DETROIT -

We laughed, we cried, then we reached for more beer and nachos.  Or did we? 

Many prospective car buyers reached for their smartphones, ipads, and laptops--cruising to car shopping websites while thoughts of the just-watched ads were still fresh in their minds.

More in a moment on their effectiveness.

Auto industry is back!

Kudos to the industry for producing memorable, entertaining ads and returning to the Super Bowl with a vengeance.  Every major automaker with the exception of Ford took their best shot on the biggest stage of all.

So often the ads entertain, but we're left confused or forget the product they were pitching the instant the laughter dies.  Not so this year. 

Advertisers did a great job getting our attention and keeping the product tied indelibly to the advertisement.

If we think of headlights... we'll think of Audi, and how their new lamps blast vampires as effectively as daylight. 

We'll remember the shot of the newly slim and trim dog chasing down a slimmer, sportier, VW Beetle.

Honda and Acura made the most of celebrity appearances with Matthew Broderick, Jerry Seinfeld, and (surprise!) Jay Leno.

Fiat's ad featuring Romanian swimsuit model Catrinel Menghia sent viewers scrambling for Italian translations to find out what she was saying.

And then there's the Chevy Silverado "Apocolypse" ad.  It gets my pick as the most memorable, and got the loudest laugh at our Super Bowl party.  It also caused penalty flags to fly from my Twitter followers, who felt making the joke at Ford's expense was unfair.  It also may be the strongest evidence yet that the automotive recession is over. They are dropping the gloves and ready to brawl.   As for making a point... there's little doubt the surviving truck was NOT a Ford.  In fact, Ford went so far as to send a cease and desist order to GM demanding the ad be pulled.  Did Chevy need to take a shot at their competition by name?   "I would say generally you don't want to menition your competitor's product.  I think the ad stood well on its own withoiut metnioning the competing product," says Howard Krugel of Dietz-Trott marketing on Local 4 News Morning.  Nevertheless, he said the spot was very well done.

Were they effective?

While we may have chuckled and shed a tear, in the final analysis, the goal is to sell cars and trucks.  Based on that measure, who made it into the end zone?  Who made a real impact?

Edmunds.com, a leading car shopping website,  tracked traffic on their pages in real-time in the moments following automotive ads.  It's the best measure we have to determine if the ad compelled people to learn more about the vehicle and enter the marketplace.  They also charted whether the shoppers lingered or whether the visit was "hit and run."  Their live blogging of traffic quarter by quarter was eye-opening and more than a little surprising. 

While Chrysler seems to be earning "Best in Show" honors for its 2-minute Clint Eastwood epic, it surprisingly failed to move the needle for car shoppers.  Chrysler's pages on Edmunds saw traffic climb only 13% in the moments after Eastwood made our day in Detroit. 

WATCH: Clint Eastwood Chrysler ad

Chevy Silverado's slam on Ford drove traffic up only 6% according to Edmunds.

WATCH: Chevy Silverado takes on Ford

Compare that to the results for Chrysler's other ad featuring the new Fiat Abarth.  Edmunds' traffic soared more than 3300% in the minutes following its ad and was up more than 800% for the quarter with shoppers curious to learn more about the hot little Italian---the car, not the female character.

 

Other big winners:

Lexus GS (up 530%)

VW Beetle (up 367%)

Chevy Sonic (up 346%)