Kia, Other Auto Companies Pile Into the Super Bowl -- Even Suzuki; But Does It Make Sense?
More and more automotive brands are driving into the Super Bowl, including Kia (KIMTF.PK), which is back for the second year in a row. Even little Suzuki has jumped in for the first time. I wrote recently that Mercedes-Benz (DDAIF.PK) is also a Super Bowl first-timer this year.
Super Bowl advertising has always struck me as something for car companies with more money than sense, except maybe for the biggest volume brands, like Chevrolet, Ford (F) or Toyota (TM). That's because the Super Bowl audience is so big, and on average so plain-vanilla. For all but the biggest brands, most Super Bowl advertising money is wasted on people who aren't interested in their product.
Smarter ad targeting
Advertisers are improving the odds of reaching the right audience, though. Some Super Bowl ads this year ?€"- like those for Kia and Mercedes-Benz -?€" are part of an integrated campaign that also includes a big social-media component. That means messages can be targeted to actual customers, hand-raisers and likely prospects, instead of just spending millions on a Super Bowl ad and hoping for the best, like in the past.
Kia announced recently, for instance, it will give away up to five new Kia Optimas in a contest that involves puzzles and clues provided in ads and social media postings, culminating in the big game.
Mercedes-Benz is also giving away a couple of new cars in connection with the Super Bowl, based on Tweets and Facebook posts from contestants. The idea is that social media will drive prospects to the Super Bowl ads, and the Super Bowl ads will drive prospects to the social media effort. There's a multiplying effect.
Suzuki's sneak attack
Suzuki's presence is a more of a surprise. Suzuki is a big name in Japan -- in fact, it's one of the biggest-selling brands. But in the United States, Suzuki is pretty obscure. Within the auto industry, Suzuki is best-known for the Suzuki Samurai, which helped launch the small-SUV segment in the late 1980s. At least before Consumer Reports panned it and nearly drove the brand out of the market.
Suzuki slowly came back, but its total U.S. auto sales were still only 23,994 in 2010, according to AutoData. That was down 38 percent from 2009. Toyota sells a lot more Camrys than that in the United States in a single month.
Apparently, Suzuki has decided that a big bet on the Super Bowl will help put it back on the U.S. map. Suzuki says its Super Bowl ad (see video below) will also be part of a much bigger campaign. Its ad is called "Wicked Weather," in which the new, all-wheel-drive Suzuki Kizashi passenger car evades an army of animated, snowball-throwing snowmen. (Note to corporate name-coiners: "Suzuki Kizashi" is a bit of a tongue-twister for an obscure brand that's trying to establish itself, don't you think?)
Besides running during the Super Bowl, the same Suzuki spot will also air before and after the game, in 14 mostly cold-weather markets that also happen to be among Suzuki's biggest-selling U.S. markets. For such a small brand, reusing the same ad in different settings makes some economic sense, instead of creating an ad specifically for the Super Bowl.
It also makes more sense than tossing up a Super Bowl ad that's here today and gone tomorrow. However, it's going to take a lot more than a single campaign and a single new car to get Suzuki back on the map.
- Kia Super Bowl Ads Could Be an Ominous Sign of Success
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