Hyundai, Lincoln bet big on Super Bowl; GM, Honda sit game out
The 2013 Super Bowl next week will be super for automotive advertisers.
As of late last week, eight auto industry players had confirmed plans to air 11 commercials during the big game for a total cost of an estimated $60 million.
That total excludes Chrysler, which has refused to talk about its Super Bowl plans, though sources tell Automotive News and sibling publication Advertising Age that Chrysler will be back this year.
Thirty-second spots are selling for about $3.7 million, says Advertising Age.
Social media are playing a bigger role than ever in the auto industry's plans for the big game. Teaser videos, pictures and more have been issued, tweeted and posted to YouTube and Facebook. Automakers hope online sharing of Super Bowl-related content will give them more bang for their Super Bowl buck.
Some brands even asked their fans for help to create their commercials by "crowd sourcing," that is, soliciting, ideas via social media.
A few big names, namely General Motors and Honda, are sitting on the bench after making a splash in the past few years.
There may be some late additions this week, but here's the rundown of automotive advertisers in this year's Super Bowl.
Buy: One 60-second spot in the first quarter
Mission: Audi told a story about technology last year with "Vampire Party," which showed Audi's signature LED headlights turning vampires into dust. This year, for its sixth appearance in the Super Bowl, Audi wants a more human and emotional touch but without sacrificing the edginess that has helped it become a hot brand for younger luxury-car buyers.
Creative: An awkward teenager is getting ready to go the prom without a date when his father throws him the keys to his S6. Brimming with confidence as he approaches school, the young man pulls into the principal's parking spot. Then he walks into the dance and kisses the prom queen, much to the displeasure of her date.
He drives home with a black eye and a devilish grin -- and what happens next depends on the public. Audi posted three alternative endings online on Friday, placing a prominent advertisement on the front page of the streaming video site YouTube.com and asking viewers to choose an ending. The winning ending was scheduled to be announced Jan. 26.
Loren Angelo, general manager of brand marketing at Audi, says the brand also plans to focus more marketing on the theme in the commercial's tag line: "Bravery. It's what defines us."
Agency: Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco
Buy: One 30-second spot in the first quarter
Mission: Cars.com has (almost) become as much of a fixture in Super Bowl advertising as makers of inexpensive beer and salty snacks. This will be the vehicle shopping Web site's sixth straight year in the big game.
As the economy rebounds and shoppers flock to the Web to find autos, Cars.com is using the Super Bowl to kick off a yearlong campaign, dubbed "Why Drama," to tout how its online tools ease car buying.
Creative: Cars.com is withholding the commercial until it airs in the Super Bowl, but a teaser for the spot suggest that the company will have fun with consumers' anxiety about buying a car at a dealership.
The teaser opens with a shot inside a dealership, ominous music in the background, as a gravelly voiceover you'd hear in an action movie trailer says, "At Cars.com, we've taken the drama out of car shopping."
Sitting across from a salesman, a customer says how using Cars.com's shopping tools made buying a car easy. But something's missing: the drama.
"But ..." the customer says, tentatively.
"... but you were hoping for a little more drama," the salesman quips.
"Kinda, yeah," the customer's male companion says.
The teaser then cuts to similar scenarios with other customers at the dealership. All the salesmen signal that they have an idea for how to bring back the drama. One reaches down into his desk before the shot goes dark and you hear the snarling roar of a big cat. Or maybe a dinosaur. Either way, the teaser says the answer will come during the game.
Agency: McGarryBowen, Chicago
Buy: Unclear. Chrysler has declined to discuss potential advertising plans for the 2013 Super Bowl. But Advertising Age reports that the automaker plans to return to the game this year. Also, a source with knowledge of the situation has told Automotive News that Chrysler will air a spot.
Mission: Unlike most other automotive advertisers, Chrysler keeps its Super Bowl commercials under lock and key until the big game. Automakers have released Super Bowl teasers, press releases, images and sometimes the entire commercial days and even weeks before the Super Bowl to build buzz before game day on social media.
The downside of Chrysler's strategy is that it misses exposure on the Web generated by people sharing the spot and commenting on it. The upside is that the creative work is a surprise when it airs. And if the last two years are any indication, Chrysler has done well by holding back.
Chrysler's 2011 "Born of Fire" commercial featuring rapper Eminem, which introduced the "Imported from Detroit" tag line, created a monster splash for the Chrysler brand.
Creative: Chrysler's plans were unknown late last week.
Agency: To be determined. Portland agency Wieden+Kennedy produced Chrysler's Super Bowl spot in 2011 and "It's Halftime in America" last year.
Buy: Two 30-second pre-game spots, a 60-second spot before kickoff and 30-second spots during the first and second quarters
Mission: Sporty cars starred in Hyundai's Super Bowl spots last year. This year, Hyundai's seven-passenger Santa Fe will take center stage. Hyundai's largest crossover, the brand's third best-selling nameplate, was redesigned for the 2013 model year and is the linchpin in Hyundai's plan to boost its appeal to shoppers with families.
At the same time, Hyundai -- viewed as a rational choice by many -- is using one spot to proclaim that Hyundai is for fun-lovers, too.
Creative: A kid kicked off the football field by neighborhood ruffians rounds up a posse of his own -- in his mom's Santa Fe -- to take them on in "Team," Hyundai's 30-second spot in the first quarter.
Ever been stuck behind a vehicle carrying ominous cargo that looks like it could ruin your ride? Hyundai's second-quarter commercial called "Stuck" shows how the Sonata Turbo solves that problem.
Hyundai's 60-second "Epic Play Date" spot will run just before kickoff. The commercial shows an outlandish family outing of skateboarding kids, dad doing donuts in the mud, the family being chased by museum security guards, a biker gang and one angry-looking ostrich. Meanwhile, an original song by rock band the Flaming Lips plays in the background. The band cameos throughout the commercial.
