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Volkswagen and Chrysler lead

Super Bowl XLV car ads – Click above to see the videos and their rankings after the jump

The Super Bowl is a contest of advertisers as much as it is for two football teams seeking championship rings, the big trophy and bragging rights.

The Super Bowl is one of the few times a year that most of the country is gathered around a single event.
This year, twelve of the advertisers are from the auto sector: Chevrolet, Chrysler, BMW, Mini, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Audi, Hyundai, Kia, Suzuki, Cars.com and Bridgestone.

Why so many car related ads? 2011 is widely seen as a breakout year for the auto industry. In 2008 and 2009, sales fell below 11 million, about one-third less than the industry had been doing in the early part of the decade. Sales in 2010 were better and sales are forecasted to come back even stronger this year.

The slowly recovering economy has kept a lot of consumers out of the new car showrooms. But cars and trucks are getting older. The U.S. has seen a sales rate below the annual scrap rate for a few years now. The stock market is back to where it was before the 2008 economic meltdown. Unemployment is ticking down. Things are looking up.

"The Super Bowl is one of the few times a year that most of the country is gathered around a single event," says General Motors marketing chief Joel Ewanick, who bought five ads at $2.7-$3 million per to advertise Chevrolet models. Chrysler marketing chief Olivier Francois says, "There is no better place for a real coming out," referring to a slate of newly designed vehicles Chysler is releasing this year. Chrysler bought an unprecedented two-minute ad.

Continue reading and to see the rankings of the Top 10.

The game itself was between two teams of the heartland: The Steelers of Pittsburgh and the Packers of Green Bay; two teams from a swath of the country that has been so deeply scarred by the collapse of manufacturing – especially the loss of auto industry jobs.

In its ad, Chrysler tried to turn the perception of Detroit on its head for the rest of the country that likes to treat Detroit like the escaped con at the family reunion. And for that they get huge kudos.

Overall, the auto ads stacked up well against the Super Bowl commercial as a whole. But it was such a mediocre year, it's hard to celebrate the performance of a handful of good car ads. Here is my take on all the auto ads, ranking best to worst.

#1.Volkswagen Passat : The Force
This ad works and was a crowd pleaser before the game even started, mainly because it touches a pleasing note with people, especially the moms, dads and kids at which the ad is aimed. The ad also focuses on just one idea: make the kid feel great when the remote key starter fulfills his wish. It makes the viewer say, "Cool, is that standard?" And that's what you want, an ad that drives people to be curious and go on the web to learn more. Look for Passat searches to be way up this month.



#2 Chrysler: "Imported from Detroit"
Right ad. Wrong car. This is what I'm talking about, though. Chrysler took a huge chance and creative risk. Just when most of the country is trashing Detroit, Chrysler buys a two-minute spot, unheard of at the Super Bowl, to run an ad shot just within the last two weeks around Detroit showing the city and where real cars come from. Eminem, Detroit's favorite son these days, delivers the message. The ad also launches a new tagline for Chrysler: "Imported from Detroit." My only beef is that the ad should have been for the Chrysler 300 sedan, not the 200, which is a refreshed and renamed Chrysler Sebring. None of the early reviews for the 200 has been very positive, mainly because you can only fix so much with just a refresh rather than starting over with an entirely new platform. The 300, meantime, has to apologize for nothing. I would have named this ad #1 if they had used the 300C.



#3 Chevy "Status"
I'm going to get killed for ranking this ad so high. And frankly, I wish that Chevy and agency Goodby Silverstein had used the situation in the ad to be funny. Instead, they went for shmaltz. What I like about the ad is that it focused on one single idea that people would be interested in, and told it well. But, I would have gone for funny.



#4 Audi "Release The Hounds."
The actual ad that ran in the Super Bowl was just okay. The longer form videos that can be watched on YouTube are better. Audi is really pushing this idea that its cars are somehow more "progressive" than ones sold by BMW and Mercedes-Benz. I am a little dubious when an advertiser keeps calling out its competition, but I like the effort to tell a big story in the big game.



#5 BMW "Ch..changes"
For the second year in a row, a German automaker is using the biggest TV audience of the year to push clean diesel. My living room really liked this ad. At first, I questioned the choice of showing old, bad diesel images, but maybe you have to do that to get the message across that today's diesels, at least from the Germans, rock!



