Ford hands GM a win in Superbowl ads game

It’s not that often that three of my favourite things converge in such a significant way, but The Superbowl is just such an occasion, combining sports, cars and advertising in a way that few other events can.

I haven’t watched all of the car ads from the 2012 game yet. Unlike the locals, we Australians don’t get the ads in our broadcast of the big game. We have to scour the web to see what the various manufacturers are offering. Of the ads I have seen so far, the VW ad was a hit (I love dogs and Star Wars), and high-brow brother Audi’s vampire ad was pretty good, too. Hyundai overwhelmingly underwhelmed with the Turbo Veloster ad and to be honest, I found the reprise of Seinfeld (for Honda’s NSX, which is still a few years away), Motley Crue (for Kia) and Ferris Bueller (for the Honda CR-X) a bit tacky.

The biggest conversation hasn’t been about any of these, though, it’s been about the GM/Ford controversy regarding GM’s Silverado ad, shown below:

An average ad IMHO, but GM will come out as winners on this one because of Ford’s response.

If you haven’t heard about it yet, Ford wrote to NBC ‘demanding’ that the ad be pulled from the Superbowl broadcast. They also presented GM with a cease and desist with regard to commenting negatively about Ford durability. One Aussie newspaper even said they’re ready to sue over it.

Jalopnik has the full summary.

All this whining has brought Ford into the Superbowl advertising headlines for all the wrong reasons. Yes, Ford has had the #1 selling vehicle in the US for the last millenium or so with the F150 and yes, they should defend their vehicle’s honor. But I’m not sure that spitting the dummy and acting like a crybaby is the way to go about it. GM’s Joel Ewanick found it all quite amusing, too:

“We stand by our claims in the commercial, that the Silverado is the most dependable, longest-lasting full-size pickup on the road,” said GM Global Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick in a press release. “We can wait until the world ends, and if we need to, we will apologize. In the meantime, people who are really worried about the Mayan calendar coming true should buy a Silverado right away.”

Ford left themselves wide open for that one and Ewanick cleared the fences (please pardon my mixing of multiple sports metaphors).

So what should Ford do?

If I were them, I would have said something about it, but I’d have stopped well short of getting myself in the headlines due to having filled my nappy.

Instead, I’d have whipped my own ad team into action. GM left themselves slightly vulnerable by including a character not seen in the ad, a guy named Dave. Why not make the Silverado guys look misinformed and show Dave living the highlife in his F-150 while his buddies are battling toad plagues back in the wasteland?

Here’s a picture – The tail end of the GM ad is showing on a portable TV. Pan out to show Dave and his Mayan buddies enjoying a few brews at a tailgate party with some pumping music and some pimped out Mayan laydeeez adding some color in the background.

“Joke’s on you, boys…..”

I’m sure it could be made to look great and instead of coming across as a bunch of sookie-lala’s, Ford could take both the high road and the upper hand.


Addendum….. Companies don’t just spend $3million per 30 seconds for Superbowl ad time. They also spend millions just making the ads themselves. They Jerry Seinfelds and Matthew Brodericks of the world don’t work for free, you know.

Fiat saved some money by not producing a new ad for the Superbowl. Instead, they just ran with what is undoubtedly the best car ad of 2011 – the ad for the 500 Abarth:

For the curious, here’s what she says:

What are you looking at, yeh!?
What are you looking at?
Are you undressing me with your eyes?
Poor guy… you can’t help it?
Is your heart beating?
Is your head spinning?
Do you feel lost thinking that I could be yours forever?

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  1. Not sure about the Fiat ad, Swade. At the Superbowl party I was at, people thought the ad was interesting until they saw the guy was really looking at the Fiat. Then most people were kind of “meh”. In fact a couple of people commented “ugly car”.. Style is certainly a matter of taste, but the 500 is not catching on here in the US like the Mini has.

    1. But fortunately you are wrong. We are beginning to see as many 500s on the West Coast as Minis. The major mistake Marchionne made was setting a ridiculous goal of 50,000 units. The 500 sold 20,000 units in 2011, a year where half the first-round dealerships were not even up and running. If you look at the sales of the Mini when it first arrived, 20,000 units is phenomenal (not even considering all the marketing blunders). As a matter of fact, 2011 was the first year Mini sold over 50,000 units in the US and this is with a much broader model portfolio.

      But, yes, of course a couple people at your super bowl party commenting “ugly car” has the 500 doomed in the States. I wouldn’t expect Fiat to gain many sales from a super bowl party (American football fans and European subcompacts??) in the first place, but it was still a good avenue to get the brand name out there.

      1. I actually hope Fiat does well here in the US. I am not opposed to having more good options in small cars. I am glad to hear that they started off with 20,000 sales. That is a good start. My comment on popularity of Mini vs. the 500 is that I have seen maybe two 500s on the road in the last 6 months, but see Minis all the time. (This is in the mid-atlantic area on the east coast.) Since there is a local Fiat dealer now in the area, I expect I will see more in 2012.

        I agree the comments from the Superbowl party are anecdotal, but the interesting thing was they were made by the younger women there (and not by older car buffs). Since I would assume that the part of the target market for the 500 is young people buying their first car, I found their comments a little surprising.

        1. Oh, and for those outside of the US who may not know….the Superbowl has become almost as much a cultural event as a sporting event here in the US. Parties draw a wide cross-section of people and not just sports fans. Many people go to Superbowl parties for the food and conversation (and watching the commercials) and have little to no interest in the game.

          1. I forgot to add that I do not find the 500 an “ugly car”. It is certainly better looking than a Smart. The design is not my favorite, but there is nothing wrong with it. The ad implied it is stunningly beautiful. I would not go that far. 🙂 As I said, style is a matter of taste, but the 500 is a worthy entry into the small car market here in the US. I would be interested to see how it drives and handles.

  2. I laughed at the Fiat ad – I liked it a lot. Agree with manders though – the 500 isn’t going to be a US hit.

    The Chevy truck ad I loved (and our 3rd “car” is an old Ford truck). Steven, your proposed Ford move would have been brilliant. My thoughts were less creative – I simply thought Ford should have shut up. Complaining about a competitors ad that spoofs the end of the world just looks weeny.

    1. Agreed. If Ford wants to dispute the facts, they could always just come back with a simple ad that says something like, “Ford congratulates Chevy on their humorous Suprebowl ad. In fact, we found a lot of things funny about the ad, especially Chevy stating as fact…..” and then list whatever relevant facts they want to list on the F150 vs. the Silverado.

  3. Any surprise that Ford might sue? You are talking about the same company that began a lawsuit against Ferrari for using the name F150 for their 2011 Formula 1 car. Yes, I’m sure many people would confuse the Ferrari F150 F1 car with the Ford F-150 pickup truck. Ford doesn’t seem to realize that frivolous lawsuits like this just make them look bad.

  4. In the small town I live in I now see, on a regular basis, 15 to 20 different Fiat 500’s. If I was buying new I would have a hard time not buying the Abarth SS

  5. Thanks for the translation. The Saab Arctic Adventure version of this Fiat ad would be what? – an icy stare from a blond. (smile)