Dodge Returns To Super Bowl With Familiar Game Plan

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Chrysler has committed to what could become its best branding move in a long, long time: advertising during the Super Bowl.

Dodge will appear in a spot during the first half of Super Bowl XLIV telecast from Miami on February 7, the company announced. This marks the first domestic auto brand to ante up, and the first time Chrysler has purchased a national spot during the game in six years.

The 60-second commercial will “look like the ad we have today,” said Oliver Francois, Chrysler Group’s lead marketing executive, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.[more]

This is a gutsy move for Chrysler, and the possible benefits are obvious. The old domestic Big Three has avoided Super Bowl advertising in recent years, creating a vacuum suitable for one of them to step back in. Simply by doing so, Dodge has created some buzz. It will join non-US brands Volkswagen, Honda, Hyundai and Kia, at the big game.

It’s also bargain-basement days at the Super Bowl, much to the chagrin of CBS, which is telecasting the event. Reported prices per 30 seconds have dropped to about $2.5 million to $2.8 million from last year’s $3 million. That’s no small consideration for a brand like Dodge that is barely scraping by these days.

Automotive brand-boosting efforts on recent Super Bowl broadcasts have a relatively good track record. Last year’s triumphant appearance by Hyundai set the stage for the brand’s best year ever in the US. Similarly, Audi was a major presence during Super Bowl XLIII, and it enjoyed what arguably was the best 2009 of any major luxury make in the American market; the brand just received the R.L. Polk award for “Most Improved Loyalty to Make” for last year.

The greatest danger for Dodge? It might not have anything worth saying. Even the greatest Super Bowl ads can’t paper over things for a brand that has become essentially an empty slogan, and Dodge’s “product-news” cupboard is so bare these days that this is a real risk.

The new Dodge spots that already are out — the ones apparently serving as a template for the Super Bowl script — aren’t very engaging.

And the brand only has a few weeks to get its head, and brand, in the game.

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