Koreans Prominent in Super Bowl Battle of Brands

Fans of Super Bowl commercials couldn’t help noticing that Korean brands occupied the most prominent place among the 37 companies that shelled about $300 million to be in the thick of America’s biggest game day.

The top spender was easily Hyundai Motors, with a total of five spots, including two for the Hyundai Santa Fe and one each for the Hyundai Sonata Turbo, Kia Forte and the Kia Sorento. These commercials were also among some of the most memorable of this year’s crop.

A Kia Forte spot titled “Hotbots” features a sexy female robot attendant at a car show. She loses her cool at a visitor who doesn’t handle her Forte with the degree of respect she expects. That offers a belly laugh but is outdone in sight gags that resonate by the Sonata Turbo spot in which a family speeds up to get around a series of increasingly unpleasant obstructions — a fat biker with his butt crack showing, a leaky septic-tank pumper, an SUV hauling big drooling dogs, a missile launcher with a load of missiles pointing backward.

The most visually impressive but possibly thematically lamest may be the Kia Sorento “Space Babies” spot in which a father concocts a wild space scenario to avoid telling his son how babies get here — only to find that a built-in DVD player may be the best distraction.

In terms of sheer happiness factor, it’s hard to beat the Hyundai Santa Fe “Epic Playdate” spot in which a family of seven celebrates a day of rhapsodic fun.

The most self-referential commercial this year is easily Samsung’s “Next Big Thing” spots in which Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd are asked to come up with concepts for a Samsung Super Bowl spot only to be upstaged by Lebron James.

The biggest and easily the most anticipated Korean spot wasn’t for a Korean brand but for the US snack brand Wonderful Pistachios. Psy’s throbbing Gangnam Style beat and dance moves, with a couple of tweaks, are an almost ideal fit for the brand’s “Get crackin‘” slogan as well as the “Crack those nuts!” refrain as Psy hip-thrusts against dancing pistachios which, judging by their shapely legs, are definitely female.

Psy wasn’t the only Asian in a Super Bowl spot. Best Buy’s spots starring Parks and Recreation’s Amy Poehler also features a tall, sympathetic young Asian American blueshirt who is on the receiving end of her scattershot questions as well as a few pointedly sexual come-ons. Turns out the blueshirt is a Korean American actor named Jake Choi.