Hit or Miss: Analyzing Car Commercials of Super Bowl XLIX

Like most people watching the Big Game, I had a viewing party with good friends. Because of the diversity of my Super Bowl watching group (who ranged in age from teens to retirees), I was interested to see both how the commercials resonated with different demographics and what content marketers can learn from them.

With this in mind, I give you a list of car commercials that hit or missed during this year’s Super Bowl:

Hit: Lexus – Let’s Play

Keeping in line with the luxury car’s branding, this is a highly polished, soundly edited spot. It features impressive drifting stunts that show off the precision of the Lexus RC, in much the same way as Volvo Trucks’ viral ad starring Jean Claude-Van Damme.

The reveal at the end is a nice touch, but what really works well here is how the commercial embodies the fun, playful spirit of its brand messaging without a single spoken word.

Hit: Nissan – #withdad

This commercial generated mixed feelings from my viewing group. A millennial said it made him reminisce times spent riding in the car with his father while a Gen Y viewer deemed it “melodramatic nonsense.”

Cat’s in the Cradle aside, I’m a fan of the #withdad campaign. The hashtag incorporates social media integration to celebrate fathers with user-generated photos to honor and reminisce on times spent with Dad. Continuing on that theme, Nissan has announced a partnership with Habitat for Humanity and Wounded Warrior Project to “help people build better lives for themselves and their families,” with $2,000,000 in donations. Now that’s a cause we can get behind.

Hit: BMW i3 – Newfangled Idea

Kudos to BMW (and journalists Kate Couric and Bryant Gumbel) for being willing to poke fun at themselves. Rather than cram as much information about the energy efficiency of the i3 into a short amount of time, this spot light-heartedly admits that acclimating to the future can take some time, while also hinting at the future value this car will come to hold.

My only complaint: was that last line about twerking really necessary?

Miss: Dodge – #DodgeWisdom

When your brand is over 100 years old, it can be hard to sell your “relevance” in the modern age. Rather than prove how they are still “hip” and “cool,” Dodge’s TV spot embraced the company’s longevity and the well-known adage: with age comes wisdom. It also does an excellent job answering the question: “Why should I buy a car from a century-old manufacturer?”

But there’s a catch.

The #DodgeWisdom ad is so old, it almost could’ve been in last year’s Super Bowl. That’s right. It’s actually a repackaged commercial that Dodge published to its YouTube channel last April to promote the refreshed Dodge Challenger. To prevent getting dinged by YouTube for uploading duplicate content, Dodge deleted the old video and re-uploaded it to make it seem like a fresh ad. In light of this, #DodgeWisdom loses major points (because let’s face it, no one likes a re-gift).

Miss: Bold New Camry – How Great I Am

It took a couple viewings for some in my Super Bowl viewing group to figure out this was a car commercial. “I was so focused on the girl, I didn’t even realize this was about a car,” said one friend, to which others in the group nodded in agreement.

No doubt about it, watching Amy Purdy take to the slopes, set to Muhammad Ali’s powerful speech, makes for mesmerizing TV. I do like the idea Camry was going for here, but ultimately, I think it was a missed opportunity to spotlight their product.

Miss: Mercedes Benz – Fable

The first time this spot aired, one millennial in the group was excited to see it because he’d heard a lot of hype about it. “They were promoting it on ESPN radio all week,” he explained, adding how he’d heard you could cast your vote on Twitter for either #teamtortoise or #teamhare.

By the end of the commercial, he was less than impressed. “It was pretty predictable actually,” he said. “People were voting all along but [Mercedes Benz] wasn’t going to re-write the story. You know the tortoise was going to win.”

I loved the idea of Mercedes Benz promoting their campaign on multiple platforms, i.e. social media and radio. It’s even great that they encouraged user participation by the use of hashtag voting. However, as pointed out, the ad had a predictable ending.

If Mercedes were to air a similar spot in future Super Bowls, I’d recommend that they cast different subjects for the race, perhaps two different Mercedes car models. Users could still vote for their favorite car on social media, and the end result would be more of a surprise.


Did your favorite or least favorite car commercials of Super Bowl 2015 make our Hit or Miss list? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Share your thoughts with a comment below!

Written by Alex Herring

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