With the exception of Chrysler, almost every automotive brand in the U.S. has
flooded social-media sites with Super Bowl ads in the hope of building buzz
before the game.
"We've seen a big shift in how marketers approach the Super Bowl," said Tim Calkins, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. "It is more and more about the week leading up to the Super Bowl and a bit less about the game itself."
The automotive industry is spending more as well.
Back in 2008, just three or four automotive brands bought Super Bowl commercials, said Scott Keogh, chief marketing officer for Audi America.
As the industry gathered momentum last year, automakers spent more than any other industry during the Super Bowl. According to Nielsen, nine automotive brands spent $77.5 million during last year's game.
This year, 12 brands have purchased spots, said Mike Bernacchi, professor of marketing at the University of Detroit Mercy.
Acura, Audi, Cadillac , Chevrolet, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, Toyota and Volkswagen have issued news releases, YouTube videos and tweeted about their plans.
Chevrolet has posted all five of its commercials on YouTube -- including one created by Zach Borst, a 26-year-old Long Island, N.Y., resident who won a contest to see who could come up with the best commercial independently of Chevy's agency. Chevy also launched the Chevy Game Time mobile app that offers viewers games, quizzes and prizes linked to the carmaker's ads.
Honda is reviving the movie character Ferris Bueller with actor Matthew Broderick driving a Honda CR-V. A spot for Acura stars comedian Jerry Seinfeld competing with another customer to be the first buyer of the Acura NSX sports car.
"It's sort of like a race, if you will, and you are trying to grab pole position even before the race starts," Keogh said.
Audi, which has appeared in five straight Super Bowls, seeks to make social statements with its commercials.
This year, Audi is taking aim at the nation's growing vampire infatuation with a spot ending with vampires being vaporized by a car's headlights.
But Chrysler kept a two-minute Super Bowl commercial starring Clint Eastwood under wraps until the Wall Street Journal reported the story Thursday.
Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri declined to comment Friday on the company's Super Bowl plan.
Clint Eastwood agent Leonard Hirshan said he was unaware of his client's participation in a Super Bowl ad. Hirshan said Eastwood is preparing for a golf tournament in Pebble Beach and is filming in Georgia next week.
A secretary at Malpaso Productions, Eastwood's production company, also said Eastwood was unavailable for comment.
"Whatever we will air is going to be as unexpected as it was last year," Olivier Francois, Chrysler's chief marketing officer, told the Free Press in December.
By holding back, Chrysler can keep expectations low while protecting one of the few big surprises during the game, said UDM's Bernacchi.
"There is just absolutely no way that they could top what they did last year," Bernacchi said.
Ford has an even more low-key strategy. The Dearborn automaker plans to sit out the Super Bowl for at least the second year in a row.
Ford's strategy is unusual, Calkins said.
"The Super Bowl is becoming so big that it is difficult for automakers to pass on it," he said. "Automotive brands were becoming conspicuous by their absence."
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