Chevy Silverado Super Bowl commercial creates huge consumer response – for Ford

Make sure your competitive advertising doesn't hit you in the head.

There are times when your best pitch can boomerang. A few minutes before 7 PM on Super Bowl Sunday was one of them.

That’s when a commercial for Chevrolet’s Silverado pickup truck aired to a record audience of an estimated 111.5 million people.

The spot was set in the aftermath of the world apocalypse that a Mayan calendar predicted for this year and depicts the Silverado as one of only two manufactured artifacts durable enough to withstand the cataclysm (the other being Twinkies).

In it a Silverado turns on its lights and drives through a landscape so devastated, it resembles downtown Detroit (the city that the Clint Eastwood Chrysler spot said was the model for “America’s second half”) to a meeting of about a half-dozen Silverado owners.

Here’s where the boomerang starts

“Where’s Dave?” asks one of them.

“Dave didn’t drive the longest-lasting, most dependable truck on the road,” another conversationally replies, “Dave drove a Ford.”

A funny thing happened on the way to the showroom

That little zinger drove tons of pickup buyers to the showroom, all right — but not quite the one Chevy had in mind.

According to a statement just released by Ashkay Anand, a Kelly Blue Book marketing-intelligence web analyst, the commercial produced an immediate decline in interest in the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and a massive surge of hits for the Ford F-150.

Compared with the previous Sunday, January 29, Silverado’s share of traffic to the KBB website dropped 25%, while the Ford F-150’s share rose by 26% during the same period. reports that “Ford continued to see a swell of shopping in the days after the Super Bowl” while Silverado sales dropped. And according to a report they quoted from, “the Ford F-150 saw a greater boost in shoppers week over week while the Silverado fell off by 25%.”

Be careful when you advertise the competition

This suggests three important lessons for advertisers — local Richmond businesses and national brands alike — considering competitive advertising.

First, think twice before you mention the competition at all. At the very least, you’ll be spending your money to create some awareness for them.

Second, if you have a valid competitive point to make about the other brand, make it clearly and devastatingly. “Not the longest-lasting, most dependable truck on the road” is neither.

Finally, make sure to mention your brand at least once, too, and say what’s good about it. Chevrolet didn’t, at least not in the audio and not explicitly. As a result, Anand says, viewers may have thought it was a Ford commercial.

You know you’re advertising your product. Your audience doesn’t, unless you tell them.

It’s okay to do competitive advertising, but just be smart about what you’re doing. Particularly if you don’t want it to backfire.