too much into it?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I noticed this too, either it was just something quick by the props department (“get me some evil looking jewelry for thr shot”), or perhaps an inside joke by those in the know.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    My Spidey sense tells me that if the Ram commercial had replaced the word “God” with “Society” some douchebags that didn’t like it would be falling over themselves to be first to sing its praises.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    With the current financial situation the nation’s farmers are going through, I doubt they’ll have the money needed to buy the ever more expensive new breed of pickup trucks

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      Actually, many segments of agriculture are doing well right now. Row crop farmers are buying equipment beyond factory capacities. Waiting lists for large equipment are measured in months at the present time. Crop insurance and high commodity prices cushioned the blow of the dry summer and lower yields. Other segments of ag are feeling the pinch of the high commodity prices but slaughter prices are decent right now.

      Attend farm shows these days and you will see many of the new breed of pickups trucks, believe it or not.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    While a dud for most of America, the Ram ad was very effective for viewers in much of rural America. Effective if the viewers were able to get past their own intense truck brand loyalties, that is. I loved it.

    • 0 avatar
      cargogh

      You are correct. Out of 700 facebook friends, I saw this ad mentioned in posts around 15 times with several “likes” and comments. I didn’t see any for the other ads. Someone mentioned bling and 20s, but that is how they are bought in Kentucky. Plain old work trucks are rare, even if it takes a fire hose to blast the mud off the chrome to recognize the brand. Top of the line is what sells.

    • 0 avatar
      Luper

      “While a dud for most of America, the Ram ad was very effective for viewers in much of rural America.”

      That’s probably true. We discussed this ad at our weekly marketing department meeting this morning, and the point was indeed raised that it didn’t do a good job at promoting the RAM truck, but the consensus was that this probably wasn’t the goal–it was a brand play for RAM. So while it didn’t resonate with many TTAC readers, we have to admit that it could be because we are cynical seekers of ‘Truth’ when it comes to cars, not propaganda. But that doesn’t mean the ad wasn’t a huge success with RAM’s target market–Middle America. As for the lack of ‘lift’ on Edmunds, well…that issue might be more appropriate for a blog called ‘The Truth About Marketing’.

      • 0 avatar
        EquipmentJunkie

        I agree with the lack of effectiveness raising the Ram brand. My belief is that the ad was also meant to raise the corporate connection with Fiat-owned Case IH equipment brand with rural America, as well. Case IH owners, and the still proud International Harvester fans of 30+ years ago, go crazy when there is equipment painted something other than green & yellow featured in TV commercials. Fiat has realized in recent years that there is intense pickup-like brand loyalty among their customers who buy tractors and combines painted red.
        Interestingly enough, Ram recently has risen to market share leader in Class 4 trucks, according to data from Heavy Duty Trucking magazine. Ram has surpassed the Ford F450 & F550s in this class, which I think is notable.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    I like the MB ad the best as a total package – Sympathy for the Devil, William DaFoe (super creepy long fingernails…), the celeb cameos etc. Great shots of the car driving. Excellent.

    Liked the RAM truck ad too but maybe just because I am a Paul Harvey fan. Wasn’t easy to tell if the ad was for pickups or Case tractors (which is also controlled by Fiat). Note that lots of commentators keep referring to it as the “Dodge” truck ad – having missed the fact that Fiat set the pickups up as a separate brand easy to sell off if the hole thing circles the drain. Would have been a better ad if it was for the new Silverado with JD tractors…

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    I miss the old Citgo ad where a kid on a date using the family truckster gets some Citgo gas to keep the car from knocking (which he blames on his mom). The only thing better than turning up for a date in a wood paneled wagon (knocking or not) is hearing your date say ‘nice car.’ Pretty lame even for the late 80s.

