2022 Super Bowl car ads: Touchdowns, field goals, and fumbles

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So much time and effort go into prepping for the Super Bowl. There’s brainstorming, planning, assessment, and adjustment—and sometimes readjustment. Even when victory seems assured, sometimes the big game arrives and things just don’t go the way you’d planned. Know what we mean, Irish Spring?

Wait, did you think we were talking about football? With all due respect to Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and the Los Angeles Rams, who won Super Bowl LVI with a nail-biting, come-from-behind 23–20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, we’re talking about the game within the game—the commercials. And while we can’t shake the thought of celebrities eating kitty litter, diapers, and dish soap on behalf of Uber Eats, we’re changing gears and focusing on the automotive-related commercials. There were plenty of good spots, but there were also some that left us scratching our heads and wondering why retailers paid an estimated $6.5 million per 30 seconds of airtime. Maybe they should have put that money into the development side of things.

One thing is certain: The night was electric. There were no fewer than five EV commercials broadcast during the game. Think that’s shocking? No worries. There was even one commercial that focused on safely charging your car. (Wallbox, at least you weren’t as godawful as Coinbase’s floating QR code).

TOUCHDOWN

Nissan: “Thrill Driver”

If you can make proverbial funnyman Eugene Levy come off as a badass action star, you’re doing a lot right. And Nissan does itself proud in this star-studded spoof on blockbuster movie trailers. Titled “Thrill Driver,” the ad puts us in the shotgun seat as Levy transforms from timid and reluctant to kickass and dangerous. And he doesn’t have to carry the load alone. Among the A-listers are Catherine O’Hara, Levy’s TV wife in Schitt’s Creek, as well as Black Panther’s Danai Gurira, Marvel action hero and former pro wrestler Dave Bautista, and Academy Award-winning actress Brie Larson, who gets things started by tossing Levy the keys to her new 2023 Nissan Z sports car.

A clean-cut Levy struggles to shift the car at first, but before long he’s transformed into “Dragon,” a long-haired, tattoo-covered desperado who drives the Z like a boss. After the “movie” ends with Levy’s escape, the ad cuts to a packed movie theatre, presumably from the film’s premier, where the crowd goes wild. As the actors leave via a red carpet, Larson snatches the keys from Levy. “I’ll drive,” she says. “Shotgun!” Gurira says, leaving Levy speechless on the sidewalk.

This one scores on entertainment value alone (and for most Super Bowl watchers, that’s what it’s all about anyway), but Nissan also did a good job of marketing the resurrected Z—while giving us a quick peek at Nissan’s new Ariya electric crossover SUV. We enjoyed the ride.

Toyota: “Winter Olympics 2022: Brothers”

Canadian brothers Brian and Robert McKeever are bonded by more than blood. They’re connected through friendship, loyalty, and bravery, all of which are on display in this brilliant commercial in which Toyota urges each of us to “Start your impossible.” Brian McKeever suffers from Stargardt macular degeneration, an eye disease with no cure, and his vision continues to grow worse as he gets older. That hasn’t kept him from competing as a cross-country skier, however, and he’s gone on to win 10 medals at the Paralympic Games—with older brother Robert serving as his guide. The story may have nothing to do with automobiles, but Toyota earns big props for nailing a more universal message of hope. It’s mesmerizing.

BMW USA: “Zeus & Hera”

If you saw the funny preview teaser that BMW put out last week, you may be asking yourself: Who knew Zeus drinks caffè macchiato? Probably not the factoid the German automaker hoped you’d retain. Fortunately, the full-length version of the commercial scored.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a cantankerous Zeus looking for fulfillment in retirement, but his neighbors keep pestering him to send small lightning bolts their way to electrify their dead batteries. After a fellow golfer calls out, “Yo, Zeus, a little juice,” in an effort to power up his golf cart—causing Zeus to miss a putt—he’s had it. That’s when Hera, played by Selma Hayek, saves the day by gifting her husband with a new BMW iX.

“I figured you could use a little pick-me-up,” she says.

“All electric?” Zeus asks.

“All electric.”

As the two ride off while singing “Electric Avenue,” Zeus happily uses his power to turn every traffic light green. The announcer says, “BMW: The ultimate electric driving machine.” It’s hard to argue with Zeus, but we’ll reserve judgement until we drive the iX ourselves.

Polestar: “No compromises”

We’re car people, so this commercial immediately grabbed our attention with the first glimpse of the Polestar 2’s stylish curves. What kept our attention was the awesome, throwdown message that Polestar delivered to its fellow EV competitors—particularly Tesla and Volkswagen.

Reeling off a list of pledges, including no epic voiceovers, empty promises, or hidden agendas, Polestar also vowed: “No conquering Mars,” a jab at Elon Musk, and “No Dieselgate,” aimed at VW.

