In past years, automotive advertisers - Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Volvo and BMW among them - have advertised to the huge Super Bowl audience. This year, however, Volkswagen, through the Arnold Agency, was the only automotive advertiser.
A CBS spokesperson said that because of an early lack of interest from carmakers, 'We went to the Arnold Agency in Boston with a package of three commercials. This gave them de facto exclusivity in the automotive category during Super Bowl XXXV.'
Fifty-four commercials were shown during the game, at a cost of about $2.3 million per 30-second spot. Of VW's three spots, one showed a VW up in a tree and two guys trying to knock it down; another showed a guy driving his VW to his wedding - but, surprise, he was late; and the third showed two guys who needed to make a fast getaway.
In USA Today's annual Super Bowl Ad Meter ranking, VW'S spots did not fare well. The tree spot ranked 49th out of 55 with a score of 4.79 out of 10; the wedding spot, 36th with 5.46, and the getaway spot, 28th at 5.94. The top five commercials - three from Anheuser-Busch and one each from E*TRADE and Visa - all scored 8.06 or higher.
In fairness, the Arnold Agency has brought smiles with its creative efforts for VW since the reintroduction of the Beetle. But humor in automotive advertising - as VW's first agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach, learned - is tricky and transient. The joke wears thin. And who wants to drive a vehicle that people laugh at?