If you happened to be on any social networks during the Super Bowl last night (GO PACKERS!), you probably noticed that the ads between plays got as much attention as the game itself.

And for good reason: the huge viewership of the Super Bowl renders these spots the most expensive ad buys of the year, with 30 seconds of prime eyeball time coming in at an estimated $3M. Every season, brands aim to outdo their previous efforts — and up the ante on one another.

Whether that results in the creation of a celebrity spoof with a social twist, an affectionate celebration of famous NFL fans, or a certain stock market-loving baby, advertisers will do whatever it takes to create buzz… and hopefully drive sales after the Lombardi is handed off to the winner.

When it came time to choose my favorite from the contenders, I was a little torn. And oddly enough — for someone who doesn’t own a car — my two top spots came from auto manufacturers.

Volkswagen’s “The Force” hit their demographic right between the eyes with an adorable mini-Darth Vader (who was actually unmasked the next morning on NBC’s Today Show):

All at once, they managed to target parents (the leading buyers of family-friendly sedans), kids, pop culture buffs, and Star Wars geeks. And because they released the ad on YouTube prior to the telecast, they’d already racked up 12 million views and 10,000 comments before the Green Bay won the coin toss.

My second choice comes from the folks at Chrysler, who took a full two minutes of absurdly pricey airtime to tell a story that’s all too familiar to most Americans… but with a 180-degree switch in perspective:

For me, this spot was the standout of the night (even if more viewers chose the Doritos ad with the adorable pug smackdown as their first choice.)

Why? For three reasons:

1. It told a compelling story

Detroit was in rough shape before the auto industry bailouts, and while earnings have been up in recent months, they’re certainly not out of the woods yet. Across the country, the city itself has become a sort of shorthand reference for economic failure.

The ad acknowledges this heartbreaking reality up front — but it doesn’t stop there.

In the vein of Lemonade Detroit, it speaks of the community’s commitment to overcoming their difficulties, and the hope of an economic resurgence — led by the much-maligned auto industry. It celebrates what Detroit is capable of, instead of where they’re at right now.

By supporting this comeback, you become part of the story, too. And just in case you missed the message of economic resurrection, there’s a gospel choir waiting to sing you into the new era.

Even their tagline — “Imported From Detroit” — is a rallying cry for American ingenuity and patriotic purchases (and I can’t deny it gave me a thrill right to the core of my copywriter soul.)

No doubt it’s also a message that my friends (and Chrysler competitors) Scott Monty of Ford and Christopher Barger of GM, could get behind, as passionate voices and dedicated players in Detroit’s ongoing rebirth.

2. It affirmed Chrysler’s commitment to the values and personal brands of their established demographic

Chrysler isn’t known for being a chic or sexy brand. Your baby boomer or “Greatest Generation” dad is more likely to drive a Chrysler than anyone else you know — and to choose the middle-of-the-road comforts of an American mid-size over a foreign model (like a BMW or Audi, both of whom also did ad buys last night.)

The deft way the spot transcends traditional notions of luxury by aligning it with hard work is a perfect nod to that customer — and his values. A good car is something you earn, not just something you buy.

My grandfather put down cash for his automobiles. This ad would have spoken to him.

3. It made a play for a new demographic by aligning Chrysler’s brand with a youth-centric brand — without abandoning the values of their existing customer

As I wrote this post, an unnamed person over the age of 40 came into my office and watched the ad with me. He loved it, but had to confirm somewhat sheepishly who the “guy driving the car” was: Detroit’s own hip-hop hero, Eminem, who starred in a gritty portrait of the city eight years ago.

I’m not saying that no one over the age of 40 knows who Eminem is, but viewers in their teens, twenties, and thirties are undoubtedly those most likely to identify him on sight — and perhaps know he grew up in Warren (a economically depressed suburb of Detroit.) He’s a multi-millionaire now, but his hardscrabble roots are a consistent theme in his work.

By putting Eminem in the driver’s seat, Chrysler is doing two things: making a subtle, yet distinct play for the hip hop generation, and proposing a redefinition of what wealth and achievement might look like for kids growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Detroit — and anywhere else.

Still, there’s no obvious hip hop sound (though the insistent soundtrack is a take on Eminem’s own “Lose Yourself”) to startle anyone’s grandpa, and no bling tossed or bottles popped to turn the scene into a stereotypical picture of “making it rain.” Again, the focus is on earned luxury, not cash-flashing excess.

And they nailed it.

From the gritty narration to the noble urban imagery to the only words Eminem speaks — “This is the Motor City, and this is what we do” — this spot is a love letter to folks who aren’t getting a lot of love in this economy… which is exactly why it gets my pick for the top Super Bowl ad of the night.

What was your favorite spot? And why?