A Brand Bowl Scorecard: Part III -- Clash of the Cars

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When it comes to certain ads, style is a must. For car ads during the Super Bowl, style is everything, because cars are a stylish product, are they not? This is why it is no surprise that car companies go all out to promote the new model. Moreover, since there is no one car company that has exclusive contracts with the NFL for the Super Bowl, it’s a diverse field that has high entertainment value, and potentially high market value. This year, as with most years, car ads rated very highly among viewers and market watchers, from the “God Made the Farmer” Dodge ad that quickly went viral, to the new Lincoln, it was an interesting block of ads, and it will be tough to pick a winner.

This year, General Motors (NYSE: GM) sat out in terms of ads, but the new 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray was the prize for the Super Bowl MVP, so it’s not like GM was missing out on any of the fun, giving everyone a first look at the car. General Motors seems to be going with modern updates on classic cars, which is a great move by the company because they are famous, recognizable names, but given a 21st-century polish that will attract older customers, and younger gearheads alike. GM will be interesting to watch this year, to see if they continue down the Volt road, designing new energy efficient cars, or will they try to lean on classic upgrades to woo customers looking for luxury.

Getting back to ads, Chrysler stole the show with the “God Made the Farmer” ad. While it didn’t incorporate the Dodge Ram until late in the ad, it still went along with the pro-working man theme from last year, switching to America’s farmers from Detroit’s carmakers. It achieved the same viral success, and gave us a look into a type of American we don’t normally see in our day to day lives. It had the same viral success as last year’s ad featuring Clint Eastwood’s “Halftime in America” ad, where he proclaimed we’d hear the engines roar once again (and with an 80% year-over-year profit increase reported last October, he proved to be right). Chrysler, now a privately held stock owned by Fiat, will try to replicate the same sales success in 2013. It will be difficult to duplicate an 80% increase, but with a little Italian engineering, it could prove to be a good year for the company. 

The other member of the “Big Three,” Ford (NYSE: F), came out with a Lincoln ad to show off the new MKZ, a car that like Chevy’s Corvette, is an attempt to get back to Lincoln’s heyday of luxury cars. It’s a sleek, modern car without a doubt, but it is supposed to be unmistakably a Lincoln, which in the car world means stately and sophisticated. Yes, the car is sleek, but in terms of ad effectiveness, it didn’t quite have the same appeal as the Dodge “Farmer” ad, even though it was more focused on the product then the story. The message of the ad clearly shows that Ford is still environmentally conscious (the MKZ is supposed to get 45 MPG), while also trying to show that you don’t need to trade luxury for efficiency. The emphasis on non-Ford brands shows that Ford, which owns Lincoln, is looking to stake out its place in the luxury car market, which appears to be the new theme of cars this year, while still trying to be environmentally conscious.

Going away from America, Toyota (NYSE: TM) came into the picture trying to emphasize their family friendliness, and did a general sweep of their mid-sized sedans in theirLet’s Go Places” ad. It highlighted all the big selling cars that Toyota has, and featured a new car towards the end. What this new car was, it was never mentioned, but something tells me we’ll know all about it in due time. Toyota’s coming off the high of being #1 in car sales again, and they clearly don’t want to rest on their laurels, though the ad was slightly disappointing. Ranking near the bottom on NFL.com’s Super Bowl page in approval, it’s an ad that will probably be forgotten in comparison to car ads of the past, but the mysterious last vehicle will leave some insiders guessing what it was, and what it might mean for Toyota in 2013.

The winner, by far, of the car ad wars was Chrysler’s “Farmer” ad. Achieving two straight years of viral-level ads has really helped Chrysler get back on its feet, and is able to tap into the American sentimentality that they know viewers just go crazy over. Okay, so it didn’t really go into what the Dodge Ram actually does, but it’s a pickup truck, you know what a pickup truck is supposed to do, and who it’s supposed to serve. Plus, it keeps Dodge and Chrysler in people’s minds, which definitely goes a long way in trying to reach out to new customers, as well to keep the engines roaring in Detroit (even though the engines have an Italian feel to it thanks to Fiat’s ownership). 

jmckenna15 has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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