Last Year’s Most Successful Super Bowl Ad: How Chrysler Drove Real Sales, Not Just Social Media Buzz

By Jeremy Anwyl, Vice Chairman, and Jeannine Fallon, Executive Director of Corporate Communications, Edmunds.com

Who would pay $3 million for a 30-second ad? An advertiser who has grand visions of generating huge consumer buzz, and there are enough of them to fill (most of) the time.

There are certainly many memorable examples of successful Super Bowl ads that paid for themselves, expensive though they were.

The most powerful example from last year is Chrysler’s two-minute “Born of Fire” ad for the Chrysler 200 featuring rapper Eminem, which launched the company’s “Imported from Detroit” campaign. “Born of Fire” moved people coast-to-coast and drove shopping consideration for the new sedan by a remarkable 1,619 percent on Edmunds.com. That was the biggest lift any automaker got by a long shot. The Chrysler brand itself got a consideration lift of 267 percent.

When tracking successful ad campaigns, Edmunds.com’s methodology favors ads that motivate behavior. We believe that is justified – the best ads should trigger action, perhaps by making a claim that people find interesting and want to explore.

The Chrysler ad achieved the rare goal of eliciting a powerful emotional response while tempting viewers to go online to learn more about the featured product. Advertising like that is like a lightning strike – hard to predict, and highly unlikely to hit. If only there were a formula for creating ads that appeal on such a visceral level – but instead lots of money brings limited return.

Some ads play it safe and generate a base hit, so to speak. Chevy’s Cruze spot was an example of a base hit. Other ads swing for the fences and, when hit just right, generate home runs, like Chrysler did. =

Our ongoing analysis of high-profile advertising indicates that success is not about the tactics; it’s about the spot itself. Sometimes marketers get off track chasing social media metrics, but that can’t be the goal. The goal is to sell the product. Marketing should serve the purpose, not be the purpose.

The ads that have succeeded have surprised audiences and have generated authentic reactions. Will leaking an ad ahead of time generate that result?

In the week following the Super Bowl, consideration for Chrysler climbed 87 percent compared to the brand’s average on Edmunds.com during the four weeks prior. Interestingly, consideration for the Chrysler 300 virtually doubled in the week after the Super Bowl even though that vehicle was not mentioned in the Super Bowl ad. In the past year, Chrysler sales rose 26 percent while the auto industry overall was up 12 percent. Chrysler Group U.S. market share grew 1.3 percentage points in 2011, the largest share gain of any automaker.

It’s not surprising when viewers get swept up in the Super Bowl ad buzz for the next day or two. But Chrysler’s message resonated with viewers far beyond that first wave of buzz, and that should be the goal of any marketer.

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About the authors: Jeremy Anwyl is the Vice chairman of Edmunds.com, the Internet’s leading consumer resource for unbiased automotive information. Since joining Edmunds.com in January 2000, he has played an integral role in introducing many ground–breaking enhancements to the company. Jeannine Fallon joined Edmunds.com, Inc. in June 2000 and is responsible for communications initiatives in support of Edmunds.com and InsideLine.com. She came to the position from Volvo Cars of North America, where she was hired as Media Relations Manager. 

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