Super Bowl Ads – the Final Score

touchdownThe game is over, and it had the all the drama, momentum swings and glitz that we expect from the Super Bowl.  And while we know who won on the field, it’s now time to look at the winners and losers from the advertising game.

Before I pass judgment, let me make a couple overall observations.

The Herd Mentality
It’s always interesting to see how certain products tend to get multiple advertisers competing with each other.  Car manufacturers are at the top of this list, with luxury sedans and mid-sized SUVs being the predominant vehicle types showing up.  For the most part, these were so indistinguishable from each other that nobody will remember anything about them by this weekend…while I did enjoy watching the VW Beetle “Get Happy” spot, there was one clear winner in the pack (see below).   There is always a lot of competition between sodas, but a surprising product category that has multiple brands competing with each other during the Super Bowl is men’s deodorants…they must feel that they can get some new customers, although I’m highly skeptical that they will even come close to seeing a return on this investment.

Quick Hits vs. Extended Plays
While most of the spots are 30-seconds, there are some 1-minute and even a couple 2-minute spots.  Trying to keep people’s attention on an ad for a couple minutes is very difficult, and given the sheer number of ads during the game I would say you could get a better return by spreading out a couple shorter ads over the course of the game.  Chrysler did ok with their patriotic and sentimental longer-running commercials, while Samsung really made a bad choice to go this route.

Shifting Social Strategies
Twitter may be the biggest winner from game day.  Several stories have come out showing that Twitter hashtags were used more than any other social media reference by advertisers.  In addition, Oreo’s “dunk in the dark” tweet during the power outage showed that Twitter is a great social media tool for real-time events.  My top issue with all the ads is how they wait to show hashtags or URLs to the audience until the final second of the ad — they aren’t leaving enough time for people to mentally register the call-to-action that will allow consumers to continue interacting with them after the commercial is over.

And now for the awards…
The MVP: Mercedes Benz
Finally, an ad that both is entertaining and has a compelling message…their “deal with the devil” spot concludes by showing that a premium sedan is more affordable than people think.

The Game-Winning Touchdown: Tide Detergent
The Miracle Stain ad had a great concept, build up and ending.  And just think of how many clothes had food spilled on them during the game festivities.

The Game-Tying Field Goal: Disney’s “Oz the Great and Powerful”
An eye-catching movie trailer that retained my attention amid a lot of movie promos.

The Key 3rd-Down Conversion: Best Buy
Best Buy’s spot with the annoying (in a funny way) customer did a good job of showcasing the breadth of products they carry and the help you can get at their stores.  And with the fierce competition they are facing in both big box retail and online, they need to be aggressive.  Only misstep was in not giving viewers a reason to go to a store ASAP.

The Successful Trick Play: Soda Stream
They had to pull their original spot due to pressure on CBS from Coke and Pepsi, which just created more publicity for them.  I liked the message about reducing plastic bottle waste.

The Missed-Winning-the-Game-by-One-Foot: Star Trek Into Darkness, Pepsi Next and MiO Fit
The Star Trek trailer really caught my attention, but they screwed up by flashing something about an online game for a fraction of a second at the end (again, what’s with the insanely short time given to the call-to-action?).  Pepsi Next made the same mistake with something about giving away 1 million free cans.  MiO Fit left out the most important competitive aspect of their sports drink mix, which is that it has zero calories.  To win in the big game you have to execute flawlessly, otherwise you don’t walk away with the trophy (just ask the 49’ers).

The Head-Scratching Coaching Decision: Samsung and Anheuser-Busch InBev
Samsung spent two minutes on a comedy sketch, which didn’t tell the viewers anything about why they should consider their products – they really messed this up after some great commercials during the previous Super Bowl.  I have no idea what AB InBev was thinking by advertising two different new beers (Beck’s Sapphire and Bud Black Crown) that appeared indistinguishable from each other.

The Missed Field Goal: Oreo
Oreo’s commercial would have been much better if they had flashed that they wanted people to go to their Instagram account during the entire commercial.  Also, I understand the humor about whispering while fighting in the library, but does this concept really work when so many people are watching the game in noisy environments (parties, bars, etc.)?

The Off-setting Penalties: GoDaddy.com and Kia Forte
GoDaddy.com seems to set the bar for bad taste lower every year, and this time they did it again.  Kia’s commercial of the female robot throwing the guy against the wall made absolutely no sense.

The Fumble: Milk
Really?!?  What exactly did the Milk Processors Board hope to achieve with this ad?  They have had so many compelling ads over the years, and then they decide to go with a meaningless action spot that will not have any effect on consumer behavior.  On top of it all, milk is subsidized by tax dollars, so this was basically $5-7 million of public money being wasted.

Of course, there were a bunch of other ads, most of them eminently forgettable or pointless.  For the full list of Superbowl ads, see this AdAge page.

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