Yes, no one's quite sure yet how the flap over Chrysler's Clint Eastwood Super Bowl spot is going to end up. But it's pretty clear what the winning and losing brands were among other automakers after viewers and consumers, as well as the pundits, got a chance to react to their ads during the Big Game, which car brands dominated. Here's how how the other auto brands fared:
Volkswagen: The brand behind the other automotive hit of last year's Super Bowl scored big with reviewers and Edmunds.com visitors with "The Dog Strikes Back," its SB46 commercial featuring the slimmed-down dog chasing the new-profile Volkswagen Beetle. But flushed with the remarkable success of last year's "The Force" (aka "Little Darth Vader") ad in stoking demand for the new VW Passat that came out last fall, VW executives must have wanted to take one more curtain call. Thus the tacked-on reference at the end of this year's ad to last year's spot. What was the point? The high-production-value Star Wars scene at teh end didn't really add much other than an obvious tie-back to last year's spot, but probably didn't hurt much either. Maybe this year's VW ad actually will end up resonating like last year's winner.
Toyota: After the couple of years that Toyota has had, it's unfortunate that the brand's couple of spots for the new Toyota Camry missed the mark. There was too much attention in "Connections" to the legacy of Camry. How does that help viewers understand that they've got to get back to Camry via the new 2012 model? And while the "It's Reinvented" spot pushed the notion of "reinvention" with a comic send-up in the second spot, the ad never got around to what is really "reinvented" about the new Camry. At a time when Toyota needs Camry to do well to climb out of the brand's hole, these comprised a missed opportunity.
Lexus: Lexus needs its new GS to be a hit, and it's a worthy car. But the actual vehicle got only a beauty shot and little discussion in "Beast," the Lexus model's Super Bowl debut ad, which also hinted of more great new models to come. A relatively weak effort.
Fiat: Edmunds.com visitors blew out server circuits finding out more about the Abarth after Fiat's sexy Super Bowl spot, a spot called "Seduction" that previously ran in Italy. Hard to call that anything other than a big success.
Honda: A lot of pre-game buzz was generated following a Matthew Broderick teaser hinting at an updated Ferris Bueller's Day Off for a mystery brand. But maybe all the pre-publicity helped prepare Super Bowl fans to watch the actual Game Day commercial when it aired and focus a bit more on the new CR-V. At least this spot displayed the vehicle's capabilities and appeal. It should help.
Acura: Long the fading brand among the Japanese Big Three of luxury, Acura needs to get back on the radars of American luxury buyers. A Super Bowl ad is a great way to do it, especially a funny spot featuring boomer-favored celebrities like Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno. Too bad the NSX they raved about won't be available for a while.
Chevrolet: Maybe the brand finally has found a way to make its much-criticized "Chevy Runs Deep" slogan resonate in a meaningful way. That was one commonality among the ads for Silverado, Sonic and Camaro. While the Camaro "Happy Grad" spot was great for a crowd-sourced ad, the Silverado piece could become a classic for its once-in-a-lifetime 2012 context, for its creative execution and for how it got under the skin of Ford executives. Ford could have run a Super Bowl ad but once again chose not to, although a regional spot featuring Derek Jeter ran in the New York DMA.
Cadillac: For decades, Cadillac has dreamed of fielding a truly competitive small sedan, and executives believe they finally have one in the ATS to be released later this year. There was no subtlety in a commercial showing the ATS circling a test track in Germany known as "Green Hell." They must believe the car can compete with the BMW 3 Series.
Hyundai: Hyundai of America President John Krafcik wanted to go for more "memorable" Super Bowl ads this time around. Not sure the brand really achieved that, although they were popular with Edmunds.com visitors. And Hyundai's spots did serve to dimensionalize the brand even further with U.S. viewers. They showed Hyundai's performance chops in ads for the Elantra, Genesis R Spec and new Veloster small car, which added to Hyundai's earlier emphasis on fuel economy, quality, and even (with the original Genesis and even more expensive Equus) luxury. And the factory anthem spot remnded Americans that Hyundai has a huge team in America.
Audi: The brand had the field to itself among German luxury makes for the day and chose to continue its Super Bowl tack of using humor to underscore an important attribute in its "Vampire Party" spot. In the last few years, that attribute was "new luxury" that is pushing to supplant the old-fogey BMW and Mercedes-Benz brands. This time, Audi went for a more limited objective — highlighting the blazing headlamps on its new S7 — and managed to achieve it with the vampire-vanquishing spot.
Kia: No more stuffed sock monkeys, but Kia's 2012 Super Bowl spot ("A Dream Car for Real Life") was still a fantasy ad. Only this one didn't really serve the Optima very well. The brand clearly has found its groove with NBA sponsorship and Blake Griffin and probably should have stayed there.
Which spots do you feel worked for auto brands in this year's Super Bowl — or didn't? Post a comment below.