Eminem. Darth Vader. Transformers.
When automotive companies returned to the Super Bowl last year, they spent lavishly on theatrics and firepower.
Last year's lineup, which came as the auto industry emerged from the recession, included a dozen auto-related companies and a few commercials that made long-lasting impressions.
The highlight: Rap star Eminem put a revitalized Chrysler (and Detroit) on everyone's mind with a two-minute commercial -- a Super Bowl first -- that set the tone for the industry last year.
But Chrysler wasn't alone.
Each of the big German luxury brands made a splash, including Volkswagen with its Darth Vader spot. And Chevrolet, led by its Transformers commercial and Cruze spots, returned to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2007 in a big way.
This year the marketing momentum continues.
By some estimates the auto industry will buy the most time of any advertising category for the Feb. 5 game in Indianapolis on NBC. Automotive will make up more than 30 percent of the commercials, with 11 automotive advertisers airing spots throughout the game.
With a during-the-game rate of $3.5 million for 30 seconds, and an estimated $6 million for a 60-second commercial, automakers are spending big again.
But the efforts go beyond the game. Pre-releases are bigger than ever.
In the past, advertisers often kept their commercials under wraps before kickoff. But many car companies have developed creative teasers. VW released a 60-second Super Bowl teaser last week called "The Bark Side," which featured a dozen dogs in a canine rendition of the "Imperial March," also known as "Darth Vader's Theme," from Star Wars. It was the same song featured in last year's VW commercial that became a viral sensation.
The idea behind "The Bark Side" was to create a commercial to promote another commercial, said Mark Hunter, chief creative officer for Deutsch, the agency that produced the spot.
"We were among a few brands last year who pre-released our Super Bowl ad, and the feeling was that we were ahead of the pack," Hunter told Advertising Age, a sister publication of Automotive News.
Kia, Chevrolet, Suzuki and others are doing pre-releases. In Kia's case, its commercial will be shown in movie theaters Feb. 2.
And social media will be a key to maintaining the visibility well after the game.
"There is clearly a move toward advanced promotion and being able to leverage the investment," said Tom Talbert, group director of media services at agency Campbell Ewald.
Here's a look at this year's advertisers.
Super Bowl ad history: Last year, Honda advertised its 2011 CR-V performing well in challenging road conditions, with the tag line, "Capable, whatever the forecast." This year, Acura makes its first Super Bowl appearance.
Buy: Acura and Honda each bought a 60-second spot. Honda will be broadcast in the fourth quarter. Acura's time slot is unknown.
Model/ad theme: American Honda will break out big-time celebrities. The Acura spot will feature comedian Jerry Seinfeld going to great lengths to bribe the man who holds the rights to the first 2015 Acura NSX supercar. Meanwhile, Matthew Broderick will reprise his role as high school truant Ferris Bueller, calling in sick to an acting gig and spending the day gallivanting in a Honda CR-V crossover.
Why: Acura and Honda are rolling out the celebrities in an attempt to drive traffic to Honda and Acura Web sites and get customers back in the showroom after shortages of inventory caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Super Bowl ad history: After advertising in the game for the first time last year, Suzuki is back. Last year's "Wicked Weather" spot showed the Kizashi sedan dodging a barrage of snowballs from snowmen.
Buy: The 60-second spot will run in 21 markets. Placement of the ad in the game is unknown.
Model/ad theme: The spot, by Siltanen & Partners, will focus on the 2012 all-wheel-drive Kizashi sport sedan. Called "Sled," the commercial focuses on an Eskimo who drives the car through the frozen tundra while he and his dogs bop their heads to rap music. When the driver reaches his wife, she says to him in her native tongue, "Where's the sled?" The husband responds: "I traded it in." The spot is aimed to demonstrate the performance of the car in challenging weather, told through an "old-school-meets-new-school" story about the relationship between a husband and a wife, says the agency's CEO, Rob Siltanen.
Why: Last year's Super Bowl spot resulted in sales increases of 54 percent in 14 core markets, Suzuki says.
Buzz: Last year, the commercial received 700,000 views on YouTube. This year, the link has been posted before the Super Bowl.