During the Fox broadcast of Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, more than ten automakers or car-related companies will run 30- or 60-second spots, some with multiple spots, at about $2.7-$3 million for 30 seconds. That is more than double the number of different car companies to have ever advertised in one Super Bowl, according to market research and consulting company Kantar Media, New York.
In one sense, that is a sign the economy is returning to some sense of normality. General Motors (via its Chevy banner) is back after a self-imposed two-year layoff. BMW of North America is returning after about a decade away from the big game. Also driving on the road during the broadcast will be Audi, Chrysler, Kia, Volkswagen, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz. In addition, there will be ads from Bridgestone (as well as sponsorship of the half time show), CarMax and Cars.com, and Ford will advertise during the pre-game show (but not in-game).
Super Bowl XLV may be remembered as the Super Bowl Highway Traffic Jam, by far topping the $30 million cost of about 5½ minutes of airtime purchased by the auto category on CBS during Super Bowl XLIV, according to Kantar. That evokes memories -- mostly bad -- of Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000, which became known as the Dot.Com Bowl due to the presence of some 15 different online- or Internet-related advertisers. A few emerged from the debris to live again, including E*Trade, HotJobs.com and Monster.com. But the majority either folded or were acquired within the year. Anyone remember OurBeginning.com, Kforce.com, Onmoney.com, or Epidemic.com?
Among the problems: A Harris Poll taken after Super Bowl XXXIV showed that only two dot.com spots were recalled by more than 40% of those surveyed (E*Trade and Pets.com, the latter mostly because of its irreverent Sock Puppet Dog spokesperson, which actually outlived the company as a celebrity). Most of the others were forgotten by all but 5% of those surveyed!
A recent survey showed that almost 90% of consumers were actually turned off by commercials that used a celebrity to sell cars. Another, from consulting firm Deloitte, New York, indicated that 40% of new car buyers in 2012 will come from Gen Y (born after 1984) and that most of them were currently unhappy with the overall car-buying experience. So even running a funny and/or memorable Super Bowl ad might not change their minds unless it specifically addresses the problems and convinces potential car buyers to make a move.
One solution: Car companies might want to follow the lead of Anheuser-Busch, which this year is expected to run as many as eight 30-second Super Bowl ads. Although viewers might not remember every Bud or Bud Light commercial, they will remember the brands because Anheuser-Busch has paid for category exclusivity. No other beer ads can be run on Fox's national broadcast, a position Anheuser-Busch has held since 1989 and which it currently holds through Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.
In other words, if you get on the Super Bowl highway, you need to drive you competitors off the road.