Chicago—January 9, 2009—As Cars.com gears up for its second consecutive year advertising during the Super Bowl, the editors at Cars.com pick the best and worst car commercials that have aired during the big game in the 21st Century.
Since the 1980s, automakers have used the Super Bowl to hype new models, major redesigns and new technology to American consumers in one of the last truly mass advertising forums. It was during the Super Bowl that Ford introduced the first American-made automatic overdrive (1980), former Chrysler president Lee Iacocca pitched his own cars (1990), and GM reinvented the storied Cadillac brand (2003).
Along with movies and beer, cars typically rank among the top product categories vying for attention in the big game. In 2007, carmakers aired five and a half minutes of advertising, according to Nielsen, more than any other category. This year, Hyundai and Audi have already announced a return to the Super Bowl.
"Super Bowl commercials have set the standard for creativity and have made watching the ads almost as important as watching the game," said Cars.com editor in chief Patrick Olsen. "The auto industry has had its share of hits and misses over the years, and we wanted to highlight the most memorable ones."
Here are the Super Bowl car commercials that Cars.com considers the best:
1. Cadillac Break Through, 2003
The whole concept is a bit weird. Why would a subway billboard system be the place to see the history of Cadillac? And paying huge sums for a Led Zeppelin tune when your tagline is from a Doors track was a blunder written in advertising lore. But the ad did what it set out to do: revitalize Cadillac.
2. Mazda Zoom-Zoom, 2001
The little kid and the song annoyed countless people for years, but the "Zoom-Zoom" slogan quickly became the biggest hit in Mazda advertising history. Years later, it remains one of the most remembered taglines of any product.
3. Chevy SSR Soap in Mouth, 2004
Chevy delivered a clever ad with this one, featuring cute kids with soap sticking out of their mouths after witnessing one of the first retractable hardtops on the market, on the Chevy SSR retro sports truck. No amount of clever or cute helped the SSR, though, as it was a gigantic flop for the company.
4. Hummer Monsters, 2006
This one is a little out there, but it's the kind of commercial that gets attention in the media and blogosphere. That's a good thing, because the Hummer brand hasn't had the best image. But, hey, if the automaker can make a fun commercial about an SUV, maybe it's not so bad.
5. Honda Ridgeline Mudflaps, 2006
Honda had a Super Bowl flop on its hands when it introduced the Ridgeline in 2005, as it just showed the pickup driving over mountains. The next year it got wise and hit truck buyers on the nose with iconic mudflap characters.
6. Audi R8 Godfather Reprise, 2008
Who says you can't be creative? This is Audi's attempt for the hearts and minds of luxury buyers. For the rest of us, we just like seeing cool cars with LED headlights.
7. Cadillac Click, Click...Launch, 2005
While not as big a deal as the Break Through ad in 2003, this continuation shows off the cars and puts the Cadillac performance aspect directly in front of American viewers.
8. Dodge Magnum Monkey on Your Back, 2004
How do you build a cool family car? Make it look like modern transportation for Al Capone and his friends, then put a Hemi in it. Plus, the spot has a monkey in it. Everyone knows an animal means automatic bonus points in Super Bowl commercials.
9. Toyota Tundra Doing Crazy Stuff, 2007
Toyota wanted to show that its new truck could do lots of insane stunts to perfection. The company spent days answering our queries about whether or not they were real. They were.
10. Ford Mustang Frozen Convertible Driver, 2005
There might be a bit too much buildup here, but there's no denying the contrast in wintry weather that many Super Bowl viewers were experiencing themselves and the visceral joy of driving an all-new Mustang droptop.
Here are Cars.com's picks for the five worst Super Bowl car commercials:
1. Celine Dion Sings for Chrysler, 2003
If anyone wants to point to where Chrysler went wrong, it starts with this ad. Sure, the brand was trying to portray a luxury attitude, but this is the Super Bowl. No one wants to see Celine Dion sing during the Super Bowl. Now, if Terry Tate had sacked Celine midway through the song it would have been Super Bowl gold. Instead, it's our pick for the worst Super Bowl car ad ever.
2. GM Live Green, Go Yellow, 2006
Yep, "Go Yellow." Does that sound like something good to you? 2006 was a bad year for Super Bowl commercials.
3. Cadillac Escalade Fashion Show, 2006
Three short years after the "Break Through" boom, Cadillac positively bombed with this very expensive ad for the all-new Escalade SUV. We're still unsure what it was aiming for here.
4. Toyota Tacoma Invincible Seas, 2006
Because this was early in the era of digital video trickery, the concept of a truck washed away to sea and returning was kind of cool. Looking back now, it's just stupid. Just to be clear, no car would start after this, let alone float away in quite this way. Darn reality.
5. Toyota Camry Hybrid Bilingual Ad, 2006
There have been some bad hybrid ads, but this one has got to be the worst attempt at the two-cars-in-one metaphor.
For more on Cars.com's picks for the best and worst automotive Super Bowl ads and links to some of the ads themselves, visit www.cars.com
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Launched in June 1998, Cars.com is a division of Classified Ventures, LLC, which is owned by leading media companies, including Belo (NYSE: BLC), Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE: GCI), The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI), Tribune Company and The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO).