Over the past few years, it’s become a common practice for brands to release their Super Bowl ads before the big game. But in the run-up to Super Bowl LII, we’re seeing fewer ads from automotive brands, reflecting a broader trend. In 2017, there were 36 Super Bowl ads pre-released across multiple industries, including spots from Audi, Buick, Honda, Kia, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz. So far, we’ve seen only 12 pre-releases days before Super Bowl LII, including one automotive ad (the Lexus “Black Panther” spot) and one teaser (from Kia). Why?

As reported in News Day, theories for the pullback range from brands:

  • Deciding to return to the days when Super Bowl ads maintained an element of surprise.
  • Wanting to sidestep backlash leading up to the game, especially at a time when the NFL has experienced social and political controversy.

But there might be another reason influencing the rollout of Super Bowl ads: the ads themselves this year might not lend themselves to a digital pre-release. As noted in Business Insider, Super Bowl ads in general are expected to be lengthier, taking a storytelling approach. If indeed Super Bowl LII ads assume a longer form, it’s possible advertisers want to drop them like movies, treating the Super Bowl as opening day and then experiencing repeat views afterward.

Whether advertisers are returning to the days of “the big reveal” in general is debatable. With Super Bowl ads costing $5 million a minute, advertisers have every reason to wrest as much value and viewership out of them as possible, which is why extending their lifespan on digital makes perfect sense. Perhaps advertisers are doing so in reverse, though, with:

  • A big bang on TV in front a global audience.
  • Use of digital to develop a residual audience.

In any case, dealerships should keep a close watch on the ads placed by automotive manufacturers. As our CMO Brooke Skinner Ricketts discussed recently, Super Bowl ads drive shoppers to look at vehicles. During Super Bowl LI in 2017, Cars.com analyzed traffic on our own site to determine how Super Bowl LI ads affected online activity on Cars.com. Our research indicated that automobile manufacturers broadcasting ads during the game averaged a 7 percent lift to their brand pages on Cars.com — and a 238 percent lift to pages on Cars.com for models that were specifically called out.

For Super Bowl LII, Kia, Hyundai, Lexus, and Toyota have confirmed spots. Automotive dealerships for those brands should:

  • Make sure your VDPs on Cars.com are up to date and merchandised effectively with striking visuals and compelling copy optimized for search – because our research shows that searches will occur. Consult The Cars.com Merchandising Playbook for more detailed suggestions to make your VDPs shine.
  • Ensure your website is ready for an uptick in search activity.
  • Consider adjusting your keyword and social media advertising strategies in anticipation of heightened consumer interest in the vehicles being advertised on Super Bowl LII.

Meanwhile, watch Cars.com to stay up to date on all the Super Bowl LII automotive ads. And contact us for more insight into how to build your brand on digital.