This year even more than ever it was the Bud bowl. Bud Light dominated the game from start to finish with no other brand coming close to Bud’s advertising savvy and skill in producing on message, on target, awesome event ads.
The typical formula for a Super Bowl ad is a mixture of celebrities, talking animals, sexy girls, potty humor, big stunts and special effects. But using one or all of these elements doesn’t guarantee a successful or memorable ad.
To create a successful commercial an advertisement has to resonate and reinforce a brand message in the mind of the consumer. If a consumer laughs at an ad but can’t remember who the advertiser was, it was not a successful ad. If the consumer remembers the advertiser but the message has nothing to do with the brand, it was not a successful ad.
The Super Bowl is a totally unique advertising venue. It is only day of the entire year that consumers actively seek out, watch and discuss advertising. Because of this fact, a successful ad needs to fit seamlessly within the tone of the big game and the party atmosphere most consumers are viewing it.
The brand being advertised also needs to be consistent with the Super Bowl and world championship it represents. The Super Bowl is not for everyone, it is best left to dominate brands. Little brands rarely measure up. The brands that do the best are the big brands with big appeal and a fun disposition. Beer, soda, chips, fast-food and cars are all good.
Advertising a toilet paper, tax service or erectile dysfunction cure is not advisable. None of those products are something consumers want to think about or discuss during the big game. No matter how funny the ad is or how badly the consumer needs the product. Sadly Charmin, H&R Block, Levitra and Cialis have not heeded this advice and have all been past advertisers on the Super Bowl. This year Flomax made the dreaded mistake of advertising.
Another key to a successful Super Bowl ad is advertising consistently each year during the game. One ad for one year is unlikely to make an impact. Since Budweiser has been in the game for as long as I can remember and is the biggest game advertiser, it is guaranteed to make a big impression no matter what the ads are. In addition, by advertising every year Bud keeps Miller out of the game which is probably the biggest benefit of all.
Now here is my take on some of the most talked about ads and advertisers:
Budweiser: Probably the best year ever for the biggest beer brewer in the nation. They skillfully combined humor and brand message to become the most talked about ads both during and after the game. My only criticism is that all the commercials should be for Bud Light. It is the #1 beer in the U.S. and the future of the company. Best to put all your chips on the biggest winner especially during the big game.
Doritos: Since many of the big agencies can’t score a winning ad during the game why not let consumers write the ads? So that is exactly what Frito-Lay did. Doritos held an online contest for amateur videos and ran the winning ads during the game. While many Super Bowl ads cost $1 million and up to produce, Doritos top spot only cost $12. Quite a steal. It goes to show that what matters most is the message not the special effects, celebrities or talking animals. All the winning Doritos spots were spot on when it came to brand message, humor and novelty. Being the first to use the contest idea was also key. Next year too many companies are likely to copy the formula and too many professionals are likely to enter.
Sierra Mist: The ads might have been funny, but what is a Sierra Mist? The brand has no meaning in the mind of the consumer. A me-too brand has no business being in the game, Sierra Mist would be better off going back to the minor leagues and figuring who it is. The worst part is the PepsiCo’s ad slots should have been used by Pepsi instead. Advertising Sierra Mist was a waste of time and left the door open for Coke to move its ads in. Stupid mistake.
Pepsi: Loved the Pepsi half-time show. Love Prince. I saw Purple Rain twice on opening weekend. But today, the choice of a new generation would unlikely be Prince. Pepsi would have been better off creating buzz producing ads during the game. Most people use half-time to go to the bathroom, eat and chat about the ads with their family and friends.
Coca-Cola: After sitting out the Super Bowl for almost a decade Coke finally got back in the game yesterday and it’s time away from the gridiron showed. The ads were a rusty attempt at being funny, cool and hip. Some were too serious and better off suited for another venue. Others were just not humorous or brand centric enough and paled in comparison to Bud’s ads and Pepsi’s ad of years past.
Nationwide: Just making fun of a soon-to-be has-been-celebrity does not make a Super Bowl ad. A one laugh joke maybe but at $2.6 million for 30 seconds you really need to think of something better than this to get your money’s worth. The reality is that no one wants to think about insurance or Kevin Federline during the big game.
GoDaddy.com: I have to hand it to them, GoDaddy.com has stuck with the Super Bowl and it is finally paying off. What could have been a one year flash in the pan dot-com bust has turned into a brand with power, personality and persistence in pushing the decency limits of network television. The initial strategy was simply to be as racy as possible to garner PR attention yet still past the network standards boards. But this year a brand message has also come across in the ads: “Make a .com name with us.” The best ad was the second one submitted to CBS (which was rejected.) It was great because it didn’t rely on boobs but creatively combined edginess with brand message. Running the same ad three times was a rookie mistake, to truly make an impact they needed to run three different ads. Tone down the visuals and language GoDaddy.com and you’ll get three approved in time for game day.
GM: No matter what GM does in its advertising the problem remains the same. Its brands don’t stand for anything in the mind of the consumer. No amount of Madison Ave. magic can fix that.
CareerBuilder.com: Finally they dumped the chimps. Nothing is worse than animals in ads only as a device for laughs. Budweiser and Clydesdales is one thing, chimps in an office is another. This year CareerBuilder.com greatly benefited from more humorous ads that were clearly on brand message. But even more important than that was the fact that they were the only job website advertising on the game. When Monster was in, it was all bets off. The bigger brand tends to overshadow the little guy. And even if your ad was better the consumer usually gives the big guy credit. (No matter how great a car ad on safety you produce a majority of consumers will think it was a Volvo ad!)
Snickers: Gay-phobia humor is just not funny and a brand like Snickers should know better than that. Also to be avoided are fart jokes, potty jokes and making fun of any minority.
Diamond Emerald Nuts: Robert Goulet? Does anyone remember who this guy is? I don't. That aside, the idea is solid, eat nuts at 3 pm avoid to aviod an afternoon blood sugar crash. Many brands have targeted this before, but nuts do have a unique quality of being natural, high in protein and low in carbohydrates. The brand just has no business advertising on the Super Bowl. The company's message and money would be better spent on more commercials throughout the year. Diamond Emerald needs more brand recognition in the mind. They could use some PR first. Super Bowl ads should reinforce success not look to create it.