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Where Were All the Car Ads At This Year’s Super Bowl?

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This year’s Super Bowl had its star-studded moments. But as far as blockbuster car advertising, it was a lackluster year compared to previous ones. There were a total of just four national car ads—one for Kia’s Telluride X-Pro, and the other three all for electric vehicles (EV) or plug-in hybrids. Last year there were a record seven EV ads alone.

Perhaps the most memorable one of the night was Dodge’s “Premature Electrification” ad for the Ram 1500 REV, marking the company’s first electric pickup truck. In fact, all three EV ads were for trucks—Jeep sponsored the half time and GM ran its third annual Will Ferrell-loves-EVs segment, this time in partnership with Netflix—reflecting America’s enduring love of the pickup truck.

But missing were Super Bowl staples, and leaders in the EV market, Ford and Toyota. So why the dearth of EV ads this year—particularly in light of them being ever more popular?

It could simply come down to how companies are prioritizing the way they spend money, say experts.

“Clearly inflation is an issue. It’s impacting not only every day Americans but companies such as automakers, as well. Every one of them I’m sure is being very careful about their spending on advertising,” says Christie Schweinsberg, senior editor at WardsAuto.com, which conducts industry analysis.

“The industry needs to … normalize the notion of people driving EVs, or in the case of the Jeeps, plug-in hybrids. That sort of public-service announcement aspect, I think, was done quite well last year,” she adds. “I think many [manufacturers] didn’t feel the need to repeat it, at such a high cost just 12 months later.… There are more cost-effective platforms automakers can utilize to promote going electric.”

A 30-second ad spot during the Super Bowl cost between $6-7 million this year. “Maybe they think those dollars are best spent on scaling up elsewhere,” says Corey Cantor, senior associate for electric vehicle analysis at BloombergNEF. Rather than prioritizing ads for new EVs, he says, companies may be investing in ensuring those EVs get made.

Read more: We Watched Two Decades of Super Bowl Ads. Here’s What They Say About Climate Change

Another factor could simply be that it’s too soon to expect another fresh wave of new car models to be ready for advertising. “There is a public perception that there are all these EVs coming to market—tomorrow. I can’t blame the public for thinking that because every time you hear about the auto industry these days the talk pertains to electric vehicles. While there are dozens of nameplates in the U.S. vehicle pipeline, many of them still are a year or more away,” says Schweinsberg. “With that in mind, I think the timing is off for many [manufacturers] to be advertising upcoming models in February 2023.”

Despite fewer EV ads, the ones that did air still signal a shift in how the U.S. is thinking about cars: EVs are on their way, a lot of them will be trucks, and they will get you where you want to go. This year, says Schweinsberg, there wasn’t just the need to advertise the fact that it was an EV, but to show off the car’s electric propulsion—the power of its electric engine.

“Since about 2020, automakers, when showing car commercials, have prioritized electric vehicles over internal combustion engine cars,” says Cantor. “And I think the Super Bowl still remains a major opportunity for folks to kind of talk about electric vehicles in a new way.”

“I’m kind of curious when we’re going to eventually get to a year where there just is no internal combustion engine vehicle ad,” he adds. “This year could have been it if Kia didn’t do one.”

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