Super Bowl Auto Maker Ads - Not Quite As Bad As Pass Play on 2 and Goal on the 1, but Close

by Ur-Turn
super bowl auto maker ads not quite as bad as pass play on 2 and goal on the 1 but

TTAC reader David Obelcz is back with his rundown of the latest crop of Super Bowl ads.

For some watchers of the Super Bowl the game being played is meaningless. For them the sport is not on the field and the debate is not that the Patriots are one of the most dominate teams in football history and Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to play the game why Pete Carroll didn’t give the ball to Marshawn Lynch in a 2 and goal on the 1 yard line. It isn’t meaningless to them because their team didn’t make the big game either. For some, the Super Bowl is all about the advertisements that run.

For the 2015 Super Bowl there were fewer car advertisements than previous years and from a marketing stand point, mostly duds. Thirty-eight national ad campaigns debuted that were required to turn 60 minutes of sport into four hours of television, 7 from auto makers. In addition, General Motors, Ford and Mini showed previously released advertisement in the 30 minutes prior to kickoff.

Some of the Best and Brightest of this hallowed site have suggested that Detroit sells on emotion, and emotion doesn’t sell product. If that’s true than a lot of ad agencies got it wrong this year because not just auto makers, but most advertisers played on emotion. For some including Nissan, Nationwide, and Dove, there was more emotion than the look on Richard Sherman’s face when Malcom Butler picked off Russell Wilson.

On to the ads.

The Fiat Blue Pill – Fiat 500X Crossover

Sex sells so they say. Of course when the sex is between a married couple pushing 60, well, maybe not so much. The premise is that the little blue pill, required for, “amore,” falls into the gas tank of a Fiat 500, and makes it, “bigger, more powerful, and ready for action.”

In advertising 101 they teach you there are sexual subliminal, and sexual blatant ads – any questions on what type this one is? Who is our target demographic? Well look at our 500X Crossover owner in the advertisement. He is young, handsome, single, and a Millennial. Buy a Fiat 500X Crossover and you’re going to get more action than our esteemed former EIC on a week-long guitar and vodka trip you could ever want. Of course I don’t know if the average millennial wants attention from 50 year old women sweeping the streets with a broom.

Fiat does get some things right. The camera angles they use put the Fiat 500X in a favorable light. When the crossover is first introduced the camera is low, and the lighting creates an illusion of ruggedness and SUV grade ground clearance.


Mercedes-Benz Fable – The Tortoise and the Hare

Ahh the story of the tortoise and the hare. Our hare in this blended animation spectacle has Richard Sherman flashing two-four over-confidence while our tortoise decides that some performance enhancement via four liters of hand built biturbo V8 engine is the way to go. The Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S, because if you can drop 10 large times 4 for your family to see the Super Bowl in Arizona, you got the cheddar to put this in your garage.

This is an aspiration piece, because the average American with the average income is never going to be able to buy a Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S. But Mercedes is hoping that they can draw buyers into their showroom to drool over on the AMG GT S in the showroom, and drive out in a $369 lease deal in a new GLA. However, this is where the ad falls flat. Animated forest critters that are Disneyesque in nature aren’t going to appeal to the AMG GT S buyer because there is nowhere to put the rug rats, and the average owner isn’t going to let the kids inside so they can spill their non-GMO, sugar and gluten free, organic, Concord grape juice in that special interior. This car is a weekend toy and future garage queen. There is nothing wrong with that, but woodland critters are not the best option for an aspiration piece on a luxury coupe with a hand built engine and racing heritage.

This ad comes across not really connecting with its target market at any level. It also has bad timing in its theme, telling how slow and steady does not wins the race, but deflating footballs cheating does.


Toyota Camry – My Bold Dad

If emotion isn’t the path to selling vehicles, Toyota sure didn’t get that memo. “Being a dad is more than being a father. It’s a choice to get hurt rather than to hurt.”

That’s heavy, and the one thing this ad doesn’t do is say much about the Toyota Camry. On the other hand most Americans know what a Toyota Camry is, a reasonable, boring in non SE trim, appliance on wheels that will go 250K miles and seat five. The other thing that is shocking in this ad is our target demographic. Our dad in this ad is gray, with a lined face, a receding hairline, and when we get to the climax of the ad, an empty nest. So is Toyota really saying that the Camry demographic is over 50, has an empty nest, and is pining for their kids? Yikes!

