News Column

Among Super Bowl Ads, the Stars Were the Cars

Feb 7, 2012

Howard Greninger


Lots of dogs and babies appeared in commercial advertisements for Super Bowl XLVI, but game-day ads also increasingly are pointing to social media handles, such as Twitter and Facebook.

It's also the first year that many of the anticipated commercials were released early on YouTube.

"I feel like that took some of the 'special-ness,' if you will, off of seeing them for the first time. I saw probably six or seven of them before they aired, but at the same time, I think people are still glued to the television to catch the one they don't want to miss," said David Cordell, senior art director at Williams Randall Marketing's Indianapolis office.

And, as Super Bowl advertisements run around $3.5 million for a 30-second spot, getting more exposure is all the better. "It's a record price and every year it is getting more and more costly," said James J. Tanoos, assistant professor of marketing at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College and marketing instructor at Indiana State University.

Super Bowl advertisers also "lucked out due to the tight game in the fourth quarter and this game has a great chance of breaking a ratings record," Tanoos said.

Cordell said this year had a new surprise to him -- a resurgence of the auto industry and big manufacturing.

"There was Audi, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Chrysler, Honda, [Toyota], Cadillac and Fiat," Cordell said. "Fiat, I thought, had a fantastic commercial. I honestly didn't know where they were going with that one," he said. That commercial shows an Italian woman romancing a guy, then her image fades, leaving a Fiat.

"I think sometimes with the Super Bowl you get spots that are over the top, just to be over the top, but when you can actually tie the emotion that you are trying to get for your brand, into the spot, I think they did a great job," Cordell said.

The other is Audi, where headlights are more like daylight. The result -- a party of vampires is turned into burning dust from the headlights. "I've been trying to kill vampires for years," Cordell chuckled. "My wife was bummed as she loved all the vampires," he said.

Volkswagen had an overweight dog that couldn't fit through the door and give chase to its favorite car, the VW bug. So, the dog trained by running on a treadmill and swimming in a pool. The commercial ends with a switch to last year, when VW had a boy dressed as Darth Vader. This time Vader appears in the famous cantina of Star Wars.

"For me, the commercial that stood out by far was for Chrysler," Cordell said. "I think when you can tie in the Super Bowl, when you can tie in the moment, which was halftime, and when you can tie in the pulse of the economy and what people are feeling. I saw that commercial and felt energized by it. I thought it was an emotional, well-down spot. It was really powerful," Cordell said.

Bob Rhodes, account executive at MillerWhite's Terre Haute office, said "lots of dogs and babies this year" along with monkeys, helped push products in the game-day ads. "Babies and animals are two of the biggest things that people can relate to in life," Rhodes said.

Skechers used a French bulldog wearing the brand's shoes to win at a dog track race.

Still, Super Bowl commercials, which over more than the past decade have become part of the game's entertainment value, now face a tougher task of getting creative, Rhodes said.

"It has gotten to a point where, as a viewer, your expectations are so high, it is hard to find out which commercials really cut through the clutter and stand out," Rhodes said.

"I think Hyundai had some really good commercials, as well as the commercials generated by consumers, such as for Doritos," Rhodes said.

The Doritos spot, a consumer ad made on a $20 budget by Kevin T. Wilson, a graphic artist and musician, featured a large Great Dane that casually buries the family cat, then bribes the owner to keep mum by supplying him with Doritos.

Rhodes said many commercials were clearly targeted at certain age groups, such as a Samsung commercial, with songs targeted at a younger group, while a Budweiser commercial that showed prohibition was targeted at an other viewing group.

The use of Twitter and Facebook is also a growing trend in advertising, Rhodes said, such as Bud Light using Facebook site for helping dogs, Rhodes said. The site was shown on the side of a cooler being pushed by a dog at the end of Bud Light's rescue dog commercial.

"There were more tweets, according to Ad Age [which supplies advertising agency and marketing industry news], concerning the Super Bowl commercials than there were the past Oscars. Commercials have become a show in their own right," Tanoos said.

Tanoos added that Super Bowl commercials are continuing a trend of mixing personalities, such as Jay Leno with Madonna in an elevator or a Pepsi commercial featuring X Factor winner Melanie Amaro dropping King Elton John into a dungeon.

"One interesting aspect, one of the most famous pitchman of the past 10 years, [Indianapolis Colts quarterback] Peyton Manning was conspicuous by his absence in both the game as well as [game-day] commercials," Tanoos said.

Source: (c)2012 The Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, Ind.)

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