By on February 6, 2017

Television Set

The “Big Game” is as much of a sporting event and as it is a tactical delivery system for advertisements and, at roughly $5 million just to reserve a thirty second slot, the folks working in the media department want their commercials to have a strategic impact. Reaching your intended audience is only half the battle. You must also provoke them into action.

While there were plenty of Super Bowl 51 car commercials that got under people’s skin, those strong feelings often failed to morph into consumer interest. For example, Ford’s mobility-focused spot featuring Nina Simone’s classic civil rights song I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free was all over social media when it aired right after kickoff. However, nobody sent me a surprised and excited text about Ford like they did for Alfa Romeo. 

Comparing its Super Bowl web traffic with regular Sunday levels, vehicle shopping site Edmunds tracked the brands and models that saw added attention during the game. It’s a useful measure to determine which ads were the most successful.

In terms of brands, Alfa Romeo was the easily the biggest winner. Traffic for the automaker went up 784 percent on Edmunds during the big game and Giulia-specific traffic was up 802 percent. I imagine a lot of that can be attributed to less car-obsessed Americans finding out that Alfa Romeo still exists. FCA hasn’t been great with its marketing and needs something like this to clue in the portion of North America not reading articles like this one to the brand’s return.

Lexus’ LC 500 popped, locked, and rotated a load of curious customers into researching the model after its high-energy television debut. Traffic for the LC went up a massive 1,710 percent on Edmunds. The next highest was the Kia Niro, which saw an 869-percent increase. Kia’s ad smartly featured Melissa McCarthy being repeatedly — and severely — injured for both her fans and haters to enjoy. Brand traffic rose 63 percent.

Buick’s efforts weren’t wasted either — the Cascada saw 459 percent more attention during the game. Meanwhile, Mercedes saw a 391-percent uptick in AMG GT research and Audi saw 431 percent more consumer interest for its S5.

Hyundai, despite having an ad positioned precisely when nobody could turn away from the game, didn’t seem to see any extra traffic resulting from its commercial. However, the automaker is only mentioned at the very end of the spot and possesses only a tangential relationship to the message. It was less of a commercial about the Korean company and more a message of goodwill, patriotism, and family values sponsored by Hyundai. Ford’s advertisement for mobility also failed to light a fire under Edmunds users.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

22 Comments on “Which Car Commercials Piqued Consumer Interest During Super Bowl LI?...”

  • avatar

    I missed about 2/3rds of the commercials. I watched the game with the Fox Sports Now channel on my Roku. It was advertised as not requiring a cable subscription (which I don’t have) and offering ALL the commercials, including local spots.

    Well, the 1st part worked fine; I didn’t need a TV subscription, and had only one glitch during the game. But the commercials? There appeared to be some MAJOR problem there, and about 2/3rds of the commercials were subsituted with promos for the same three Fox shows (Legions, Empire, and 24 Legacy)…

    Of the car commercials I saw, I thought the Lexus and Buick commercials were the best. (The Lexus ad was very stylish, and the Buick spot a clever riffing on their reputation for boring geezer-mobiles) The Niro commercial was kind of… “So, is this the Prius of SUV’s, or what?” The CR-V and Audi spots were both inexplicable; the CR-V promo could just as well have been an ad for financial planning, and the Audi? While I’m not frothing at the mouth over it like Jack, I, too, found the tagline baffling (ok… Audi doesn’t want to violate federal employment laws? Good To Know, I guess…) and thought it did nothing at all for Audi.

    • 0 avatar

      Same issue here with Fox Sports Now. Commercial breaks were just filled with a static Fox logo for me. Seems like a major oops for Fox’s eyeball numbers given so many more people cutting their cable lately. Oh well, I am sure Fox News is reporting huge success for their sports brand.

      • 0 avatar

        What’s the oops? The breaks are going to be there, and unless you want to pay more for your subscription to make it cost effective for FOX to provide content during those commercial breaks, that is what you’re going to get.

        • 0 avatar

          The oops is that Fox was giving away streaming views of the game but failed to show advertisements during the breaks. This doesn’t bother ME, but I assume it bothers advertisers who spent millions of dollars for their 30-second spots because fewer people saw their ads. Showing ads isn’t free content, it’s how they pay for the service… which is free to consumers.

  • avatar

    The Alfa commercials still stick out in my mind, so kudos to their ad agency (unless it was done in-house).

    They need to follow that up with a lease special so I can consider it LOL

    • 0 avatar

      2 people asked me about the Giulia this morning. I told them Alfa has been trying to come back to America for awhile. says there is about 350 of them here and they aren’t cheap. They seemed disappointed.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        How cheap were they expecting?
        The Giulias start at 40 and go up to double that for the 500HP model. That’s about the same as Audi/BMW/Lexus/Mercedes.
        I guess it’s a lot compared to a fully-incentivized ATS, but it’s hardly seems outrageous in this segment.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep. I was watching with 3 other people, none of whom are car people. They all paid attention during the Alfa commercials and all said how attractive the cars were. Good sign maybe.

