Do Super Bowl commercials matter anymore? Suzuki thinks so, and they've got the data to back it up. In February 2011, which kicked off with the company's snowman-tastic "Wicked Weather" Super Bowl ad, sales of the Suzuki Kizashi midsize sedan spiked by 53 percent year over year for the 15 markets in which the ad aired, while non-targeted markets saw just a 4 percent increase. Not surprisingly, then, Suzuki's at it again this year, except this time they've got 21 regions covered-that's nearly a third of the Super Bowl audience-along with an extensive pre-Bowl media blitz to drum up wider interest.

Oh, and this year's ad involves an Eskimo couple, a pulsating hip-hop soundtrack, and a team of head-bobbing Huskies.

That's right-the new spot features two actual Eskimos speaking in their native Inuit language (Suzuki had to put out a casting call in rural Alaska to find them), as well as those rap-loving sled dogs, an igloo, and a dashing red all-wheel-drive Kizashi. Filmed on a frozen lake outside of Calgary by the creative folks behind Apple's iconic "Think Different" campaign, the ad has great visual pop, and it's genuinely funny, too. We think it's an early favorite for the best Super Bowl ad of 2012. If you like it as much as we do, head on over to YouTube's Ad Blitz and give it some love.

The new Kizashi ad comes at a crucial time for Japan-based Suzuki's American operations. With the global economic downturn, the disruptive tsunami in Northeastern Japan, and a yen that just keeps getting stronger against the dollar, the past few years have been "a perfect storm," says Jeff Holland, Suzuki's stateside Director of Public Relations and Social Media. While conceding that Suzuki has "lost a lot of dealers," Holland insists that the future is bright for offerings like the Kizashi and the company's top-selling model in the states, the compact SX4. "We've become more strategic," he explains, "so we're adding dealerships where it makes sense and then concentrating ad buys there." Part of that strategy is making sure that Super Bowl viewers won't have a hard time finding a Suzuki dealer for a test drive-so if you see the ad on TV, chances are there's a Kizashi waiting for you nearby.

A word about the Kizashi, by the way: it's an excellent car. The only rival with anything like its combination of European-style driving dynamics and room for four adults is the Volkswagen Jetta. We're not big fans of the Kizashi's continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and it's unfortunately the only transmission offered with AWD (a six-speed manual is available in FWD models). Otherwise, the Kizashi comes up roses. Indeed, the biggest challenge for Suzuki has been getting car shoppers to notice just how good this car is. With some help from their new Eskimo allies, Suzuki is hopeful that the Kizashi will finally get the mainstream respect it deserves.

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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