Final Inspection

Super Bowl, Super Social

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The industry’s big-budget advertising, strong messages, whimsical storytelling and celebrity guest spots may spark plenty of chatter, but will it translate to sales?

First off, there probably will be a million “social media reaction” stories circulating the Internet regarding this year’s Super Bowl ads, so I know this post will be swept in with the rest. Still, I’ve always been fascinated with real-time reaction to live events ever since Facebook and Twitter ingrained themselves into our daily habits, so I’d like to weigh in anyway.

I hate to refer to my friends, relatives and colleagues as demographics, but they all were targeted in some form by auto makers looking to spin gold last night. Twitter especially forces quick-witted, often snarky responses, so I culled some of the reactions to a few of the more notable auto maker spots:

Lincoln’s “#SteerTheScript”: The only people we noticed talking about Lincoln’s ad are fellow auto journalists and analysts. The ad didn’t seem to strike a note with the average buyer at all and generally went unnoticed. For the journalists’ sake, the usual question of “how does this advance Lincoln’s brand?” came up, as Ford tries to remake the premium marque’s image. But if no one even raised an eyebrow during the “alpacalypse,” does anyone else even know that Lincoln had an image to begin with?

Ram’s “So God Made a Farmer”:Undoubtedly the most-debated ad of the night which drew the line between city mice and country mice. The urban-dwelling, so-called millennial buyers in my circle didn’t get it. “Am I supposed to buy a farm or am I supposed to buy a truck?” Some complained about the religious undertones, the same kind that was inescapable during the past election year. But for those familiar with Paul Harvey’s radio show, grew up on a farm or have relatives still living off the land, “Farmer” was a home run.

Toyota’s “RAV4 Genie”:‘90s R&B and hip-hop has found its place in mainstream advertising; another Super Bowl ad for Beck’s beer had a fish singing Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” to a bottle of premium brew. In “Genie,” we heard Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” playing at the end, which sparked plenty of reaction from nostalgic fans.  Most people also took note of actress Kaley Cuoco, so it’s safe to say Toyota dealers will have some foot traffic from those who hadn’t considered the brand before.

Audi’s “Prom”: “So if I buy an Audi, I’ll get a black eye?” Enough said.

Kia’s “Space Babies” and “Hot Bots”: Most of the criticism was lobbied toward the latter ad, with questions about how overly aggressive robots help further Kia’s still relatively new brand. Others were asking what happened to the popular dancing hamsters from the Soul commercials.

Mercedes-Benz’s “Soul”:Kate Upton who? More people appeared to be turned on by the CLA’s entry-level price ($29,900) rather than the Sports Illustrated model. There was no comment on Usher, whose brief dance-off didn’t even warrant an afterthought from viewers.

Other notable reactions:

A persistent online rumor that wouldn’t die was that halftime performer Beyonce would be presented with a 2014 Chevrolet Corvette from General Motors in lieu of the auto maker not advertising during the show at all. Not only had various GM executives denied this well before the show, but it doesn’t make sense to present Beyonce with a two-seater coupe when she has to take her husband and newborn along for the ride.

Unlike nearly every ad of the night, Chrysler’s double-header ads didn’t use hashtags encouraging Twitter users to discuss the commercials or brand. For the Ram ad, it’s incongruous to link farming with microblogging, and for the Jeep ad, where Oprah Winfrey read letters to American troops, servicemen and women probably deserve more than 140-character dedications.

There was some confusion from potential car buyers, though, as “Dodge” and “Dodge Ram” trended on Twitter; Ram was incorporated as its own brand after Chrysler’s 2009 bankruptcy, and the Dodge brand didn’t advertise at all last night.

Maybe because it was overdiscussed last week, but no one cried foul at Volkswagen’s “Get Happy” ad with office workers assuming Jamaican accents. That’s probably because no one called it a controversy until overzealous media pundits did so.

Much like the auto maker’s attempt to steal the spotlight with its Atlas concept at the Detroit auto show, Ford nearly incited a Twitter war with Chrysler by tweeting that it had supported the Future Farmers of America – to which the Ram ad was dedicated to – since 1948, and then tweeted out a timeline of its relationship with the group with the F-150 front and center.

Chrysler played it cool by noting it also had an ongoing relationship with FFA dating back some 50 years; one Chrysler spokeswoman tweeted that all farmers should be honored, regardless of what kind of pickup they drive.

Honorable mentions go to Cars.com’s ad where a car-buying couple is presented with a puppy, only to discover it’s a wolf cub with an angry wolf mother waiting to pounce, and an ad for the latest in the “Fast & Furious” movie (who’s keeping count at this point?) that featured plenty of high-performance product – including a glimpse at an Alfa Romeo, which finally is making its U.S. return this year.

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WardsAuto editors share insights and observations on the global auto industry.

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David E. Zoia

As Editorial Director, I oversee much of what goes into WardsAuto.com, enjoying a ringside seat that lets me observe up close just about every facet of the industry worldwide. I have covered the...

James M. Amend

James Amend is an associate editor at WardsAuto.com, covering day-to-day business and product news at General Motors. He also leads coverage of regulatory and environmental issues, as well as the...
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