Monday, February 2, 2015

Were Chevrolet's Super Bowl Ads a Touchdown or a Foul?

Photo Credit: General Motors

As promised, the 2015 edition of the Super Bowl game provided exceptional suspense and some thrilling moments. Besides the New England Patriots' Vince Lombardi Trophy winning performance with a last-minute interception of a Seattle Seahawks touchdown attempt, other victories were obtained between plays at the 49th annual big game.

At the cost of 4.5 million dollars per 30-second spot, companies sought their ticket to winning customers on Monday by sinking big advertising budgets in commercials yet again. During Super Bowl XLIX, one automaker operated from an interesting marketing playbook in promoting their latest mid-sized pickup truck. Chevrolet went to great lengths to gain the attention of viewers (sadly it appeared only United States TV watchers were the targeted audience. Though Chevrolet would not participant with in-game advertising for 2015, the auto company immersed themselves heavily in the pre-game as well as post-game activities. Awarding a 2015 Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck to the MVP of Super Bowl XLIX after the game to Tom Brady (like it or not that a millionaire receives a pickup truck on top of so many other accolades), the auto company also gained attention for some unique commercials unveiled prior to kickoff. In fact, one creative ad stuck fear in the hearts of many and gained the undivided attention of Super Bowl viewers.

Minutes before kickoff, viewers of the NBC coverage of the big game observed an aerial view of University of Arizona Stadium just as the picture and sound began to degrade. Within a few seconds, the television signal for the Super Bowl was apparently lost. A frightening sight to football fans bracing to watch the Patriots/Seahawks showdown, over 100 million American television viewers saw their television screens turn black. After a few seconds of where the consumption of food and refreshments ceased, a message "What would you do if your TV went out?" popped on the screen. Reprieve for NFL fans and general Super Bowl viewerships, the apparent TV signal loss was simply an ad for the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado's 4G LTE Wi-Fi system. 

Entitled "Blackout", the Chevy commercial was a mere prank on viewers (albeit a momentarily heart-jolting prank on a large audience rarely seen since Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds" scared the population of the potential of an alien invasion). Interestingly enough, viewers taking to social media appeared to honestly appreciate the advertisement with many calling it clever. The Chevrolet Blackout spot also received from more predictable responses you would expect from diehard football fans. Some social media conversations used the word "troll" or variations on that phrase to describe the commercial. Best case scenario for everyone played out as Super Bowl XLIX proceeded but the Chevrolet Blackout ad's effectively added some extra anticipation for viewers watching the game realizing a potential crisis was averted.

While the Blackout spot appeared to have been accepted as a clever practical joke, another Chevrolet ad released ahead of the Super Bowl appears to have ruffled some feathers. A component of a three-part advertisement series Truck Guy Focus Group, one ad entitled "Sexier" earned a share of outrage from some viewers. In the Chevrolet commercial, a focus group containing actual people were asked to judge two photographs. Two of the same man differed with one showing him in front of a plain-looking sedan and another with a 2015 Chevrolet Colorado in the background. The results, of course, favoured the guy when he stood in front of the Colorado. Some viewers took the Twitter calling the ad sexist and appealing to a gender stereotype.

Able to see the point of the focus group ad's critics, I remembered watching an episode of the investigative show 'Mythbusters' where they tested whether women were attracted to men based on money. It turned out a sample group rated certain photographs with higher income occupations more favourably than when the same images had lower earning professions. On Mythbusters, they theorized the result was an element of human nature that women seek someone they believe is a steady, good provider. Maybe the image of the man with the red Colorado exhibited a similar ideal.

Regardless of whether the commercials were received positively or negatively, Chevrolet succeeded in creating a conversation relating to the bowtie badge among many Super Bowl viewers in the United States. However, it will be dealership traffic in their vehicle showrooms for Monday and the days following when judgement can be made if the campaign was a New England Patriots-style celebration.

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