  • avatar
    mistercopacetic

    My favorites:
    1) RAM Truck: “God made a farmer.” I sat up and listened to the whole ad. Perfect tone, presented product just the right way, heavy on sentiment but not blind jingoism. If I was in the market for a truck, I would think “these people get me.” They get me even though I don’t want to buy a truck and have never lived on a farm. Bravo.
    2) Hyundai Turbo: Lighthearted, fun. Power for safety, not performance, but they were able to communicate safety and performance in a funny way. I LOL’d.
    3) Audi S6 Prom: every red-blooded man knows the visceral yell that escapes when you downshift and punch the throttle on a powerful car–the moment when nothing else matters. It’s the only reason why you would buy a $70k family sedan. Also, gotta give points to an ad where the dad is not a total wanker.
    4) VW Beetle: what makes this ad work is the overall drab office, almost grayscale filter on lens. Everything is dark, beige, boring, even the people…except for our uniquely happy VW owner and his bright red VW (in a parking lot of gray). Also, props to VW, for doing extensive research with Jamaicans (100 people in a focus group?) to make sure the ad was not offensive, yet non-Jamaican PC police are insulted. Expertly executed for maximum buzz, well done.

    But the common element in all these ads: they can be tied back to the “brand.” RAM is for humans who need the right tool for the job. Hyundai is for the middle class, who want power because it can help with safety. Audi is for a wealthy father who wants his son to “have a good time” at prom (wink-wink). VW is for office drones who want something different and don’t care about mechanics/electrics/reliability/practicality/etc.

    Also, “De land o’ ten-tousan lakes! De go-fer state!”

    Worst:

    Jeep: One full minute of pablum before we even see the product, which doesn’t even tie the brand or product to the message of the ad. Very, very heavy handed. I think we can all appreciate the history of Jeep. But in the modern marketplace, product sells, not history. Guess again Jeep.

    Lincoln, both ads: I feel like one ad was aimed at men, the other aimed at women. Both failed. What is Lincoln? The brand of straight lines that through voodoo magic become curvy? The brand of stovepipe hats? The brand of serious engineering and luxury and 45mpg in birds? The brand of twee German hitchhiker desert alien alpaca weddings?

    Kia, both ads: Either go all CGI or go all live action. The blend is jarring.

    Mercedes: actually, I’m neutral on this one. Target market is people who want a Benz, don’t care if it is 1.8L FWD, as long as tons of hot chicks will chase you around (good luck with that when they already know it is the cheapest model). In the next 7 months before the car actually goes on sale, any woman vain enough to want a man who drives a Benz will know exactly what you paid for it, basically defeating the purpose of buying it in the first place.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “Target market is people who want a Benz, don’t care if it is 1.8L FWD, as long as tons of hot chicks will chase you around (good luck with that when they already know it is the cheapest model)”

      The target market should be women, and I don’t think trying to make it a man-car with this ad will work. Ask BMW with the (US version) 1-series.

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    In that Jeep ad, were they just giving the soldiers rides from the airport? The vehicles had some sort of Safe Ride Home logo on them. Gosh, thanks Jeep. These guys are fighting and dying halfway around the world, but don’t worry! Jeep’s protecting them from the middle eastern airport cabbies. I also take from the ad some USO involvement, but the ad didn’t detail or focus on that.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I enjoyed the Audi commercial, However I think the kid in badass mode should have been shown making a lunge at the other kid before the cut. He’s supposed to be inspired now right, because Audi has given him courage. When the Homecoming king’s coming at you meet the challenge “head on” just like the commercial invites you to meet the challenge of Audi.

    The RAM ad was nice and flowery but it fails to entice me to buy the product. Some may argue they hardly show the product but if you have watched US television for any length of time, you know what a Dodge truck looks like.

    The Lincoln ads were sad, esp the one not aimed at the fairer sex. You don’t start off with showing the modern epitome of Lincoln, the mid-90s Town Car, and then replacing it with the sad rounded thing called Zephyr (real cute zooming in a bit on the Zephyr so the size of the two appeared the same after the flame). Its a clear ten steps backward of the ’95 Town Car, yes I realize they are two completely different types of cars, but its still a major fail to invite a comparison. Would have been much better off in showing a mid to late 70s Conti, the vast majority of the current generation of customers would have never driven one and would only have memories of them from their youth if at all. Nobody’s going to sit in a Zephyr and try to compare a 70s Conti with it, the Conti might as well have been from another century (ha a pun!). But there *will* be buyers who drive MKFusion or MKTaurus, who will now make the mental comparison between them and Town Car, and could conclude: “MK whatever sucks monkey balls compared to my/mom’s/dad’s/gramp’s/gram’s ’95 Town Car”. Ford it’s bad enough you’ve made the brand so irrelevant that you have to relaunch it, but now you’re going to remind people of when people did give a shit about it? Its not a Phoenix, its an odder looking Fusion with a huge moonroof. I am pretty much done ever wanting a > ’99 Cadillac, but I give GM props for the ATS, its the right kind of car for entry level faux luxury (although lacking a serious powerplant, I digress). Just rename MKZ the Mercury Milan and be done with it.

