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2012 Super Bowl Commercials: Sneak Preview (Update 1)

Cars.com
It seems as if every year there's a Super Bowl ad that makes the nation ask, collectively, "just how is this supposed to get me to buy your product?"

This year, that dubious honor belongs to Cars.com's ad featuring a disembodied, disco-singing head that's supposed to represent a car-buyer's confidence. The image itself is no more jarring than, say, Johnny Knoxville's from Men In Black II, but the floating head's biggest problem is that it's singing right over the explanation of why anyone should use Cars.com's price-comparison service and, instead, prompts viewers to use the Shazam song-identifying smartphone app to tag the commercial and earn $1 for a charity.

Congratulations, Cars.com, you just paid $3.5 million to tell people absolutely nothing about your product in just about the dumbest way possible. Fortunately, that approach seems to work out just fine for the company.

Cars.com has been wheeling and dealing during Super Bowl breaks for the past five years, and this year's one 30-second ad displays the poise of a seasoned veteran. Last year, talking cars, belching trucks, poison-quaffing serfs, arrow-taking cowboys and jumbled teleporting scientists helped make Cars.com valedictorian of the "Consumers Is Dumb" school of Super Bowl ad casting.

Chief Marketing Officer Carolyn Crafts considers it "the launching point of our annual media plan," and with good reason. According to a survey by brand market research firm Brand Keys, this year's Cars.com ad is not only the most engaging in the Super Bowl Sunday field, but built brand equity by more than 10 points among viewers. Compare that with Anheuser-Busch's 2012 Super Bowl ads, which not only didn't convince Brand Keys respondents to buy into its Budweiser brand, but actually knocked its brand equity down by about nine points.

Kudos to Cars.com for being dumb in the smartest way imaginable.

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