Automakers are using the Super Bowl to deliver messages that are a step above the typical product pitches.
While vehicles make cameos in most instances, there was a clear effort among brands to connect with consumers through themes that sound more inspirational than corporate.
Audi is tackling gender pay equality, while Honda is using a crew of celebrities to ask viewers to follow their dreams --a play on its “Power of Dreams” mantra -- in its CR-V spot.
Hyundai honored the sacrifices of the military, and Kia -- in its own wacky way -- is encouraging environmental friendliness in a spot pushing the Niro hybrid crossover.
But when Super Bowl ad slots cost an estimated $5 million for 30 seconds, was it a wise move to drop the product pitch in favor of a more socially conscious narrative in which the vehicles are at risk of becoming afterthoughts to viewers?
It would be ideal if a brand can hit the social narrative and showcase a product at the same time, says Devra Prywes, senior vice president of insights and marketing for ad tech company Unruly. She said there’s a push for companies these days to show their social awareness.
“Aligning with a message shows they have a point of view, it shows they’re aware of the world around them,” Prywes told Automotive News. “We’re seeing a massive push for brands in general to take on a cause, to do their part in humanity.”
In contrast, one ad expert wants to know if the goal is still to sell cars.
“[Some will say] the idea of having your brand associated with the Super Bowl is something you can get some cachet for,” Mike Bernacchi, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, told Automotive News. “If one of the goals is to sell vehicles, then you have to take a look and say ‘is that a good spend of the money?’ It’s silly to say that’s not the goal.”
Whether the messages resonate or not remains to be seen, but automakers took a variety of routes to get their points across.