Super Bowl ads are a multi-million dollar investment for brands, so it’s hardly surprising to find some stretching that little bit ‘too far’ in their quest to ensure a positive return. But are they really crossing the line? Or are these just another example of the age old tactic of using controversy to gain exposure?

Whilst there are several instances in the 100+ Super Bowl ads, we’re interested in Automotive brands and fortunately there are several juicy ones to take a look at.

The NFL takes issue with Chrysler’s “It’s Halftime in America” commercial

Chrysler’s ad was by far the most ‘moving’ ad of the Super Bowl, featuring Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood narrating the story of Detroit’s Motor City, digging deep despite the tough conditions and coming out fighting for the second half.

How does this grab you? “This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do the world’s going to hear the roar of our engines. Yeah, it’s half time America and our second half is about to begin.” Powerful stuff.

So, amidst such inspiring poetry it came as something of a surprise when a kerfuffle kicked off as the NFL (Super Bowl rights holders) claimed the ad violated their copyrights. The ad was taken down from YouTube, but then an NFL spokesperson subsequently claimed the league didn’t take the ad down and is now asking Google to investigate.

Something is certainly going on – Chrysler have been frantically contacting publishers and asking us to display their ad, but when we uploaded a copy to YouTube this afternoon it was immediately removed, accompanied by the message “This video has been removed because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service. Sorry about that.”

What’s the matter, don’t they like poetry..?

So what was it? A marketing stunt? A misunderstanding, or a media storm contrived from our over-active imagination? Take a look and see for yourself.

Ford lawyers-up over Chevy’s Silverado commercial

Chevy’s Silverado ad takes a direct swipe at rival Ford, as it tells the story of group of men who survive a world-destroying apocalypse (as supposedly predicted by an ancient Mayan calendar), because they all owned Chevrolet Silverado trucks. However, one of their friends (Dave) doesn’t make it.

“Dave didn’t own the longest lasting, most dependable truck on the road,” one of the surviving group says. “Dave bought a Ford.”

Ford, were naturally outraged by such a negative portrayal of their brand and delivered a ‘cease and desist’ order to General Motors, due to the “unsubstantiated and disparaging claims regarding Ford’s pickup trucks.”

Chevrolet, who clearly had no intention of complying with Ford’s request, didn’t just run the ad as planned but have continued to fuel the spat by joining a live web discussion on the automotive blog Jalopnik.

Ford is objecting to the reference that the Chevrolet Silverado is “the longest lasting, most dependable truck on the road”, and said that “..If Chevrolet does not comply with our request (they didn’t) to permanently remove the commercial from its website, its YouTube and Facebook pages and any other internet sites, then Ford will take all appropriate steps to enforce and protect its reputation.”

General Motors (parent company of Chevrolet) remain unrepentant, saying “We stand by our claims in the commercial, that the Silverado is the most dependable, longest lasting full-size pickup on the road.”

Ewanick went on to say, “We can wait until the world ends, and if we need to, we will apologize. In the meantime, people who are really worried about the Mayan calendar coming true should buy a Silverado right away.”

Now that’s just rubbing salt in an already very raw wound…

Toyota serve up some Super Bowl spam on Twitter

As reported in the marketing blog eConsultancy this morning, via a report originally published on The Next Web, Toyota were caught red-handed trying to boost their Camry Effect campaign by sending unsolicited messages to random individuals, apparently based on nothing more than a tweet in their timeline mentioning the Super Bowl.

Here’s what TNW had to say in their article, “In what is probably the worst Twitter promotion I’ve seen on the platform since the company launched in 2006, Toyota has created a slew of accounts and is spamming people about what it is calling the “Camry Effect a Friend’ Giveaway!”. The worst part is that they’re all verified accounts, so while Twitter isn’t involved in the promotion, someone at the company definitely knows about it.”

Toyota subsequently apologised in the following statement, “We apologize to anyone in the Twitterverse who received an unwanted @reply over the past few days. We were excited to share the message of our Camry Effect campaign in a new way and it was never our intention to displease anyone.
We’ve certainly learned from this experience and have suspended the accounts effective immediately to avoid any additional issues.
Kimberley Gardiner, National Digital Marketing & Social Media Manager, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc.”

Embarrassing mistake? Or deliberate tactic to gain exposure? You decide, but as is proven by this article, all 3 brands have certainly drawn attention away from their competitors and become a talking point in sections of the media that wouldn’t normally be talking about their cars.