Outside of automotive circles, Polestar is relatively unknown in the EV world, a David to Tesla’s Goliath. But it took a big swing on a big stage, and its message was on point. We’re guessing more than a handful of folks have jumped on Google to find out what it’s all about.

FIELD GOAL

Toyota: “Keeping up with the Joneses”

While Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual” plays in the background, Rashida Jones, Tommy Lee Jones, and Leslie Jones race Toyota Tundras in the desert and then through snowy Jones Pass. Then Nick Jonas shows up and explains that the saying is now, “Keeping up with the Jonases.” We get the joke, but isn’t it us non-Joneses who are trying to keep up with the Joneses (or Jonases)?

Chevy Silverado: “New generation (Sopranos reunion)”

If this one looks familiar, it should—at least to fans of the long-running HBO series The Sopranos. It closely matches the intro of the mob family drama, which ran from 1999 to 2007. Back then, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) drove a Chevy Suburban; this time around the gangster’s daughter, Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), takes the same route from Manhattan to New Jersey in an electrified 2022 Chevrolet Silverado.

The major difference from the show’s actual intro is the commercial’s ending. In the original, Tony pulls into the driveway of his house; in the commercial, Meadow parks in front of Bahrs Landing seafood restaurant, where she plugs in the Silverado and greets her TV brother, A.J. (Robert Iler). While the scene apparently ties up loose ends for fans of The Sopranos, it doesn’t do anything for non-HBO subscribers, which accounts for the majority of viewers.

Carvana: “Oversharing Mom

In an attempt to show just how easy it is to buy a car from Carvana—and receive personalized service from an actual person—a middle-aged mom feels the need to share her good fortune with everyone she encounters. Everyone. Everywhere. Mom shares at the hair salon, the grocery store, in the dentist’s chair, at a wedding (presumably while toasting the bride and groom), and in an art class, where she looks up at an obviously nude male model and shouts, “I love it!” We also learn that she’s a judge, and even while on the bench she can’t contain herself.

The verdict is in: It’s a cute bit, and it definitely gets the point across, but it falls a tad short of the goal line.

Vroom.com: “Flake the Musical”

Vroom has been spoiled by its own success. Last year’s “Dealership Pain” was so dang good that it would have taken a colossal effort to turn it up a notch. It didn’t happen.

In this spot, a woman hears the familiar sound that indicates she has received a text, and she gets some good news. “I’m finally going to sell my car,” she thinks to herself. Suddenly, the world around her breaks into song. In a scene that resembles a major musical, singers and dancers follow her down the street, repeating the happy news … until her phone dings again. As everyone stops in their tracks, she looks at her phone and says, disappointedly, “He backed out.”

She is suddenly transported to her front yard as Vroom picks up her vehicle. “You finally sold your car,” a neighbor says. Indeed, she did, but we can’t sell this one as a touchdown.

Kia EV6: “Robo Dog”

Kia was back for its 13th Super Bowl commercial, but the South Korean automaker played this one like a rookie. Yes, it’s admirable that Kia is working with the Petfinder Foundation to encourage the adoption of shelter animals—which explains the theme—but watching a robotic puppy run out of a store and chase after the new EV6 wasn’t quite as moving as Kia thought it would be, even with Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” playing in the background.

The commercial jumps the shark (almost literally), when the robo dog leaps from a building in an effort to land in the front seat of the car, but then runs out of juice and (presumably) crashes onto the pavement. Except that when the dog opens its eyes again—thanks to receiving a life-saving charge from the Kia, of course—there isn’t a scratch on it.

Decent analogy for what Kia is doing with EVs and sheltered animals, but when the ad wraps with Kia’s familiar tagline, “Movement that inspires,” we feel less than inspired.

FUMBLE

General Motors: “EV-erybody’s In”

On paper, this is one seems like it can’t miss. And then it did. Gathering a star-studded cast of villains from the Austin Powers series, Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) and his gang decide that taking over the earth will have to wait while they save it from climate change. That means going all-electric. As for Dr. Evil’s son Scott, and his unfortunately hideous newborn son, it also means walking. This one needed a laugh track.

WeatherTech: “Special Ops: Fit Crew”

Super Bowl regular WeatherTech has delivered some winners over the years, but this commercial, in which a special-ops unit swoops in to install WeatherTech products on an SUV, feels stale and predictable. Here’s hoping that WeatherTech has a bounce-back commercial next year; redemption stories always play well in the Super Bowl. Disappointed Cincinnati fans are probably thinking the same thing.

Think we nailed it? Think we blew it? Since opinions are like belly buttons, you must have one. Let us know your thoughts—and if you disagree, please keep it civil, folks—in the comments section below.

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