The real winner of the 2011 Super Bowl ads will be deci... The real winner of the 2011 Super Bowl ads will be decided by sales (YouTube).
The big game has been over for almost two weeks and many have already forgotten who the MVP of the game was. Most viewers probably can't recall more than two or three of the ads. This stands in marked contrast to the Monday after, when there were tweets, articles, surveys and blogs declaring winners in all categories.

I was among them.
As a quick refresher, I gave the Chrysler ad for the 200 with Eminem high marks, along with the Volkswagen Darth Vader ad and the Audi ad that made fun of Mercedes. It is not a trivial thing to track the success of these ads. With a cash outlay of $100,00 per second, being able to justify these enormous media investments is paramount to a company and its chief marketing officer.

Regardless of the hype, the real winners are yet to be decided because the only true measure is a sale. Still, there are some measures that are strong indicators of success. One such measure is "consideration," something that we as marketers watch closely. Consideration tells the number of people that have you on their short list to buy. It is usually measured as a year-over-year comparison, but any consideration measure tells you how you are faring relative to the competition.

USA Today reported that in terms of consideration, Chrysler was the big Super Bowl winner. Among single nameplates, Chevy's Silverado 3500 scored a 143-percent increase in consideration while the Chevy brand saw a mere five percent rise. That gave Chevy sixth place in the automotive sector, behind Chrysler, Kia, Hyundai, Suzuki and Volkswagen. As I was reading through this list I was shocked to see Suzuki on it and surprised to see that Hyundai beat out Chevy.

The article went on to talk about GM marketing boss Joel Ewanick's reaction to the public's ho-hum response to the Chevy ads. Ewanik reportedly bought links for Chevy's Super Bowl ads to appear first when people searched online for ads from other auto makers, including VW's "Darth Vader ad." Then, after seeing the hype surrounding the Chrysler Eminem spot, GM did the same thing, to insure that Googling "Imported from Detroit" would bring up a link to a Chevy ad. And guess what? It worked. GM received over 55 million views in just the first four days after the game. In fact, Joel Ewanick told USA Today, "I'm not sure we'd get all the views if it wasn't for the fact that Volkswagon got all the views."

While I give kudos to Ewanick for making lemonade, Chevy spent roughly $15 million ($3 million per 30-second spot) during the big game plus the production costs for each of those five spots. Even if these were made really economically, that's at least $600,000 per spot -- or another $3 million. Then there was the cost of the online ads, which sends the overall Super Bowl ad spend numbers completely through the roof. Getting a palatable result on a spend like that is going to require serious incremental sales.

Before we get to that, lets look at another measure of advertising success. Networked Insights, an online data tracking company, calculated the uplift in all online conversations for every ad during the Super Bowl. This is important because according to Nielsen, word-of-mouth, otherwise known as "buzz" drives over 70 percent of all purchase intent. In addition to this measurement, Networked Insights also measures the "Bang for the Buck" by taking the conversation uplift quantity and dividing it by the amount spent for the ad. So for Chrysler, that amount was $9 million (the reported spend for its two minute ad). On the buzz alone, they were tops, but when divided by the ad spend, that position dropped a few spaces. Instead, Teleflora, Skechers and, yes, Volkswagen took the top three spots. Where was Chevy? Nowhere to be found because it garnered little buzz and spent an astronomical amount of money.

You will recall that GM made a drastic ad agency move last year, ending Chevy's decades-long relationship with Campbell Ewald. This was the agency that brought you, "Like A Rock" and "An American Revolution," among others. The upheaval left a bad taste in the mouth of many but others were anxious to see what a new agency with a different mindset might do to help propel Chevy forward. What we have seen has not been bad, but the ads from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners just don't seem all that different from what we saw from Campbell Ewald over the years. (Though I submit that "Runs Deep" is nowhere near as good as the best taglines that Campbell Ewald delivered.)

Now, consider the Super Bowl performance: Chevy's ads were not among the best -- or even the best of the auto ads. So GM had to go back and try to salvage the effort with a large spend in the digital world to lunch off of others who spent less and performed better. Kind of makes you wonder about the agency switch, doesn't it?

There are about a thousand ways to measure success in advertising, but as I mentioned before, none of them really matter except for the ultimate prize: The sale. February's sales numbers are in, and the industry as a whole was up 27 percent for the month. So how did the Super Bowl combatants fare? Well, Chevy was up 43 percent for the month, which would seem to validate its Super Bowl "strategy," especially considering that Chrysler, despite its supposed advertising tour de force, was down 25 percent.

But other car companies had some big gains and managed to spend less. VW posted an 18 percent increase in monthly sales, while Suzuki saw a 19 percent improvement. Hyundai was up 28 percent and Kia trumped that, with a 36 percent increase in February. It will be interesting to see how March sales turn, but rest assured, by that time nobody will remember the Super Bowl ads, let alone the name Aaron Rodgers (except if you live in Green Bay).

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