Super Bowl Ads Predict End of World. Unless You Drive a Chevy.

If you watched Super Bowl XLVI , you might’ve guessed that the Apocalypse was upon us. Not because the New England Patriots lost. Because of the ads.

If you mash up this year’s Super Bowl ads, it might look something like this: the end of the world is coming but if you buy a new car, take a day off work, or take your car out for a joy ride, especially a Chevy, you’ll be OK. Since they’re paying $3.5+ million per spot, advertisers certainly hope you’ll find their ads fine, too.

But are they effective? Hmmmm. These are the messages I took home from the Super Bowl ad blitz:

Buying a car will save your life… Ads promoting movies like G.I. Joe, Avenger, and John Carter and Chevy trucks all had prominent doomsday themes. To the strains of Barry Manilow’s “Looks Like We Made It” — in and of itself apocalyptic —  the Chevy ad shows a burly guy driving his truck through debris and falling buildings as the world comes to an end. He finally meets up with several other guys, also driving Chevy trucks. When he asks “what happened to Dave?”, one of the men responds with a tongue-in-cheek spiel about the toughness of Chevy trucks. Then he notes that Dave drove a Ford. Nice dig at Ford, who’s the leader in full-size truck sales (though some car execs claim Chevy and GMC pickups combined typically outsell Ford).

And then there was Clint Eastwood, gravely reminding us right after half-time that it was half-time in America, and life is tough, but Americans would survive these hard times by….buying Chrysler cars and trucks.  So, to get out of our economic rut, we need to buy more cars? Really?

.. and it’ll also enable you to relive your youth. I love the fact that Matthew Broderick is featured in an updated version of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” cruising around town in his CR-V. Honda knows who’s in the Super Bowl audience –Boomers who want a car to handle all of their adventures. Same goes for Acura, who roped in car-fanatics Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno to play off our competitive streaks. The Chevy Camaro ad was cute and the bungee-jumping, aerobatic car in the Chevy Sonic ad was great for thrill-seekers. At least Chevy was clearly targeting different consumers who were watching. Not sure who Audi was targeting with an ad about its uber-headlights that vanquish vampires.  And Hyundai — does anyone under the age of 30 know the theme from “Rocky,” ’cause I’m not sure what the advertising message was other than “we try hard.”

Some ads are clearly not targeted to women..., with its naked model and spokeswomen Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels, clearly isn’t going for the soccer mom audience. All I could envision were salivating adolescent boys. And the ETrade baby is cute but his schtick is getting old.

..some are (?). Clothing retailer H&M reinvents the Mark Wahlberg-Calvin Klein ad with David Beckham showing off his new line of “bodywear” (and waaaay too many tatoos). Mr. Quigley, the dog in red Skechers who smoked his other four-legged competitors on the race track, was funny but, as a runner, I can’t imagine Skechers as anything more than those wacky “shape-up” shoes.

Some advertisers are still living off their 1980s-90s hype. I used to look forward to ads created for the Super Bowl by Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola and Doritos (confession: I once worked for Pepsi). These companies spend millions wooing celebrity spokespeople to outshine their competitors on television. But now I think these advertisers are on the Super Bowl because it’s expected of them. Coke’s polar bears were cute and Elton John’s famed platform shoes were a nice touch, but that’s about it. After watching the Doritos slingshot ad, I wondered if old ladies and babies are the next new market for the corn chip snack. Evidently, all three brands score pretty high on the ad engagement scale, but they didn’t engage me.

Budweiser is the only beer sold in America. You’d think based on the amount of ads that the King of Beers aired during this Super Bowl, and Super Bowls past, that it’s found the event to be a big sales generator. Wrong.  According to, Budweiser finished last in a survey of likely Super Bowl watchers “in its ability to receive a solid return on its investment for this year’s game.” Ouch. Guess sales of Bud have actually declined, despite their multi-million dollar ad buys.

Like it or not, Super Bowl advertising is part of the American consciousness. My 12-year-old daughter told me she didn’t discuss the game itself at lunch today in school. She and her friends discussed their favorite ads. Now that’s apocalyptic.


About debbiekane

I'm a marketing communications and features writer. As owner of Kane Communications, I work with clients who want to educate and engage customers through dynamic writing and social media. I'm fascinated with the connections we build with each other and how communication influences relationships and behavior.
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