Auto-driven advertisers still rev up for Super Bowl

By Laura Petrecca, USA TODAY

Even though the economy is putting the brakes on sales, auto-focused companies still are spending big bucks to drive brand awareness with Super Bowl advertising. Audi, Toyota (TM), General Motors (GM), Hyundai and all have in-game ads, which are selling for up to $2.7 million for 30 seconds.

Hyundai did have thoughts about reselling the 60 seconds it bought last fall from game broadcaster Fox, but stayed in.

“We wanted to make sure that it made sense (to keep the time) given the fact that the economy doesn’t look as bright as it did,” Hyundai spokesman Chris Hosford says.

Hyundai, like the other auto companies, sees the Super Bowl as one of the diminishing media opportunities to reach a truly mass audience — and one where the audience watches the ads.

Last year, more than 90 million viewers watched the gridiron action as it unfolded, ads and all. With the proliferation of TV channels and the increased use of ad-skipping devices such as DVRs, must-see live sports and entertainment broadcasts such as the Feb. 3 game and the Oscars are premium ad stages.

“The Super Bowl is a great venue to launch a new product or initiative,” says Kim McCullough, Toyota’s corporate manager of marketing communications. “Regardless of what the economy is doing, we still have products that we’re putting out there and need to let people know about.”

Details on ad plans from automakers and other auto-related businesses:

Toyota. A pair of 30-second ads will promote Toyota’s Corolla compact sedan and its Sequoia full-size SUV. The second-quarter Corolla ad, from agency Saatchi & Saatchi LA, will feature a “humorous product demonstration,” McCullough says. A fourth-quarter Sequoia ad will be “emotional” and “family focused,” she says.

•Audi. The ad for its $109,000 R8 luxury car steals a scene from the film The Godfather. On Super Sunday morning, Audi will e-mail the full ad to registered users. The 60-second spot, from agency Venables Bell & Partners, is slated to run in the first quarter.

•GM. A 60-second ad will promote a GM hybrid vehicle, but it hasn’t decided which brand, spokeswoman Ryndee Carney says. Chevrolet will have a “heavy, heavy presence” with pregame ads, and Cadillac will run post-game ads.

• Two Super Bowl spots show car purchases going smoothly because the buyer went to the site for research and local cars-for-sale ads from dealers and private parties. The ads end with a funny “Plan B” the buyer had in mind if things went sour., partially owned by USA TODAY parent Gannett (GCI) as well as other media companies, chose the Super Bowl to “more effectively build our brand on a national level,” says President Mitch Golub. Golub says the economy did not cause him to reconsider. “Typically, when new car sales go down, used car sales go up. So we think the timing of this investment is excellent.”

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