Auto Ads Veer Onto Back Roads During The Super Bowl

The Super Bowl, I'll say it, was really entertaining and tight ’til the end, and you know what that means: The advertisers who bought time in the third and fourth quarters, the fourth especially, did well. The challenge is that by then viewers are a bit desensitized, so the ads have to be that much better. Also, while a strong second half keeps people watching, it also makes ads a distraction. 

Especially with this game, and it’s incredible acts of prowess. The fact that I can't remember in which quarter a lot of these ads ran says a lot about how good the game was, or how questionable my memory is. 

This was an unusual game in other ways. Some of the automobile brand ads went in new directions: some of the most lighthearted, humorous spots, for example — with a tone usually associated with mass-market auto brands — came from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. German luxury brand ads are usually more subdued, and very, very wary about straying too far from the German sports car hagiography. 

Mercedes-Benz’ ad for its AMG GT performance coupe used cartoon characters, no less, and a play on the tortoise and the hare. First thoughts: Is it an ad for a minivan? A mobile game? I have to rattle my brain to think of the last time I saw a performance-car ad that didn't involve straight up high-speed footage, beauty shots, sexy people and a portentous voiceover on privilege, and success. Here’s an appeal to the entire family. Well, I guess you can take the kids, or one kid, to school in an AMG GT as well as in a minivan. Not a lot of kids, but still. Chauncey can chauffeur the others to school in the Escalade with tinted, bullet-proof windows.

On to the other funny premium-car ad: BMW’s, for the i3 electric car. Okay, the i3 isn't a performance car, and it's just slightly quirky looking — it looks just a bit like an extremely expensive sneaker — but they really nail the message that people don’t get hybrids, plug-ins electrics, full electrics, fuel cells, etc. At the place where I watched the game, everyone loved it.

Fiat Chrysler (FCA) does great advertising on a regular basis. The ad for Dodge, celebrating the brand’s centennial, may not be a touchdown, as were the Ron Burgundy ads, but it’s surprisingly good. Bygone cars and company history is usually mandatory in heritage ads. Instead we see several 100-year-old people offering life lessons, and those lessons become increasingly assertive, and near the very end, begin to mirror Dodge’s self-identity: live fast, remember where you came from. The automaker's killer spot, though, was for Fiat's 500x, which starts off looking like an Italian ad for Viagra. Guess what gets bigger? Hilarious ad, and everyone in the bar was laughing. 

And I should say, incidentally, that these are barstool opinions, based, in part, on bar-patron responses. As the night wore on, I got more and more bar-patron responses, thanks to the inebriating influence of beer and vodka, not in that order. But only one Super Bowl ad won full-out applause: this, from Always. 

Finally, a couple of other car ads. Nissan's spot about a race-car driver dad got mixed reactions, one of which was something along the lines of, “I don't get it.” That may be in part, because the bar was loud and Harry Chapin isn't. And that it was maudlin, with the racing dad avoiding the fate of the dad in the song

One more: Kia's spot in which Pierce Brosnan thinks he's being pitched a snowbound action/adventure film. Just my opinion, but Pierce Brosnan? Really? Couldn't you guys have gotten someone just a little more current? How about Steven Seagal?   

Another incidental full disclosure: normally I wouldn't have watched the game at all, but there I was, at an East Village bar, no less, at the behest of ad-serving company Flashtalking. I mention them because they blasted my items across the web using their Fast Feeds technology to update their ads live. Perhaps more importantly, they also bought my beer and vodka. Not in that order.

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