    • 0 avatar

      I keep getting ads showing me Jaguar XEs for $299. I don’t see Alfa as being on a higher pedestal than Jaguar. If they can ever get their act together and get some cars on the dealers’ lots, I would expect similar costs. It’s already an uphill battle for Alfa, they need to get those cars on the road if they expect to survive.

  • avatar

    I remember watching SB 1 on a b&w tv much like that in the basement of the fraternity house back in 67. Been a while…

  • avatar

    When I saw the AMG GT S commercial…I immediately rebutted with a “wow they are advertising a $250,000 car on prime time national TV?”

    Then I later realized realized that AMG GT ($111k) is not that same as SLS AMG (200k+)…

    So at least I learned something….

  • avatar

    The Audi feminist soapbox spot is the obvious winner if media mentions and reader comments are the basis of judging results, but I expect more than 50% of those reactions are negative so it will be a test of the old saying “there is no such thing as bad publicity”.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I thought the Audi commercial was similar to “Oscar Bait” movies… as in, made to win awards, but not actually achieve any commercial success.

      Sometimes I think ad agencies (and the execs who sign off on their plans) forget their job is to sell stuff, not make 30-60 second art films. If they can do both, great, but they need to remember what exactly they are writing the check for.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Over the last 2 years, Alfa has moved about 600 cars per year. 600. That’s how many Camrys are sold in *half a day*.

    I was shocked FCA spent Super Bowl money to promote the Alfa brand, but maybe it’s the boost they need.

  • avatar


    – The Melissa McCarthy/Kia commercial made me laugh out loud.
    – The Alfa Romeo ad caught my wife’s eye enough that she asked if the company was Irish with the four-leaf clover logo.
    – Peter Fonda? Really Mercedes?

    That is all I remember.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget the unavoidable “Next Generation [useless] stats, provided by Mercedes Benz”!

      What a car company had to do with repeated factoids about pass completion, or what makes them “next generation” stats, I’m not sure.

      • 0 avatar

        I remember hearing a story about a creative session for a Ford campaign of the new Ford Puma (not sold in the US), which would use CGI/editing to insert Bullitt era Steve McQueen into the Puma (they couldn’t use the real Steve because he had been dead 15 years at the time). The baby boomers were all excited about this idea, but then one younger generation X member of the group (and representing the Puma target age segment) meekly raised his hand and said “who is Steve McQueen?” The boomers got their Steve McQueen ad, but the car was a flop. Does anyone younger than 60 even know who Peter Fonda is?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Didn’t catch the commercials. Ad breaks is when we went out back in the sleet to have a smoke and talk.

    The Patriots really came back. Great finish. That’s more important than car ads.

  • avatar

    It has already been noted that Ford’s commercial had less to do with driving than it did with being “connected.” I want to see cars that I want to, well…drive! Now I realize I am quickly becoming a dinosaur in this hi-tech world of instant electronic connection, but when I saw the ad for the Alfa, I wanted to drive that sucker! Does that equate to me being able to run out and order one? I am not in the tax bracket to be able to afford such, and my current state of being requires something much, much more utilitarian…but I still want to be moved by the cars I see, and the Ford commercial did nothing in that regard for me.

    Why can’t the car commercials just be about the cars? Sigh…

  • avatar

    Surely the Alfa commercials. But they don’t even have a web site that I can find…like I could never find parts for my old 2000 w/Spica.

    I wonder what Farago would title an article about Alfa’s re-entry to the American market…

    “Return of the Original Flying V?”

    Sorry, RF, if you’re lurking.

  • avatar

    I sure as hell cannot afford that Alfa, but damn do I want one. Those were great ads.

  • avatar

    KIA: Official Car of the Deplorables.

    Slam the fat chick around some while mocking all conservancy.

    McCarthy spectacularly sold out to all the social forces that made her a neurotic blimp in the first place.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Superdessucke: Oh my goodness that interior is awful. So much plastic! Makes the interior of my Veloster N look like...
  • scottcom36: You did no such thing. You fleshed out my thoughts better than I could have.
  • sgeffe: I thought that the steel was reasonably thick, at least! It certainly seems that those cars may have been...
  • mcs: It’s 70 electrified Models with 15 of them BEVs by 2025. The bZ4x BEV is coming next summer. Out of the...
  • theonlydt: The municipally supplied compost bin outside my home is made of better plastic than that interior. The...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber