From pinball machines to social media drops, this year’s crop of car commercials had everything

Super Bowl LIII has come and gone, and with it came a smattering of car commercials from some of the biggest automakers in the world. Let’s get it out of the way off the bat. This was a weird year for car commercials in the Super Bowl in part because most of the commercials actually didn’t air during the game. Sure, there were a handful of ads from Toyota, Kia, Audi, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz, but most of the ads actually ended up on YouTube instead of our TVs. Perhaps it was a way for automakers to save $5 million or so on these TV ads, but if you really want check out all the commercials that these car companies made for the big game, YouTube was the place to be. As for the commercials that actually made the air, well, let’s just say that this wasn’t a particularly impressive year for these ads. There were high spots, but we’re not going remember any of them the way we remember Volkswagen’s Little Darth Vader ad or Chrysler’s tribute to Detroit, featuring Eminem. Those are iconic commercials that are still talked about to this day. As far as this year’s ads go? Let’s hope we can remember one of them in a month’s time.

The Best of the Bunch - 2020 Toyota Supra "Wizard" Superbowl LIII Commercial

It’s a hollow award, but somebody has to receive it, right? Fortunately, Toyota’s “Wizard” ad for the Supra deserves top billing here, not only because the commercial itself was actually entertaining, but it came at the right time just after what was probably the worst halftime show in recent Super Bowl memory, which preceded what was probably the worst first half in recent Super Bowl memory, which preceded, well, you get the picture. By the time Toyota’s commercial went on, half of America was probably in a catatonic state already. Thank God the Supra ad jolted some life back to the proceedings. As for the ad itself, it’s always fun to see the Supra running around and going sideways as it tries to avoid one obstacle after another. It gives us a good peak at the sports car’s driving dynamics, even if it’s doing it inside a life-sized pinball machine. Give Toyota credit for this ad: it delivered at the time we needed it at the most.

2020 Kia Telluride "Give it Everything" Superbowl LIII Commercial

The Ram commercial that featured rams running to the big game had the early edge in this category, but it actually never showed up on our TVs. Instead, FCA rolled it out on its social media channel, which was probably a good idea in hindsight because based on what happened in the game, this herd of rams was the only one that actually showed up in Atlanta. Nope, this award actually goes to Kia and its “Give it Everything” commercial featuring the all-new Telluride SUV. The ad is notable because it doesn’t really talk about the Telluride directly, but instead, it focuses on West Point, Georgia and the people that make up that small town. Apparently, the people there aren’t famous, nor do they have stars in their sidewalk. Instead, they have Kia’s production facility where, you guessed it, the Telleuride is built. The ad itself is pretty good. It shines a spotlight on a small town that nobody outside of Georgia can probably find. It puts the focus on the people that make up this town and the pride they have in being a part of their community. It tugs at the heart strings a little bit, too. It’s just that if the Super Bowl wasn’t held in Atlanta, would this ad even exist? Probably not. Still, it’s a well-crafted spot that Kia should be proud of.

Walmart Big Game Commercial "Grocery Pickup" Superbowl LIII

We first saw Walmart’s “Hollywood Cars” commercial at the 2019 Golden Globes Awards last month, but, apparently, Walmart doesn’t mind paying another $5 million for the spot to return during the Super Bowl. I’d say it was money well-spent because the ad itself is one of the most entertaining commercials we’ve seen in recent memory. Take your pick of your favorite Hollywood car, and there’s a good chance that it makes a cameo in this ad. The Delorean from Back to the Future? It’s here. The Ecto 1 from Ghostbusters? It’s here, too. Batman’s Tumbler? Check. Even cartoon cars like Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine van are in the commercial. I’d be remiss if I forgot Bumblebee, too. The host of him walking with a Walmart bag in his hand is absolutely priceless, and probably worth the money Walmart spent to have the ad air during the Super Bowl.

2019 Mercedes A-Class "Say the Word" Superbowl LII - The Commercial That Tried Too Hard To Got Its Point Across

Ok, we get it. The new Mercedes A-Class Sedan comes with an MBUX infotainment system comes with a voice-command feature. Yipee. Well, it turns out that Mercedes, which was noticeably absent from the Super Bowl commercial proceedings last year, wanted to hammer home that point with its “Say the Word” commercial for the Super Bowl. The 60-second commercial features a man who mutters what sounds like inconsequential “commands” to the universe. As the ad goes along, we learn that someone — or something — is actually following the commands, whether it’s tear up parking tickets, find missing cats, or cheap references to “Free Willy.” The point of the ad is that the A-Class Sedan listens to you and obeys your command. I’m not quite sure Mercedes had to go to those lengths to get that point across. As a side note, I wonder how much Ludacris got paid to make a cameo in this ad? His own A-Class Sedan, perhaps?

2019 Ram Big Game Blitz and the Rest of FCA’s Superbowl LIII Commercials - They Got Boring Fast

I’ll say this about FCA’s Super Bowl involvement: the automaker went all-out with the spending, and it released impressive commercials, specifically Jeep’s “More than Just Words” commercial that aired on its social media channels. That’s probably the one advertisement that would’ve been remembered had it aired on TV. The Ram “Cant’ Remember” ad also left gets high marks from us. But again, we only saw it on social media, even if they probably deserved spots on TV. The ad — or is it ad campaign? — that didn’t have the legs Ram would’ve wanted was its #RamWillTowThat campaign, which, fortunately in this case, never made it on air, too. The ad campaign’s selling point was simple: use all the other non-car related commercials during the Super Bowl and leverage those with the Ram Heavy Duty’s ability to tow all of them. It started off with Avocados from Mexico and M&M’s. Ram rolled out two 15-second spots showing the Ram Heavy Duty towing oversized versions of the aforementioned products. The ads were cute and funny. But as the game went along, Ram did similar spots for Pringles, Persil, DEVOUR, and Amazon. The only difference was the narration of the ads, and that narration grew stale and boring pretty quickly. By the time the Amazon spot aired, we couldn’t mute our laptops fast enough.

Final Verdict

It’s not the best year for car commercials in the Super Bowl, but this year also gave us a hint of the future of Super Bowl commercials, particularly from companies who use their social media channels as their personal platforms to show these commercials. It’s a great way to circumvent the rising costs of Super Bowl ads, and you can argue that it reaches a far wider audience than those ads that actually appeared on TV during the Big Game. It’s a smart move by these car companies and given the cost-savings that come with it, expect more automakers to follow this blueprint moving forward. As far as the quality of the ads this year? I’d give all of it an all-encompassing grade of “B.” There were some good commercials, but there were some bad and head-scratching ones, too.

Further reading

2020 Toyota Supra Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2020 Toyota Supra.

2019 Kia Telluride
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Read our full review on the 2019 Kia Telluride.

2019 Ram Heavy Duty Looks Menacing, Pumps out 1,000 Pound-Feet! Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon.

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