    The Santa Fe add was effective, although the people I know who routinely haul more than two children don’t find SUVs of any sort practical and they all roll minivans.

    I liked the CLA ad but its mostly because Willem Dafoe is awesome, the car looks and sounds like a German Camcord and the other actor seemed like a tool and could have been better cast. Should have put Christopher Walken in the ad, he would have compelled me to buy the product simply because you can’t say no to Walken.

    I didn’t care for the other ads.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I thought most of the ads were dumb.

    It seems like a waste of money to advertise old/current product during the Super Bowl. The CLA was different in this regard, and thus the success of its ad.

    The Forte ad couldn’t succeed because most people are already accustomed to the new Hyundai/Kia image.

  • avatar
    ajla

    If Audi really wanted to make a splash they should have had the boy kiss the Prom KING.

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    I wonder how “lift” as measured by clicks on Edmunds site correlates to actual sales, or other goals such as strengthening the brand?

    As mentioned earlier on Derek’s post earlier, I thought the Ram ad was well done and would likely strengthen the brand with some prospective Ram customers – yet it was a dud as measured by “lift”. On the other hand, plenty of people here are talking about it and Chrysler must be doing something right given their recent sales. Here in Canada, Chrysler was the #1 automaker by sales again last month (reference: http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2013/02/january-2013-canada-auto-sales-brand-rankings.html), and I certainly seem to see plenty of new Ram trucks around.

    I personally found the Mercedes ad more entertaining than the Ram ad, and it certainly generated a lot more “lift”, but I question whether it will strengthen the Mercedes Benz brand. Mercedes cars are supposed to be “Exclusive” and “Aspirational” “Luxury Products” – which are hardly words you would use to describe a sub $30k car. Curiosity about a new sub $30k Mercedes may generate a lot of clicks – but will they lead to sales, and will they be the type of sales that will preserve the brand image?

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      My 2 cents on your first question.

      In general, I would trust data from a site like edmunds.com over a report directly from the OEM brand as far as site visits and searches.

      Higher ‘consideration’ or searches for a vehicle on a site like Edmunds, cars.com, truecar etc is an indicator. I have no idea if this is true, but I assume that sales forecasts from Truecar and Edmunds sites (that are put in the TTAC scorecard each month) are driven by historical data from searches and leads that come from those sites compared to sales reported by OEMs.

      Lifts in consideration on sites like Edmunds can be equated to lifts in retail sales.

      That said, events like the Superbowl do create artifical lifts from teenagers or others that are false.

      I would imagine a teenager who wants to look at boobs from the Mercedes commercial wouldn’t end up at Edmunds.com. I don’t have time to see how google searches route people…some of that Edmunds traffic was crap…but lift in consideration in general..and over time will result in more sales.

  • avatar
    otaku

    Upon seeing the $29,990 pricetag in the Mercedes ad, my first thought was, “I wonder whether that includes options like A/C or doors?”

    I think Kia should’ve taken a cue from Lincoln and shown all those ridiculous hamsters burning to death in an old Forte. That would’ve been memorable.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Quite possibly the most disappointing, weakest crop of SB commercials since I started paying attention to these things 20 some years ago. None stood out in a positive way. There was no water cooler talk about this ad or that ad on Monday. Just a general “gee none of the ads were very good.”

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Agreed. I was more impressed with who and what wasn’t advertised, rather than who spent big Super Bowl dollars.

      I was stunned that Hyundai/Kia spent so much money to promote products that – except for the Forte 2 – are pretty much the same as before.

      And funny – I don’t recall seeing any MPG estimates from anybody, but maybe I missed that.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      please…show us a link to an automotive SB commercial that you’ve liked in the past


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