A Chrysler commercial featuring rapper Eminem and a lighthearted Volkswagen advertisement triumphed on Super Bowl Sunday, as the annual battle of the brands turned into an all-out marketing blitz by automakers.
A science-fiction-themed ad for Motorola's new Xoom tablet computer was among the other spots praised by several marketing experts who watched this year's Super Bowl, along with 100 million or so other Americans. Another popular spot came from E*Trade Financial Corp and featured its popular spokesbaby getting measured by his tailor Enzo, "the artiste behind my wardrobe."
Hardly a commercial break passed without an ad from the automotive industry, including those by Mercedes-Benz, a unit of Daimler AG, BMW, Hyundai Motor Co, Kia Motors Corp, Audi and General Motors Co, which sat out the last two Super Bowls.
Standing out from the parade of auto commercials, Chrysler Group LLC ran a rare two-minute ad that showed a gritty, tough, proud Detroit. "What does a town that has been to Hell and back know about the finer things in life?" the narrator asks. "Well, I'll tell you, more than most."
Sweeping views of the city -- joggers, soaring skyscrapers , ice skaters, as well as bleak landscapes -- follow until the ad winds up with Detroit native and rapper Eminem standing on a stage with a gospel choir, declaring, "This is the Motor City and this is what we do."
Volkswagen AG hit a far different note with its equally well-received spot called "The Force." In the lighthearted commercial, a boy dressed as Darth Vader believes he used the mythical "Star Wars" force to start his dad's Passat.
"Volkswagen did really well, a nice creative build that ends with a good positioning of the brand," said Professor Derek Rucker of the Kellogg School of Management, who oversees a Super Bowl advertising review. "Given the number of car companies, this could be a big coup for them."
As usual, plenty of celebrities popped up in commercials during Super Bowl XLV on Fox Broadcasting, a division of News Corp, which charged $2.8 million to $3 million for 30-second spots.
Teen sensation Justin Bieber and veteran rocker Ozzy Osbourne made perhaps the oddest coupling in a spot from Best Buy, in which Osbourne is confused by the technology he's promoting. Osbourne seems equally mystified by the identify of his co-star, offering the punchline, "What's a Bieber?"
Other appearances included Kenny G, the jazz musician, jamming on his saxophone during an Audi ad set in a luxury prison; race car driver Danica Patrick and fitness guru Jillian Michaels showing off their legs for Go Daddy, the web site for domain names; and actor Adrien Brody singing to a roomful of women, but paying the most attention to a pint of Stella.
Building on its success from last year's spot featuring Betty White, candy company Mars turned to comics Roseanne Barr and Richard Lewis for a 30-second Snickers spot on Sunday called "Logging."
In the ad, Lewis is transformed from a whiner who refuses to work on a logging crew into a bearded, hulking mountainman prepared to chop trees and roll logs -- all thanks to a Snickers bar. Barr is an afterthought, appearing in a slapstick moment at the end when a log knocks her onto the ground.
Eminem was a two-time Super Bowl celebrity. Besides his turn in the Chrysler ad, he showed up as an animated character in a commercial for Brisk Iced Tea. Oddly, he spends most of the ad talking about how he doesn't work in commercials. The spot received some of the worst reviews.
PepsiCo Inc, which ran a "Crash the Super Bowl" web campaign this year for spots created by consumers, was a brand that received solid marks from experts. Its Doritos division did particularly well.
"Our panelists like theirs a lot," said Rucker, pointing to one spot where an office worker licks the leftover Doritos cheese powder off a co-worker's finger.
Several newcomers also joined the advertising extravaganza, including Groupon, the social media discount site, and HomeAway Inc, the vacation home rental service.
Groupon used its spot, built around the actor Timothy Hutton, to try its hand at comedy. The commercial starts off on a seemingly serious note, with Hutton telling the audience that the people of Tibet and their culture are at risk.
Loosening up, Hutton adds that even with all Tibet's troubles its people manage to "whip up amazing fish curry" that he was able to have at a discount at a Himalayan restaurant in Chicago with the help of a Groupon deal.
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, promoting Budweiser and Bud Light as well as Stella, was, as usual, a major force on Super Bowl Sunday. Its most notable ad was set in the old west and featured its world-famous Clydesdales, who deliver a wagon of Bud just in time to keep a barkeep from getting gunned down by a thirsty outlaw. In a funny but somewhat inexplicable twist, the whole bar then breaks out into rendition of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer."