Super Bowl Auto Ads Send Buyers Online

The Seattle Seahawks weren’t the only ones enjoying a blow-out night.

by on Feb.03, 2014

Actor Ben Kingsley was one of the "British villains" who helped sell Jaguar to Super Bowl viewers.

While the blow-out game appeared to see many sports fan tuning out well before the lopsided match between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos wrapped up, automotive advertisers generally appear to be pleased with the results they got from their costly Super Bowl ad blitz.

Jaguar, Maserati, Chrysler and Chevrolet all hailed their spots as successful using a variety of metrics including “customer engagement,” though it remains to be seen if they will be able to translate those investments into actual sales.

We'll Bowl You Over!

And, ironically, it appears that much of the payoff may be the result of skillful use of social media rather than an appearance during the Broncos-Seahawks game itself.

“Based on search activity…the investment paid off,” contends website AutoTrader.com, which tracked how well automotive brands that advertised during the Super Bowl fared in terms of increased online searches.

Bob Dylan in the ad for the Chrysler 200.

One of the big winners was Maserati which ran its first-ever U.S. television commercial on Sunday night during the first break in the game.  The ad echoed the serious tone taken by parent Fiat Chrysler Automotive during the last few Super Bowls, in this case with a highly cinematic series of images narrated by young film star Quvenzhané Wallis.

According to AutoTrader, Maserati saw a full 385% increase in searches during the first hour after the spot ran, while the new Ghibli model the ad focused on experienced a whipping 2,143% increase.

(Do Super Bowl ads pay off in the long-term? Click Hereto find out.)

While Jaguar, meanwhile, has long used television to reach potential buyers, it entered the Super Bowl fray for the first time this year with a spot dubbed “Rendezvous.”  It was the cap to a teaser campaign that has been running since November with the theme, “British Villains,” clearly picking up momentum along the way.

The maker saw searches surge 208%, according to AutoTrader, with a 1,460% jump for the F-Type sports car spotlighted in the Super Bowl spot anchored by Oscar winning actor Ben Kingsley.

Jaguar, however, used several other measures to call the commercial a hit – or should that be “touchdown”?  Like a growing number of Super Bowl advertisers, automotive or otherwise, the British maker released its spot well ahead of the game, and Jaguar claims that Rendezvous generated a solid 7.5 million views during the previous five days on YouTube.  The maker also noted that mentions of the Jaguar brand rose 12-fold on various social media on game day itself.

Of course, the real test will come when the new F-Type Coupe reaches showrooms this coming spring.  The convertible model has already generated strong demand but the hardtop model is expected by Jaguar to quickly become the bigger volume version.

(Volkswagen tops GM, lands in 2nd place among global automakers for 2013. Click Here for the full story.)

While Jaguar joined a significant number of other Super Bowl advertisers in releasing its spot ahead of the game, the recently renamed Fiat Chrysler has a history of trying to build interest in its longer-form spots by keeping the world in the dark about what’s coming.  That helped turn its earlier ads featuring rapper Eminem and actor Clint Eastwood into some of the most talked-about commercials in recent Super Bowl history.

The Maserati ad proved a complete surprise, though there had been some expectation of what the Chrysler brand had coming when it leaked out last week that the legendary folk singer Bob Dylan would serve as pitchman for the 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan.  As with the Eminem ad for the older Chrysler 200, the new spot ran a full two minutes and emphasized scenes from the city of Detroit, focusing on “American pride.”  Turn to the Germans for beer, it declared, the Swiss for your watches and Asians for your phones, but “We will build your car.”

The Chrysler ad was “another strong performer,” according to AutoTrader, with a 47% lift in searches.  But the ad also highlights some of the risks advertisers face when investing what is said to be more than $3 million for 30 seconds of airtime, according to various reports on the Super Bowl.  While 108 million Americans were expected to tune in, a blow-out game, like the one on Sunday, can see millions tune out well before the final play is run.  And that can leave spots like Chrysler’s late-game pitch for the 200 talking to a much smaller audience.

(Toyota halts sales on most key models due to safety-related issue. Click Here to find out more.)

Luxury brands saw a significant surge in activity during the Super Bowl, at least in terms of increased online searches, and that included Hyundai, which used some of its ad time to pump the newly redesigned Genesis luxury sedan, gaining a 373% surge for the 2015 model.

But among mainstream brands, winners included the Toyota Highlander and Ford Fusion, up  84% and 81% respectively.

It’s not easy to achieve these kinds of large shifts in search activity at the brand level, so it’s clear that these ads were doing something right,” said John Kovac, vice president of marketing for the AutoTrader Group.

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