NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Automakers reversed course in the final weeks leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast, buying into the most popular day in advertising with high-profile commercials from Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) , Toyota and Nissan, among others.
The surplus of automaker commercials during the broadcast came despite NBC's shrill warning last month that automotive companies were slow to buy into Super Bowls advertising amid projections from WPP (WPPGY) subsidiary Kantar Media that the network was selling fewer ads than a year ago in part because of increased prices for 30-second spots.
But ultimately, automakers jumped in. Fiat Chrysler was the last automaker to make an announcement saying it would be running Super Bowl spots this year and that didn't happen until Friday, said Jon Swallen, Kantar chief research officer.
"The reports of the demise of the automotive category were extremely premature," Swallen said Monday in a phone interview.
Although eight of the 11 automaker nameplates from the 2014 game announced they would not participate in 2015, several others wound up making up for those absent, according to a Kantar report. Nine auto brands from six total parent companies aired a total of 11 spots this time, a volume of activity comparable to 2014 and 2013, marking the fifth straight Super Bowl with more than 10 minutes of category ad time, Kantar said.
Nonetheless, total automaker ad time decreased to 10 minutes and 30 seconds from 13 minutes and 30 seconds last year.
Fiat was mum last month on whether it would be airing any spots during this year's broadcast. It ended up running a humorous, one-minute spot on the Fiat 500X crossover about an old man in Italy who lost his little blue pill, which he accidentally tossed out of his window.
The pill flew into the gas tank of the new vehicle, which according to the ad was "bigger, more powerful and ready for action." Fiat Chrysler also ran a one-minute spot for its Dodge brand that celebrated the brand's 100th anniversary and featured senior citizens (each about 100 years old) giving life advice. The company also ran a minute-and-a-half Jeep Renegade spot featuring the Woody Guthrie song This Land Is Your Land.
Fiat Chrysler didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on how much it spent on the spots. But the company clearly spent a bundle. The cost to run a Super Bowl spot increased to $4.5 million this year from $4.2 million last year, but if an advertiser bought multiple spots this time the cost dipped to $4.4 million per ad, said Chris McCloskey, the spokesman for Comcast (CMCSA) division NBC Sports Group, last month.
Meanwhile, General Motors' (GM) Chevrolet brand ran multiple spots for its new Colorado midsize pickup truck, and it was the sponsor of the NBC kickoff show before the game started. Daimler's (DDAIF) Mercedes-Benz ran a clever one-minute spot featuring a take on the old story of the tortoise and the hare to promote the new AMG GT S sports car that is shipping in April. It also was a sponsor of the NBC preshow before the game.
Other auto spots during the game featured the Toyota (TM) Camry and Lexus, BMW's i3 electric car, Nissan (NSANY) , Kia (KIMTF) Sorento and Honda (HMC) Pilot. The standout among those was the BMW spot, in which former Today show anchors Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric reteamed and poked fun at themselves by flashing back to a 1994 clip from the show when they were attempting to understand what the Internet was.
As expected, however, Jaguar and Volkswagen didn't return with spots this time after participating in 2014.
NBC Sunday declined to say when it signed on any of the automakers for the Super Bowl spots. So, it wasn't immediately clear which of the companies were signed on at the last minute or before the network complained of the weak showing by automakers taking out ads for the game.
The Kia spot was one of many Super Bowl spots featuring famous movie and TV stars. Another standout spot featured Bryan Cranston reprising his role as Walter White from the show Breaking Bad. Like a separate spot starring Lindsay Lohan that poked fun at her infamous driving woes, the Cranston spot was for Allstate (ALL) division Esurance.
As NBC had projected last month, spots by technology companies were weaker than a year ago. With the exception of nonhardware spots by Microsoft (MSFT) and a stand-out phone hardware ad by Mophie in which even God was shown to be annoyed with the low power on his phone, consumer electronics device makers sat out this year's Super Bowl.
This came one year after such companies were better represented than usual during the 2014 Super Bowl, with spots for the Beats Music service (prior to the purchase of it and Beats Electronics by Apple (AAPL) ) GoPro (GPRO) , Microsoft (MSFT) , RadioShack (RSH) and Sonos. A spot for the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone from Samsung didn't air during Sunday's broadcast until after the game was over.
Although Seth Winter, executive vice president of sales at NBC Sports Group, had warned last month that Super Bowl ad sales in the wireless category were running a little weaker than he would have liked, Sprint (S) , MetroPCS, T-Mobile US (TMUS) and Verizon (VZ) all ran spots during the game. The standout among those was the T-Mobile spot in which comics Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman each tried to one up the other using the carrier's Wi-Fi calling feature.