“If you ever see Ford Motor Co. doing a Super Bowl ad on our electric vehicles,” CEO Jim Farley mused at a conference in 2022, “sell the stock.”
That’s one extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to Super Bowl ads for cars. But as Automotive News reported earlier this week, ad spending is indeed down across the board, with most automakers set to sit out the commercial bonanza on Fox when Super Bowl LVII airs on February 12. One company that’s bucking the trend? General Motors.
This week, GM previewed its upcoming Big Game ad, a 60-second spot that will have Will Ferrell driving various electric vehicles from the automaker around the worlds of Squid Game, Bridgerton and Army of the Dead. All you binge-watchers out there may have already realized that these are all Netflix properties. But not only is GM partnering with the streaming giant for a Super Bowl blowout, as The Hollywood Reporter explained, the company is set to use Netflix as its next great weapon in the electric car wars.
“[T]he Super Bowl is just the beginning of what executives at both companies say is a long-term, ‘ongoing’ partnership, one that will see GM EVs featured or incorporated into a variety of Netflix original TV series and movies,” the outlet reported. “Already, Netflix says that the upcoming seasons of Love Is Blind and Queer Eye will feature GM EVs (the Chevy Bolt EUV and Hummer EV, respectively), as will the upcoming Rob Lowe comedy Unstable, which will feature the Cadillac Lyriq.”
Electric vehicles have been prominently featured in movies and TV shows before, from the Audi E-tron in Iron Man 3 all the way back in 2013 to the Porsche Taycan in Tár, which has been nominated for six Academy Awards. Last year, Netflix even promised to put at least one EV “in every series or movie it directly produced,” per Variety. But this is no one-off product placement; this new initiative has the potential to sneakily thrust GM’s electric vehicles (across the Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC brands) into the cultural consciousness across a wide-swath of entertainment, from prestige dramas to reality TV.
It’s a smart move for GM. After all, Tesla has been the dominant force in EVs not simply because they were the first to produce compelling vehicles at scale, but because the company was able to move beyond being an automaker and become a cultural touchpoint. Every single day, Tesla is splashed across newspapers, magazines and social media, largely because of CEO Elon Musk. Now, GM has found its own way of inserting its next-generation cars into the cultural conversation.
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Just don’t call it “product placement.” As The Hollywood Reporter explained, Netflix Chief Marketing Officer Marian Lee and GM CMO Deborah Wahl both don’t consider this EV partnership product placement in the normal sense, as it’s “separate from any advertising deal.” Instead, they say the automaker is offering the streamer a fleet of EVs for showrunners and directors to use if they wish. If they don’t want to use them, that’s fine. (But come on, can we just agree that this is still product placement if it’s a recognized partnership?)
The Will Ferrell spot, “EVs On Screen,” that’s kicking off this new program is set to debut in full next week and air in the second quarter of the Super Bowl (this is the second time he’s appeared in a Big Game ad for GM about electric vehicles). As for the new Netflix programming, we’re looking forward to the Fab Five of Queer Eye crab-walking their way into an unsuspecting rural town with a fresh perspective on life.
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