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Super Bowl ads can be good – or a little too good

I have no idea whether the Eminem Super Bowl commercial will help sell a single Chrysler 200. But commenting purely as a TV-watching non-Detroiter who watches all car ads through skeptical eyes, I have to say Chrysler positively nailed it with that spot.

Seconds after the ad ran, my college-aged daughter phoned me from her Super Bowl party in Nashville wanting to know about the car. She said the party of 20-ish men and women were buzzing about the ad. She even wanted to know about the spot's uniformed doorman who winks into the camera. (As if I'd know.)

I won't pretend to understand why the ad resonates. I suspect it's the underdog tone of it. It communicates unapologetic traditionalism. It suggests history, permanence, bigness – big buildings, big people, big traditions.

Then Eminem, with all his street-cred, drives home the point that Detroit is cooler than you thought. And something about it is infectious.

Kudos to Chrysler. Kudos to ad agency Wieden + Kennedy.

Not so successful, on the other hand, was Hyundai's Sonata Hybrid Super Bowl ad.

It was funny, it was clever and it made a striking claim – namely, that the Sonata Hybrid is a very modern car in a sea of yesterday's technology.

But here was the problem: It was merely funny. The car makes a brief appearance 18 seconds into the ad. Otherwise, you get so caught up in the commercial's sight gags– for instance, a man walking around with a record turntable strapped onto his body, with headphones, as though the ipod had never been invented – that the car just gets in the way of the yucks.

Humble regrets to Hyundai. It made me laugh – but I can't recall what the car looks like.

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