The 10 Best Super Bowl Car Commercials of All Time
The Best Car Ads in Super Bowl History
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Want to advertise during the Super Bowl XLVII broadcast on February 3? Forget it. CBS has sold all of its 30-second slots at an average price of about $3.8 million each. That's a record price, and a lot of the buyers are car companies.
The Super Bowl usually attracts the largest TV audience of the year. Last year the TV audience peaked at around 116 million viewers during Madonna's halftime show. And the commercials are now as much a part of the annual Super Bowl ritual as the family-size bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos.
Since the Super Bowl commercial time is so expensive, advertisers spare no expense in the production of their commercials. These are our favorite Super Bowl car ads over the last five decades.
They are the 10 best Super Bowl car commercials of all time.
10. Audi R8 "Godfather" (2008) — Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather is one of the greatest films ever made and it's full of indelible, iconic images. None of those images is more shocking than movie mogul Jack Woltz waking up in his bed to find himself covered in blood, with the head of his $600,000 stallion Khartoum at his feet. Actor John Marley, who played Woltz, screams an utterly chilling scream.
Audi decided to re-create that scene 36 years later down to the sheen of the bed sheets. Only this time, the unnamed mogul wakes to find himself covered in oil, with the grille of his traditional luxury car at the bed's edge. Actor Alex Rocco (who was Moe Greene in The Godfather) can't scream as well as the late Marley did, but he's pretty good.
The tag line for this, played over an R8 ripping away from the mogul's mansion is, "Old luxury just got put on notice." So that explains Audi's rise since this commercial: strong arm intimidation.
9. Plymouth Road Runner (1969) — This one aired during the broadcast of Super Bowl III way back in 1969. That's back when most everyone thought the Super Bowl was just another football game. But this is the Super Bowl in which Joe Namath and the New York Jets changed that overnight. Suddenly, after the Jets' upset win over the Baltimore Colts, the Super Bowl was an event.
This commercial is an ambitious one by 1969 standards, furtively mixing animation and live action. It's a minute long and shots of the actual Plymouth Road Runner run sort of like a commercial within a surrounding Warner Bros. Road Runner cartoon. That was enough to make it memorable: the first Super Bowl car commercial anyone can recall.
8. Chrysler "Imported From Detroit" (2011) — How does a car company go about reestablishing itself as relevant in the second decade of the 21st century? It makes a tough, determined short film and brings a gospel choir and Detroit native rapper Eminem in to cap it at the end.
But does anyone really believe Marshall Mathers actually drives a Chrysler 200?
7. Chevrolet Camaro "Happy Grad" (2012) — Running a contest for amateurs to come up with a Super Bowl-worthy commercial could be perilous. There's a chance they'd all be lousy and the company is stuck running a turkey. But it paid off for GM last year with one of the funniest ads the company has ever run.
Zach Borst, a 26-year-old filmmaker out of Long Island, New York, submitted a script to Chevy's Route 66 contest and it was good enough to get GM to up the funds for him to produce this commercial. Most of the actors in the film are friends of Borst's and hadn't appeared in a national commercial before. It was, according to AdWeek.com, filmed in just four hours on location in Floral Park, New York.
Before getting to the commercial, here's Borst talking about making it.
Here's the ad itself. We'd have been thrilled to get the mini fridge. Incidentally, GM has decided to completely forgo advertising during this year's Super Bowl.
6. Jeep "Snow" (1995) — While straightforward sales pitches are rare in Super Bowl car ads, at least most of them actually show a vehicle. This one not only avoids showing a complete vehicle, it doesn't mention any particular vehicle at all. It's kind of brilliant that way.
In fact, it was so brilliant that this ad won the Grand Prix award at the 1994 International Advertising Film Festival in Cannes, France. That's probably like really prestigious, even though no one around here has ever heard of it.
Remember when it was Jeep-Eagle?
5. Ford GT "Everything It's Supposed To Be" (2004) — What would you do to introduce a car like the Ford GT to the world? Make a yuck-yuck funny ad where the car is a big joke? Sit it in a studio and let the camera linger over every millimeter of its skin?
What director Jeff Zwart did was put Rod Millen behind the wheel of one, drop that car onto California's Thunderhill Raceway, and shoot it ripping around the course in every way conceivable. The behind-the-scenes look at the filming is maybe even better than the commercial.
But the commercial is wonderful, tire-scorching action set to a big V8 soundtrack.
4. Hyundai Genesis Coupe "Epic Lap" (2009) — After a full dose of Rod Millen ripping away with a Ford GT, how about his son Rhys, a drifting champion and stunt driver in his own right, taking a tire-frying lap of Road Atlanta in the then-new Hyundai Genesis coupe? Also directed by Jeff Zwart, by the way.
Alas, the edityourown.com Web site that accompanied this ad (and which let you splice together your own drift action video online) is no longer active. It now takes you to Hyundai's consumer site for the Genesis Coupe. Maybe it's time to reengage with this idea?
3. Audi A6 "Through the Decades" (2009) — Audi takes full advantage of its extensive product placement budget (including providing cars to the sequels in The Transporter movie series) by putting Jason Statham through car chases in the 1970s, '80s and '90s before he gets an A6 for the contemporary conflict.
The detail in this short film is what makes it so satisfying. Take a look at the cars in the background of each scene. They're all perfectly cast. Look out for the clichés as the cars hit every one of them. It's all very specific and very well shot.
If that 1-minute movie isn't enough for you, here's 2 minutes and 30 seconds of behind-the-scenes footage.
It's a perfect small movie that tells exactly the story Audi wanted to tell just as its North American sales were starting to soar toward BMW's and Mercedes' levels.
2. Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo "Dream" (1990) — A full 23 years after it was introduced, the Z32-series Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo remains a mesmerizing shape and a highly capable performance machine. And part of that mystique comes from this commercial, which was only shown once during Super Bowl XXIV.
The director of this commercial is the great Ridley Scott, who also made Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. More pertinent to any discussion of Super Bowl commercials, he was also the director of Apple's legendary "1984" Super Bowl commercial introducing the Macintosh computer.
Legend has it that this commercial was pulled by Nissan after its one Super Bowl airing because executives there feared it encouraged street racing. That, of course, is exactly what makes it so awesome. And even more awesome when: The twin turbos. Kick. In.
1. Volkswagen Passat "The Force" (2012) — As this is written, this instant classic commercial has 55,779,532 views on YouTube. Debuting on YouTube February 2, 2011, it had more than 8 million views before it even appeared on the Super Bowl XLV broadcast four days later. It was and is a continuing phenomenon.
Obviously the world's obsession with all things Star Wars is a critical element in making this vignette about a tiny Darth Vader looking to engage the Force so insanely beloved. And the copywriters at the Deutsch ad agency get major props for writing such a self-contained and restrained script. But this is an ad with only one special effect: the acting of 6-year-old Max Page.
It's Page's pantomimed frustrations and startled reaction that make this commercial maybe the greatest car commercial ever and an astonishing example of social media's ability to make something go "viral." This is a 6-year-old kid who was acting while wearing a plastic helmet and he still expressed more emotion in a minute than Harrison Ford has over a 50-year career.
It's No. 1 and nothing else is even close.