#6 Bridgestone "Reply All."
I really liked the fact that Bridgestone and ad agency The Richards Group went for one of those everyday workplace terrors (hitting the "Reply All" when you didn't mean to) to tell a story. I admit, though, that I was so taken with the ad story that I had to watch it twice to see how it tied into tires.



#7 VW "Black Beetle."
It's very bold advertising a car that won't arrive until fall. The ad had my attention, and showed some effort. I still think, however, they should have played off the original Beetle heritage for this ad in front of such a big audience.



#8 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid "Anachronistic City"
This ad shows some effort. I like the strong visual jokes like the huge cellphone and the turntable around the stoner's neck. Looks good in a weak year.



#9 Mercedes-Benz: "Welcome To The Family."
This is one of those ads that works better in longer form on the web. But the sight of all the fabulous Mercedes-Benz vehicles from decades back is a nice sight indeed. The P Diddy joke at the end is kind of cheap, but we like the Janis Joplin track.



#10 Chevy Camaro "Dude."
This was about two guys ruminating over a Camaro ad they would like to make. I like it because it taps into what what ad fans talk about during the game. The ad itself is kinda cool, showing some nice visuals for a hot car. I have to admit the one shot of the car going off the parking structure roof and appearing to head for the building gave me the creeps, but still a good ad to bring up the rear on a top-ten.




The Misc. and The Rest.....

Bridgestone "Beaver."
I like ads that tell stories, and critters work in the big game. Tire advertising is really hard to pull off in a way that ties back to the product. I'm not sure Bridgestone is pulling that off, but I do like the quality of the creative.



BMW X3 "Designed in America"
I gotta say, playing up the fact that all the X3s are built in South Carolina doesn't seem like a great ad message to me for a BMW. BMWs are different from other vehicles. They feel and drive different. And yet, it seems like they keep trying to walk away from that with stuff about "Joy" and "Made In America." Stop the Madness. Show me your Bimmer stones.



Chevy "Transformers"
What I like about this ad is the surprise of the Transformers gimmick in the midst of an apparent dealer ad. Nice execution on the special effects, too, while maintaining the video-look of the dealer ad.



Chevy "Discovery"
So earnest. Just not very interesting ad for a car that has so many possibilities for good storytelling in front of a big audience.



Kia "One Epic Ride"
This ad is just overwrought. Lots of graphic effects. Blah blah blah. Too much flash and not enough coherence.



Chevy "Tommy"
There was a good idea here for an ad that just didn't happen in a thirty-second ad.



Chevy "Misunderstanding"
Call me "old school." I just don't like going for a cheap laugh in a senior living facility.



Hyundai "Hypnotized"
Hypnotized is right. Snooze. The ad in this series that ran two weeks earlier, showing the sheep driving the car, should have been the Super Bowl ad.



Suzuki "Wicked Weather"
Not only is this not a new ad, but yikes, it's not very interesting for all the special effects. The Kizashi is a terribly named terrific car marketed by a company that can't get out of its own way.



Mini: "Cram It In The Boot"
This ad for the Countryman plays on an imaginary Brit game-show to show how much the big Mini can hold. This was the best ad to come out of the brainstorming meeting?




David Kiley is an award-winning journalist, and has long specialized in writing about marketing. He writes on autos and marketing for Autoblog, AOL Autos and Advertising Age. He has also worked for three ad agencies in his career, working on car accounts. He has been critiquing and ranking Super Bowl ads for 20 years.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 67 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Was the Mini ad trying to be dirty or what???

      Also, dear Audi:

      You're lame.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like the Epic Kia ad.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Can't agree with you on the Audi ads; I thought those were the worst! And if they really wanted to showcase a progressive car they should have used the new A7 - its way more appealing than the bland A8...
        • 4 Years Ago
        I think the problem was that we saw the (poor) teaser ads leading up to the suberbowl ads. I was actually pleasantly suprized that the actual superbowl ad was very good.

        Still, the most impressive to me was the Chrysler commercial. A little cheesy, but I loved every second of it, and I think that whole brand should make it's tagline "Imported from Detroit"
        • 4 Years Ago
        All the Audi ad showed me was just how good the S class looks
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Audi ad seemed like a cheap shot at Mercedes. Audi needs to focus more on their own products, and less on their competitors.
        • 4 Years Ago
        there is a lot here that I dont agree with, which is fine, except for if I consider the ads everyone talked about last night and this am, this article is way off target.

