What can we learn from Super Bowl car ads?

Every year, the Super Bowl brings an action-packed lineup of ads to our screens, many of which come from leading automakers intent on promoting the latest models. Are they speeding toward brand building or crashing under the weight of high expectations?

According to System1’s Test Your Ad database, most commercials in most categories aren’t exactly stellar. In fact, half of all video ads score just one star in terms of effectiveness on a five-star scale (highest possible score: 5.9 stars). Yet when looking at the average scores for auto ads aired during the Super Bowl year on year, we see a pattern of strong performance. In 2020, auto ads in the Super Bowl averaged 3.1 stars. In 2021, they averaged 2.6 stars. In 2022, they increased to an average of 2.9 stars.

We know that the most effective advertising inspires an emotional response from viewers.

Who can forget Volkswagen’s now infamous Darth Vader spot during the 2011 Super Bowl? Car ads shown during the big game are great examples of how to make witty, memorable and effective work.

Auto manufacturers must aim to carry this momentum throughout their work year-round. After all, a car is one of the biggest purchases people make (and more than likely, a decision that’s only made every few years, if that). Thus, it’s imperative that marketers help consumers build long-lasting, positive brand associations. So, what are the insights that can keep the category running like a well-oiled machine?

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