Automakers advertising in the Super Bowl this year will be more prepared than ever to immediately react in marketing war rooms to feedback about their ads that promise to feature Muppets, British villains, patriotic themes and, of course, something secret from Chrysler.
This year will be the fourth in a row with a big showing from the automotive industry. Once again, automakers will use whatever they can, from canine to supermodel, to be memorable amid the advertising clutter.
Volkswagen will have a staff of about 10 people from marketing and advertising, public relations and the legal department watching the game, said Justin Osborne, general manager of marketing communications for the German automaker. Its 60-second ad will air during the second quarter.
“We’ve set up a pretty robust war room,” Osborne said. “This year, I think there will be a lot more emphasis on real-time marketing and reacting to what’s happening at the game.”
Ford hasn’t run a commercial during the actual game for seven years for the Ford brand, but it’s hinting at big plans. The Dearborn, Mich., automaker bought an ad for Lincoln last year. General Motors said in August it will return to the big game after benching itself last year.
This year, at least nine automotive brands, one automotive retailer and an automotive accessory company plan to flood the zone during the Super Bowl next Sunday. They include: Audi, CarMax, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Toyota and WeatherTech.
It can cost up to $10 million to produce a Super Bowl commercial and buy the ad time. Most automotive companies release teasers in the days and weeks before the game. They intensely monitor viewer responses during the game and as they continue the promotion afterward.
“For us, it is not just about the spot on Sunday,” said Michael Sprague, executive vice president of Kia Motors America. “We build whole campaigns around them, and they are part of the overall launch campaign for the overall product.”
Most automakers now have a staff of ad writers, public relations professionals and lawyers watching the game together. The industry buzzword of the day – “real-time marketing” – is best exemplified by Oreo.
Last year, Oreo reacted quickly when the lights went out at the Super Dome in New Orleans for more than 30 minutes. During the blackout, Oreo sent out an ad on Twitter that said, “You can still Dunk in the Dark.”
The message quickly generated more than 15,000 re-tweets. It also proved that people aren’t just watching the game: They are also watching their smartphones and sending messages to friends and followers.
“The advertisers that are able to connect all the screens, those are the ones that will succeed,” said Mark Simon, chief creative officer for Lowe Campbell Ewald, located in downtown Detroit.
In 2013, automotive companies spent about $92 million on 12 commercials for nine different brands, according to Kantar Media, an advertising research company.
“Automotive is still a heavily cluttered category,” said Jon Swallen, chief research officer for Kantar Media.
Automotive manufacturers are attracted to the Super Bowl because they market their products to people across almost all age groups and demographics and are continuously rolling out new products that need marketing support. They have budgets large enough to be able to absorb the cost, Swallen said.
And it’s not just the size of the audience _ which can exceed 100 million _ it’s that many people are just as interested in the commercials as they are in the game.
“It’s that one time of the year that advertising gets invited for the party,” Simon said.
This year’s Super Bowl will include automakers who are making their very first appearance as well as all-pro veterans.
• Jaguar/Land Rover is a newcomer to the game and also has one of the most intriguing marketing campaigns so far. The Indian-owned automaker is playing off its roots and heritage with a marketing campaign called “British Villains” that plays off Hollywood’s tendency to cast British men as bad guys.
Its 60-second ad called “Rendezvous” stars Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong and was filmed in London by Oscar-winning British director Tom Hooper.
• Chrysler continues to be one of the few companies that doesn’t reveal any details about its plans until its commercial debuts during the game. The Auburn Hills, Mich., automaker generated political controversy in 2012 with Clint Eastwood’s “Halftime in America” pep talk and changed the nature of Super Bowl advertising with the widely praised, first-ever two-minute ad starring Eminem in 2011.
“We had the right commercial and the wrong car” in 2011, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said earlier this month after the company unveiled an all-new Chrysler 200 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “I think we now have hopefully the right commercial and the right car.”
• GM is planning to air two 60-second commercials for Chevrolet but hasn’t said which nameplates will be featured. A commercial for the Silverado or Colorado pickups would be a safe bet.
• Hyundai will be returning to the Super Bowl for the seventh year straight.
The Korean automaker has two 30-second spots, says spokeswoman Chelsea Levy. The one in the first quarter is a heart-warmer involving the “near-misses and saves” in a father-son relationship.
In the fourth quarter, the other 30-second spot involves two celebrities in an escalating game of compliments.
“They don’t call it the Super Bowl for nothing. When it comes to audience size, engagement with the advertising, social media talk value, and driving shopping traffic to Hyundai.com, nothing else even comes close,” said Steve Shannon, vice president of marketing, Hyundai Motor America.
• Kia, the Korean automaker, wants Americans to rethink their idea of luxury as it releases its K900 premium sedan. It has enlisted Laurence Fishburne to reprise his character of Morpheus from “The Matrix” for its 60-second ad.
Sprague, Kia’s marketing chief, said the Super Bowl remains a great opportunity to introduce the brand to people who don’t know much about the company.
“We still have challenges in terms of our awareness,” Sprague said. “While we have made progress, there are still a lot of people who don’t know who we are.”