        Everyone asked me about the Kia Optima last night.
        The Force was a winner, but every story about the craptastic service of past VWs came up.
        Several liked a little Black Betty
        Release the hounds got laughs but no one was interested in the cars.
        And the Bridgestone Beaver got laughs

        No one talked about Chrysler other than the tagline.
        No one talked about Chevy
        Hyundai's 'settling' got a chuckle.
        Cadillac was conspicuous in its absence, since Chevy was present.
        Regal needs to step up its marketing game. perfect opportunity BLOWN.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The Chrysler ad was by far the best IMO. While the VW one was funny and cute the Chrysler ad gave me chills just as a Detroiter and an American. Even though it was promoting a Chrysler product in a way it still represented GM and Ford too because they are Detroit imports also :) I am glad to see all three of them are making huge comebacks! I already like the 200 when I saw it at the autoshow, this commercial has really pushed it over the top!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm neither a Chrysler nor a VW guy, but my God did both of those ads do something for me.

        The Vader kid had me laughing and remembering my own childhood, while the Chrysler ad simply shook me...it gave me pause and a moment to think positively about an area I grew up in.

        But yeah, they chose the wrong car indeed... =/
        • 4 Years Ago
        The Chrysler ad with Eminem was absolutely amazing.
        It was one of the best ever.

        Imported from Detroit

        Just an amazing tagline.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Chazz, the car was also appropriate because it's built in Detroit. In Sterling Heights Assembly Plant just north of the city. The 300 is built in Canada. Wouldn't have had quite the same effect. I know this was already mentioned in another Autoblog article today, just pointing it out again as I think it's important. I questioned the use of the 200 too until I realized this.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Is it me or does it seem like there have been more and more opinion pieces on Autoblog lately? I am really enjoying them (Especially this one). Keep it up Autoblog!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I disagree. I could use more true journalism and less "blogging"..........
      • 4 Years Ago
      agreed that if the Chrysler ad was selling the 300C it would've been the best SB auto ad by far.
      • 4 Years Ago
      2,3,5?

      RLY?

      -_-...
      • 4 Years Ago
      The Mini commercial was hilarious. Easily #2 in my book, possibly #1 with the Passat commercial behind it.

      The Detroit/Chrysler one does not appeal to me at all - the 200 is junk, I'd rather be shot in the head than travel to Detroit, and I hate Eminem. F for effort.

      The rest of them I must have ffwd through - I only stopped if something looked interesting. Too many movie trailers that sucked, Fox TV show promos...
      • 4 Years Ago
      You're going to get killed for putting the FB-Onstar commercial in third? Well, at least you understand you deserve it.

      VW force was the best. My only gripe is that he didn't attempt strangulation.

      The Audi commercial was stupid. What's with the ageism? If you're going to hate old people, hate them for looting the FICA system, gutting the middle class with taxes, and ruining American labor productivity. Don't hate them for making us the wealthiest nation on earth (even if it has been a bumpy ride). I know they are throwing red meat to the lions, but that doesn't excuse a poor cultural narrative. Maybe the advertisers are just that dumb. I don't know. Advertisers aren't held in terribly high esteem either.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Unfortunately for me, I didn't get to see most of those beautifully made $$$ commercials.

      You see, in Canada, we believe in the "anti-America commercialism, pro-Canada just becuz W/out logical reason" mentality brain wash (all political stripes).
      Therefore, most of our commercials are filled with dry humor Canadian made materials.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Tim Hortons and Canadian Tire ads all night. You could download them, but it would go against your cap and its only Februrary 7.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Completely agree that the Chrysler ad would have been my favorite had they used the proper vehicle. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, it is my favorite commercial despite the tepid vehicle they are touting. Audi's "Release the Hounds" commercial is my second favorite commercial. Does that make it a "#2"?
        • 4 Years Ago
        That is a Dodge, not a Chrysler. The ad is talking about luxury the entire time and you suggest Challenger?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes, it is a Dodge. I had almost forgotten. Thanks for setting me straight. Since you so badly need an answer, I feel they should have used the new 300. Which, as we all know, rolls off the same line as the Challenger and the Charger. Hell, they're all the same car, just pick your door count and grille badge.
      • 4 Years Ago
      You forgot Carmax in your list.
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