"Hyundai as a brand is a rational choice," said Steve Shannon, Hyundai Motor America's vice president of marketing. "The Super Bowl almost begs for being a little over the top, humorous and leaving people with a smile on their face."
In one pre-game spot, a Genesis R-Spec roars around a racetrack accompanied by the raucous play-calling of sportscaster Gus Johnson.
Agency: Innocean USA
Buy: 30-second commercial in the third quarter; 60-second spot in the fourth.
Mission: Kia has been red hot for the past few years, but at 3.8 percent market share, it still has to work to get on consumer shopping lists. That's why the big game, and its 100 million-plus viewers, is a key part of Kia's ad strategy. Kia's Super Bowl spots will also kick off a big marketing campaign for Kia as it prepares to launch seven new or updated vehicles in 2013.
"The Super Bowl has been a great platform in helping us to connect with so many Americans who still don't know the Kia brand," Michael Sprague, Kia's executive vice president of marketing, said in a recent interview.
Creative: The Sorento crossover will star in Kia's 60-second spot in the fourth quarter, dubbed "Space Babies." The creative is a fun take on a question dreaded by parents of young children: Where do babies come from? In the spot, a father driving the family Sorento spins a creative answer -- that babies come from the far-flung planet of Babylandia.
"Every day is an adventure in parenting, and 'Space Babies' is an entertaining look at life's challenges and the many ways the Sorento's long list of technologies and amenities can make getting through the day just a little better," Sprague said in a statement about the commercial released last week.
Agency: David & Goliath
Buy: One 30-second spot in the third quarter plus another 30-second spot in an undetermined quarter
Mission: Ford Motor Co.'s luxury brand wants to energize its new brand campaign that began in December. The goal is to tell the story of the brand's history, highlight the redesigned MKZ sedan and drive traffic to Lincoln's social media and online sites.
Creative: Lincoln has widely promoted that it "crowd-sourced" one of its Super Bowl commercials using Twitter. That means Lincoln got its the idea for the commercial from Twitter users who submitted, in 140 characters or less, their thoughts on what a cool Lincoln Super Bowl commercial would be.
"The purpose of that is to start a conversation with a whole new group of consumers for Lincoln's relaunch," Lincoln spokesman Tom Kowaleski said.
Late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon selected five ideas from the more than 6,000 tweets Lincoln received for the promotion, Kowaleski said. The spot will also direct viewers to Lincoln's steerthescript.com Web site for a 90-second version of the commercial and for information about how the spot was created.
For its second commercial, Lincoln let its ad agency work without help from Twitter. The spot, "Phoenix," tells Lincoln's history with a focus on the redesigned MKZ sedan, Kowaleski says.
Agency: Hudson Rouge, the WPP-owned unit that was created to handle Lincoln's account
Buy: One 60-second commercial in the fourth quarter
Mission: The brand will use the Super Bowl's big stage to pitch the new CLA, a sculpted, sporty, compact sedan intended to woo younger buyers to Mercedes.
Creative: The spot was not made available late last week, but a statement released this month says the commercial will be a "tongue-in-cheek depiction of how far a person might go to get their heart's desire and what shape the 'good life' might take." The spot features model Kate Upton along with R&B singer Usher.
Agency: Omnicom's Merkley+Partners
Buy: A 60-second spot in the first quarter, two post-game spots
Mission: Toyota wants big exposure for its redesigned RAV4 during the game and afterward on social media channels. To help, Toyota enlisted actress Kaley Cuoco, from the TV sitcom "The Big Bang Theory," to star in the Super Bowl spot and spread the word about the marketing campaign to social media users, including her 1.1 million Twitter followers.
"What was important for us was we really wanted to find someone from a social media following standpoint who was younger and who had the attention of youth," Jack Hollis, Toyota Division vice president of marketing, said in an interview.
Creative: In the spot, Cuoco plays a wish-granting genie who comes along with the new RAV that the Henderson family just purchased. She grants each family member's wish, based on how she interprets the wishes, according to a Toyota statement issued before the commercial's release.
A teaser of the ad released last week shows Cuoco strutting down the street, magically making the lyrics of rapper Skee-Lo's 1995 song "I wish" come to life. She turns a passerby into a giant and helps a wannabe basketball player get a slam dunk.
One post-game spot will feature Toyota's new "Let's go places" brand campaign. The second will be a special cut of Toyota's Tundra commercial in which a stock Tundra tows the Endeavor space shuttle on the streets of Los Angeles.
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi L.A.
Buy: One 60-second spot in the second quarter
Mission: The German brand hopes its third straight year in the big game will capture the fun and enthusiasm of its previous two spots -- last year's commercial in which a dog gets back in shape to chase a new Beetle down the street and the adorable, young Darth Vader spot that became a viral hit in 2011.
Creative: A teaser video released last week suggests that Volkswagen plans to stick to the humorous, feel-good tone that has marked its TV commercials of late.
The teaser shows viral videos from YouTube of people who are down in the dumps, such as a guy smashing his Xbox with an electric guitar and a girl who starts bawling when she talks about her love of cats in an online dating video. In the background, reggae singer Jimmy Cliff sings a rendition of the Partridge Family's "Come On Get Happy."
After the viral videos, Cliff is seen singing in a field, where he's joined by real people from the videos who have cured what ailed them. The cat-crazy girl, for example, is holding a cat. The idea is that a Volkswagen will help you feel happy.
VW says the commercial, set for release Monday after being chosen from a pair of final contenders last week, will include "Come On Get Happy" and a VW Beetle, though the spot will be more about the brand than the car.
Agency: Deutsch, Los Angeles
You can reach Ryan Beene at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow Ryan on