Super Bowl aftermath: Who won the marketing game?
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, which made a splash in past Super Bowls with television ads featuring actor Clint Eastwood and Detroit rapper Eminem, sat out the TV extravaganza this year for the first time in almost a decade, preferring instead to flog its wares with online videos and Twitter hashtags.
The Italian-American carmaker released seven online commercials in the week leading up to the game, including one with actor Jeremy Renner touting the new Ram 1500 pickup with a speech about empowering young girls. There is also a tongue-in-cheek clip of ranch hands talking about how they can’t remember any of the companies that did Super Bowl TV ads.
It’s a sentiment that seems to be catching on among automakers, who are increasingly deploying their ad dollars online, where they can use consumer data to target buyers more accurately. Only five automotive brands bought advertising time during the game, down from seven in 2018, according to researcher IHS Markit.
While the Super Bowl broadcast typically draws tens of millions of viewers and is the single most watched program all year in the U.S., air time for ads is among the most expensive audience has shrunk every year since 2015, when a record 114.4 million people watched.
Fiat Chrysler gets more of a bang for its buck by not doing traditional TV ads, said Michael Bernacchi, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy.
“You can actually draw attention to the fact that you didn’t advertise,” Bernacchi said. “You get good value from that -- from not doing it.”
In the past, Fiat Chrysler has tapped stars like rapper and Detroit native Eminem to anchor its Super Bowl television commercials, tying its resurgence after a 2009 bankruptcy to the city of Detroit’s comeback in an appeal for viewers to buy American brand cars and trucks.
Last year, the company drew criticism for a Super Bowl ad that featured a voice-over of a speech by civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., which some viewed as crass or insensitive.
As part of this year’s digital approach, Fiat Chrysler’s Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands posted a series of 45 to 90 second ads online across platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The commercials showed off the Jeep Gladiator midsize pickup, the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty pickup and Dodge’s SRT performance line.
“We decided to explore innovative ways to ride the wave of highly engaged viewers, during the one time of the year when the commercials are fun and everybody is talking about them,” Fiat Chrysler marketing chief Olivier Francois said in a statement Friday.
The company’s Ram brand playfully made note of the Los Angeles Ram’s name in a series of Twitter postings running before and after the Super Bowl, with the last one saying: “There’s always next year.”