JeepFiat Chrysler made a big ad push this year. Jeep had three commercials air during the game, and Ram had two. Of the two brands, we found Jeep to be the clear winner, and our favorite was the Wrangler commercial at the top of this post. It's fantastic because all it is is a Wrangler doing what it does best: off-roading. And taking a dig at more frilly, abstract car ads just hammers the simplicity of this one home. Well done, Jeep.
Ironically, one of the other Jeep commercials actually includes some of the "big declarations making claims to some overarching human truth" the Wrangler ad makes fun of. It's a commercial for the new Jeep Cherokee, featuring a Trailhawk example. It opens with many bird's-eye-view shots of highways and talks about roads and how they all eventually come to an end. It then follows that by saying that where those roads end is where the good times in a Jeep begin. It's still a solid commercial though, despite being less clever, and also undercut by the Wrangler ad.
The third Jeep ad went for the funny route, and successfully. It starts out with one of the big chase scenes in "Jurassic Park" in which Jeff Goldblum's character is riding in the back of a Jeep Wrangler YJ as it's trying to escape a T-Rex. It then switches to present-day Goldblum in the driver's seat of a new Jeep Wrangler JL, also outrunning a T-Rex. In it, he keeps tabs on the T-Rex's position by using the rear wiper, and tries to ignore it by rolling up the side window when it appears alongside. From there, he hits the brakes and slides behind to give the T-Rex a taste of its own medicine. The commercial then warps back to the dealer where Goldblum was just imagining all this. It's a fun one, especially for those who remember the original film fondly. We do wonder how Mercedes feels about Jeep capitalizing on the franchise after all the product placement Mercedes invested in for subsequent films.
For all the success Jeep had with its ads, Ram floundered. And in the case of this first ad, it felt more like it was drowning. It's actually not obvious at first it has anything to do with Ram, since it opens with text explaining that the audio is from a Martin Luther King Jr. speech. It's played over generic scenes of people in classrooms, on farms, playing sports, many things that would be associated with American greatness. But soon, images of the new Ram 1500 start slipping in, and it becomes apparent this isn't some ad for social change or a volunteer organization, it's all about selling pickup trucks. To those of us in the office, it felt like a step too far to take one of America's great orators and use him for selling cars. We weren't the only ones put off, either: The New York Times noted a large number of complaints on Twitter about the commercial, one of which even pointed out the full version of that speech includes criticism of capitalism. Poorly done, Ram.
There was one slightly bright spot in the Ram advertising rollout this year, though. Apparently the new Ram 1500 is the pickup truck of choice among old-school Vikings. In the other ad from the Super Bowl, a bunch of Vikings use one to tow their long boat. They all pile in the bed and have the truck outfitted with shields along the side. And as they cross the ocean, they tow the truck along, too. It's mildly amusing, though the exact reason for them going to Minneapolis and then turning around before reaching the city isn't entirely clear in the commercial.
Hyundai looked to pluck heartstrings for its main Super Bowl ad. It highlighted the company's Hope on Wheels program that takes some of the proceeds from car sales and donates it to childhood cancer research. It did this by pulling Hyundai owners at security to bring them in to learn about the program and get a personal thanks from the people who benefited from the program. It's all rather sweet.
Toyota had a clever and humorous commercial that also touched on the theme of people of all backgrounds accepting and loving one another. It kicks off with a rabbi leaving his synagogue with a Toyota Tundra, and he proceeds to pick up a priest, a Muslim cleric, and a Buddhist monk. While it would seem like the perfect setup to a "walk into a bar" joke, they all head to the football game, kitted out with fan gear, and join a pair of nuns who complain about them being late. It's a lighthearted commercial with a good message, even if it isn't the most memorable Super Bowl commercial.
Honorable mention: Monster Cable
While not really a car commercial, we bring it to you because it does feature a striking car. It has a Lamborghini Urus SUV. We're not really sure how it relates to Monster other than it's really expensive, but hey, we're not going to say no to seeing more of a Lambo.