By Don Klein
A good commercial is one that breaks through the clutter, registers a convincing sales message and sears itself into your memory. I call it the Rule of IMP, for Intrusive, Memorable, and Persuasive. But for Super Bowl commercials there’s an additional rule: They’ve got to be entertaining as well. So which ones have us buzzing around the virtual water cooler today? Here’s our take, with each slotted alphabetically into three categories—Best, Worst, and Meh. Award-winning ad man-cum-auto journalist Don Klein knows a good (or bad) car commercial when he sees one; the Ad Section is his space to tell you what he thinks of the latest spots. But everyone has an opinion when it comes to advertising—especially during the Super Bowl—so hit Backfires below and tell us what you think, too.
This year’s Super Bowl commercial is another big win for Audi’s brilliant marketing team, not only because of the spot itself—which was for the bad-ass S6 sedan—but because of the social-media program that surrounded it. A week before the game, Audi invited people to visit their Facebook page to vote for one of three endings with the promise that the winner would be revealed during the game. But of course, the company tipped its hand, and the spot had more than 6.6 million views on YouTube by game time. The spot itself is extremely well executed (shades of Superbad?), but the kid in BMW’s prom commercial I reviewed last month got a cuter girl without suffering a shiner.
Kate Upton. Willem Dafoe. Usher. Mad Men’s Jon Hamm. Original Stones track. Cast of thousands. Multiple locations. Incredible SFX. There are foreign countries with GDPs that are smaller than this commercial’s budget. But you know what? It’s money well spent. The entire production is as sharp as Satan Dafoe’s fingernails. Conceptually, it’s brilliant: At just $29,990 (plus destination), you don’t have to make a deal with the devil to get a real Mercedes and everything the brand stands for. Mercedes is going to sell a ton of CLAs, and this commercial is a big reason why. Huge IMP factor.
Ram “So God Made a Farmer”
Using an original, scratchy recording of the late Paul Harvey, this is a two-minute sermon about why God created farmers. It’s poignant, accurate, and powerful, especially for America’s independent farmers, who not so incidentally rely on their trucks. While it’s intended to sell Rams, there’s no exploitation here, just a handful of fleeting visual product references. The real focus is on portraits of the men, women, and children of this nation’s independent farm community. If it makes them seem like heroes, it’s because so many of them are.
Volkswagen “Get In, Get Happy”
Not since Taco Bell’s talking Chihuahua has a Super Bowl commercial made such good use of an old trick: lip sync someone else’s voice to completely change a character’s personality. Allstate Insurance does it with spokesman Dennis Haysbert’s dulcet tones and the e-Trade baby will forever be a classic, but VW’s new “Jamerican” is destined for greatness. I’ve already used “Don’ fret, me brother—sticky bun be comin’ soon!” a few times, and I’ll bet I’m not alone. This commercial hits the brand/image reinforcement nail on the head with a sledgehammer and probably will get a lot of votes for favorite car commercial of the game.
Although the Santa Fe being advertised here could easily be swapped out for any other seven-passenger vehicle (the copy makes no product claims other than passenger capacity), this feel-good spot likely will be lauded for its anti-bullying message, and that’s okay with me. In the spirit of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a supportive Mom helps her son round up a ragtag team of unlikely looking boys with remarkable physical skills (like bear wresting and welding) to teach football-stealing baddies a lesson. Whether you’re a Ravens or 49ers fan, here’s one team we can all root for.
Nobody likes to get stuck behind slow-moving vehicles. Even moderately unpleasant obstacles like horse trailers or bikers displaying their ample butts have you searching for the next passing zone, so imagine if you were inches behind a tanker truck dripping toxic fluids, an about-to-explode fireworks truck, or a trailer full of ICBMs aimed squarely at your windshield. If you had a 274-hp turbocharged Hyundai Sonata, you could put all that behind you in fast order. And that’s the point made by this well-art-directed, mildly humorous commercial. The Jeff Bridges voiceover might make the spot more entertaining for fans of The Big Lebowski’s “Dude.”
This commercial is aimed at the 2014 Forte’s young, male target audience, who likely will appreciate the gratuitous body-slamming that the out-of-line geeky kid gets for dissing the robot chicks and smudging the car’s windows. I had to watch it a few times to realize that the noises at the beginning are robot movement sounds and not crows, though. Better audio mixing would have helped. The models look more like replicants than robots anyway. Daryl Hannah didn’t make noises when she moved, but Blade Runner was long before these kids were born. The copy says nothing. Literally.
Hyundai “Epic Playdate”
As near as I can tell, this is a video for The Flaming Lips song “Sun Blows Up Today.” It looks like the creators made the spot up as they went along, maybe using The Beatles’ disjointed “Hard Day’s Night” for inspiration. The vignettes are embarrassingly dated, hopelessly trite, and wholly unbelievable. The Santa Fe is merely a prop—the commercial says nothing about it other than it carries seven passengers. The father’s last line confirms my suspicion that it was hastily thrown together as a Super Bowl special. Epic? Yes—as in fail.
Jeep “Whole Again”
Jeep and Oprah Winfrey teamed to make this two-minute tribute to our returning vets and their families. It’s a beautifully crafted, emotional salute that expresses the gratitude we all feel for those who serve our country and keep us safe from harm. And then they go and blow it all by turning it into a self-serving Jeep commercial. Another Chrysler brand, Dodge, has a terrific Challenger commercial that makes the same point by showing a returning soldier and his young son. In that spot, the car is key to the relationship but it’s never mentioned. Surely Jeep could have done the same.
Kia “Space Babies”
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a lot of Super Bowl viewers—especially young mothers—liked this commercial about a father’s awkward answer to his son’s question about the birds and bees. They liked the adorable computer-generated babies (both human and animal), they liked the mostly sweet but wink-wink explanation that Dad offers, and they liked the inclusion of species from all lands. And I’ll stay out on that same limb to say that the vast majority of them won’t remember the vehicle being advertised. (It was the Sorento.) And who can blame them? It’s hardly ever shown.
When Ford introduced the “Lincoln Motor Company” late last year, it invested millions of dollars to run a commercial that showed models from that brand’s glory days and told us that “this is about moving forward by looking back” to cars that proudly represented the Lincoln ideal. With this new commercial, it pulled a 180 and showed a ’90s Town Car that has a close encounter with a flame thrower and emerges as an MKZ, this time telling us that our memories of the brand are all wrong: “It’s not what you think.” Jeez, Lincoln, make up your mind!
Lincoln “Steer The Script”
To make the most of their social-media efforts, Lincoln teamed with Jimmy Fallon (and his extensive roster of Twitter followers) to create an MKZ commercial inspired by tweets about real people’s memorable road trips. Thousands of submissions were narrowed down to five tweets, which were cobbled together to make an entertaining 90-second spot. Of course, none of the original road trips happened in an MKZ, but the spot works nonetheless. At least in the longer version. But during the game, Lincoln aired the lame 30-second clip. They should have scrapped the “Phoenix” buy and run the longer one instead. Again, Lincoln, make up your mind! (We do dig the Wil Wheaton cameo, though.)
Toyota RAV4 “Wish Granted”
The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco is funny and well-liked. So Toyota decided to make her a genie who grants wishes to RAV4 owners. Of course, this has nothing to do with reality (or the new RAV4), as this ridiculous commercial demonstrates. The spot is likable enough—gotta love the talking squirrels and Dr. Chocolate—but it’s completely irrelevant to the RAV4, which just sits in the driveway while Ms. Cuoco (stuffed into an ill-fitting purple pantsuit) and the Henderson family magically fly through time and space on their imaginary adventures. Two words come to mind: stupid and why?
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver