Tesla, EV Revolution Benefit From Polestar Super Bowl Ad

Tesla was the big winner when Polestar revealed its big-dollar Super Bowl commercial last night. The Swedish spinoff of Volvo didn’t miss out on the chance to take some shots at its competitors that, I think, benefit Tesla. Exactly how and why the ad benefits Tesla, we’ll get to. If you haven’t seen the ad, though, help make sure Polestar gets something for their money by watching it, here.

Fringe ideas don’t get made into Super Bowl ads – not at $6.5 million a pop for a 30 second spot. Polestar, General Motors, Nissan, and KIA all ponied up the bucks to get their electric cars in front of what will probably be the largest TV audience for a sporting event this year. Nissan wasted its money on a 2-seater sports car that almost no one will buy, then slipped a 1.5 second glimpse of its new Ariya electric SUV in at the end without bothering to mention the car is battery-powered, but what it had in common with the other EV ads last night? It helped Tesla, too.

Polestar 2 Super Bowl Ad Attacks Tesla

Let’s talk about that Polestar 2 ad. It is entitled No Compromises and has just a few words of text, such as “No dieselgate, No dirty secrets, No hidden agenda, No empty promises, No shortcuts, No conquering Mars, No blah, blah, blah, No settling, No greenwashing, No nonsense, No committees, No consensus, No compromises.”

Behind the words is a beauty roll of the car in black and white. The photography is gorgeous — lithe and fluid — and depicts a car that almost anyone would find appealing. Only at the very end does the company mention the Polestar 2 is 100% electric.

That is quite a laundry list of things the company says it didn’t do when developing the Polestar 2. No committees, no consensus, and no compromises? Really? Do they want us to believe CEO Thomas Inglerath just showed up at work one day with the design of the car sketched on the back of an envelope and said, “Build this?” Fortunately, the ad did not say “No hyperbole,” because the idea that any car today could reach production without committees, consensus, and compromises is just ludicrous. If you want people to believe what you are saying, it’s best not to make them think they are being lied to.

A sales professional knows that knocking the competition is poor salesmanship. Taking swipes at Volkswagen for its diesel cheating scandal is low rent behavior, if for no other reason that we know every manufacturer which sold cars in the European market in the past 20 years was involved in skating right up to and sometimes over the edge of propriety when it came to meeting EU regulations. It’s not like Volvo never sold diesel-powered cars either.

The swipe at Elon Musk and Tesla is, in my opinion, just stupid. SpaceX and Tesla may have a common majority owner but belittling Musk for being one of the most dynamic and creative business leaders of this century — even if he is a pain in the ass — is just a waste of money, especially when it costs $216,666 per second to say it.

Those other veiled references to dirty secrets, hidden agendas, or empty promises may be digs at the oil industry, legacy automakers who think they can get by on making compliance cars, or maybe Tesla again with its self-driving car mania.

Negative Sales & Blowback

Let me tell you a story about negative sales tactics, and why I think the Polestar ad will benefit Tesla. 30 years ago, I was a sales associate at a Saturn store. One day, a young couple came in and announced they had just come from the Dodge dealer down the street where they had looked at a new Neon. They said the salesman there told them that Saturns had gas tanks that tended to rupture and explode in a crash. They were a little belligerent and asked how I could represent such a dangerous and defective product in good conscience.

Well, I am nobody’s fool. I asked if they had a few minutes to learn a little about the Saturn car. Their hostility was palpable but they followed me out to the service area where one of our technicians had a car up on a lift. I pointed out how the gas tank was mounted ahead of the rear wheels within the footprint of the high strength safety cell that surrounds the passenger compartment. I then pointed out that the tank itself was a blow-molded item similar to the gas tanks used in race cars for safety reasons. With that, I picked up a hammer from the workbench and gave the tank a good whack.

Nothing happened. The hammer bounced off the tank without leaving a mark. I asked the couple what they thought would happen if someone did the same thing to the gas tank of a Neon. Their eyes told me I had said enough. We walked back onto the sales floor and they asked if I had time to take them for a test drive. An hour later, they drove home in a brand new Saturn SL2 sedan.

But that’s not the end of the story. The man’s brother came in a week later and bought a car from me. A week after that, the wife’s father also bought a car from me. Within 3 months, I sold 7 cars to their friends and family, and all because some poorly trained Dodge salesman said bad things about my product. I may not know everything about sales, but I know enough to realize that Polestar is playing a very dangerous game with this kind of “slam the opposition” advertising.

Negative Ads Help Tesla

A look at Tesla’s Model S Plaid (Source: Tesla)

Data makes the world go round these days, and there is a mountain of data available from the Super Bowl broadcast. Here’s a tweet that shows how many searches for “Tesla” occurred during those electric car commercials last night. 4 ads, $6.5 million each, for a total of $26 million. And just look how the internet searches for “Tesla” exploded during the times those ads were aired! Tesla got $26 million worth of free advertising and didn’t have to lift a finger to do it.

Elon himself has said, “Companies spend money on advertising & manipulating public opinion, Tesla focuses on the product. I trust the people.” You got that right, Elon.

Final Thoughts

Thomas Inglerath made a statement about that Super Bowl ad in which he said, “The Super Bowl is an iconic event and I’m excited to bring Polestar’s message to such a wide audience. We are a young and ambitious brand. We believe in ‘no compromises’, for our design language, our sustainability efforts, and the performance of our cars, and we wanted to share that philosophy with this ad. This is the perfect place to further raise awareness of our brand in the US, and beyond.” And awareness of its competitors as well, apparently. Well played, Thomas. Well played.

Or not.


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