This is really more a brand building ad. A piece to tug at the buying demographic heartstrings. In that respect it’s effective, but not the winner in the emotional arms race Madison Avenue ran this year. Additionally, whenever I see an advertisement that doesn’t touch on a single feature or benefit of the product, it screams to me, “we got nothing!”


Jeep Renegade – Beautiful Lands

FCA has been running epic, emotional advertisements in the Super Bowl since 2011 when Eminem declared Chrysler was back and imported from Detroit means something. In 2012 Clint Eastwood told us we were in half-time, but it was OK, because Detroit knows what it means to be coming out of hard times. In 2013 God Made a Farmer, guts, glory, Ram, for the farmer inside of you. 2014 had Bob Dylan asking us if there was anything more American than America. Never mind that the Autobahn was built before the Eisenhower Highway System. FCA continues this tradition for the fifth year with Beautiful Lands.

Woodie Guthrie is probably spinning in his grave over his iconic This Land Is Your Land being used in an auto advertisement for a Jeep built in Italy and Brazil. Middle America is definitely spinning that the American open space anthem was globalized. The backlash on Twitter was swift and FCA should have foreseen the coming ire. Last year’s America the Beautiful ad from Coca-Cola took a pounding for its multi-cultural positioning around an American anthem.

There is something almost depressing in the artist’s rendition of the song, and the visuals focus more on, well, being eye candy than on actual product. So the world is a gift America, play responsibly! Although beautiful imagery, I don’t feel the message and the music is going to compel people to buy a Jeep and tear up the forest.

I think I need to go buy a Nissan Leaf.


Kia Sorrento – The Perfect Getaway

The changed perception of Hyundai and Kia in just a decade has been remarkable. The 2012 Kia Optima Super Bowl ad was declared strange at best, Brett Michael, race tracks, hot women, speed, and – well – a Kia Optima.

Kia uses comedy and aspiration to sell you the Sorrento. Hey, we have Pierce Brosnan, James Bond himself! Oh, and here is our friend the sexual subliminal, because there is going to be fireworks! Are you noticing a theme developing in these ads? Once again, we have an older male, one that many would aspire to be. So why go after this demographic? Because this demographic is buying new cars (as has been debated to death)

Kia shows more product, including their chunky logo, and implies strongly in the ad that the new 2016 Sorrento is luxurious. The elements of telling the story connect back to the product (where the Fiat 500X ad focuses a lot more on the story). We’re also told through the story that the Sorrento is safe, rugged, and powerful. Oh, and if you buy a 2016 Kia Sorrento, you’re going to have more sex than Jack – fine – it probably wasn’t that funny the first time.


Nissan Maxima – With Dad

This ad was already highlighted on TTAC almost immediately after the Super Bowl. Where FCA dropped the ball on the emotional epic ad, Nissan spikes this on in the end zone harder than Gronkowski. If Nissan waited for more than two decades to return to the Super Bowl ad game with this, it was worth the wait.

This advertisement only shows two seconds of the new Nissan Maxima. But where our other emotional ads don’t quite catch the viewer’s heart, this one nails it like a Tom Brady bullet to the numbers. If you didn’t have a tear in your eye at the end of this ad you’re not human, or you have serious daddy issues. Nissan wanted you to share that tear in your eye, with a clever connection to social media and the hashtag. When you compare the emotional dad theme between Toyota and Nissan, these ads aren’t even close. They attempt the exact same thing, but the end result is Toyota is Andrew Luck and Nissan is Tom Brady.

The story arc shows us the racing heritage of Nissan, and conveys in a way that most American parents can understand, the sacrifices made when raising children. Once again our buyer demographic in the ad is pushing 50. Dads in America are apparently older, in great shape, with graying hair and blue eyes. Ah America! The added element of tinnitus during the racing accident and imagery leaves you in doubt on whether this ad is going to go to a dark place – it pulls you in during the story telling connecting both the child and the parents to the viewer. What we get in the end is redemption and understanding from a maturing son, and a peek at the new Nissan Maxima. Oh, and if you watch the ad, Panther platform cameos!


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2 of 66 comments
  • Kyree Kyree on Feb 04, 2015

    Note: Sorrento, Italy does indeed have two Rs, but the Kia Sorento has just one in its name.

  • Rudiger Rudiger on Feb 04, 2015

    It seems like Super Bowl commercials get worse every year, and this year was no exception. The only two that were marginally interesting were the TurboTax commercial with a clever take on the American Revolution and Breaking Bad's Walter White (Brian Cranston) return as a drugstore pharmacist.

  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)