Of course we saw the game. One word, five syllables: Unbelievable. Super Bowl LI will be remembered for New England’s against-all-odds second-half comeback to shock Atlanta, but the game had its share of forgettable moments, too. The same can be said about LI’s car-related television commercials.
Ford, Buick, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, Lexus, Hyundai, Honda, KIA … They all took their best shot at making us laugh, think and – they hope, ultimately – buy. Some scored, others fumbled. These stood out:
TOUCHDOWN + TWO-POINT CONVERSION
Alfa Romeo – If the ultimate goal of advertising is to motivate us to purchase, Alfa tossed a 90-yard TD pass. Fiat Chrysler clearly used the Super Bowl to remind the U.S. market that a great sports sedan (like the Giulia) isn’t something you drive, it’s something you experience. If you’re a car-loving adrenaline junkie, you had but one thought at the end of “Riding Dragons,” the first of three Alfa commercials: “Give me the keys.” In our opinion, it was the only ad that did.
Audi – Did you feel that? So did every other human who gives a rip about females. Featuring a young girl competing in a soap-box car race against boys, Audi’s obvious target was dads with daughters, but hey, the commercial left an impression on every person who doesn’t live in a cave. The message is clear: “Progress is for everyone” … and so is Audi.
KIA – Melissa McCarthy could read a phone book and make us laugh, and her bit as a whale-saving, tree-hugging, polar ice-cap protecting, rhino-loving Kia Niro hybrid owner nailed it. So let’s give KIA props for grabbing our attention, particularly the attention of drivers (and future drivers) with “save the planet” written atop their priority list. Did the hilarity convince us to buy a KIA? No. We’re saving for a new Alfa.
Hyundai – Hyundai filmed a commercial during the Super Bowl and had it ready to roll immediately after the winner was crowned. In “Operation Better,” the South Korean automaker visited a U.S. military base in Poland and set up wrap-around screens that allowed selected soldiers the opportunity to watch the game “with” their family. It literally looked like they were sitting next to each other. That’s both heartwarming and sad … so close, yet so far away. No matter how you look at it, it left an impression.
Mercedes-Benz – If you saw the 1969 biker flick “Easy Rider” in the theatre … or you rode a chopper … or you think Peter Fonda is a bigger star than his dad, Henry, or sister, Jane, then you probably loved this one, titled “Born to Be Wild.” By depicting Peter Fonda as a bit of a sellout, Mercedes-Benz aimed for the funny bone. Unfortunately it may have kicked a few car buyers in the shins by sending them in search of the joke.
Ford – In “Go Further,” Ford garnered some laughs by showing “stuck” people getting “unstuck.” Although we won’t soon forget the kid trapped beneath his big-wheel bike and calling for his mom, FoMoCo’s effort to promote its new technological advances fell a bit short.
Lexus – The Japanese brand had the same objective as Alfa Romeo. “Man and Machine” hoped to tap into our emotions. Lexus is really cool, isn’t it? Yes, it is. The commercial, on the other hand…
Honda – Although it earned praise in some circles, we found Honda’s commercial a little puzzling. Yes, we get the gist – Chase your dreams! But we were a bit creeped out by those old celebrity yearbook photos that came to life and offered sage advice. Steve Carell and Jimmy Kimmel were a hoot, but … no. Still creepy.
Buick – With popular NFL quarterback Cam Newton and Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr as headliners, this thing couldn’t miss right? Right. And with a 25-point lead, the Falcons could start planning their victory parade. Oops. Continuing Buick’s “That’s Not a Buick” concept, we saw Newton toss a touchdown pass for a pee wee football team and Kerr take over as head coach. If that’s a top Super Bowl commercial, then we can buy a new Alfa for the same price as a Huffy. (We’re waiting …)
ON THE BENCH
Everybody else – Where were you Dodge? Jeep? Dodge rocked it out in 2015 and Jeep nailed it last year, but both were no shows this time around. Maybe they pulled a muscle or something.