While the gridiron battle between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots was close, the advertising battle on the tube was not.
The Super Bowl battle for commercial success might better be described as a mixture of the old classics, the new stuff, the overly sexy and the over the top.
Here is my brief recap on the best/worst ads of the night.
The Old Classics
The Super Bowl isn’t for also-rans. The big game is best served by big brands that are category leaders and that support the game year after year with consistent themes.
The three polar bear ads delivered. The ads were classic storytelling for the whole family from the world’s most valuable brand. Coke combined its well-known Polar Bears with a football theme and its iconic bottle to produce a series of commercials that were both entertaining and memorable.
When Budweiser does it right, it gets it really right. The “Return of the King” and “Eternal Optimism” delivered on a recurring theme of the night. Times are tough, but Americans pull through so why not celebrate with a Bud? On the funny side, Bud also delivered with a Weego rescue dog that fetches beers. An overused gag, but Bud found a way to make it fresh and fun. The misses came for the new brand called Bud Light Platinum. Nobody has heard of it and nobody knew they needed another line-extension of Bud. But when they find out that Bud Light Platinum has a higher alcohol than regular beer, the brand could have legs with young adults.
The talking baby is now a classic for the brand. Consumers love the creative which conveys the message that E*Trade is so easy a baby can do it. The brand has nicely evolved and continues to introduce fresh, new ideas. This ad talking about “Fatherhood” had a nice connection with the Super Bowl and family time.
Getting customers to create winning commercials has turning into a successful Super Bowl strategy for the chip maker. The Doritos contest has become a classic and much anticipated part of Super Bowl Sunday. As in years past, amateurs turned in some of the funniest laughs of the night. Man’s Best Friend involves a cat-murder, a cover-up and bribery. And Sling Baby, has granny using a baby slingshot to get some Doritos. I love the creativity and fun these ads deliver for a brand that is addictive with bold flavors.
The New Stuff
The Super Bowl can be an excellent place to launch a new brand. Apple famously did that with its Macintosh ad in 1984.
Dogs and kids always attract attention in advertising. In this commercial, a cute little French bulldog takes to the greyhound track and wins thanks to his new Skechers Go Run shoes. The line promotes a more-natural running experience that is all the rage these days. The spot was particularly good as compared with last year’s revolting Skechers commercial featuring Kim Kardashian rolling around with a personal trainer.
Since 2005, car enthusiasts have been mourning the end of the NSX supercar. So Honda’s plan to return with a new generation of the NSX has gotten a lot of gearheads excited. This spot nicely uses Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno in an over-the-top story line about bribing the guy who is first line to get the NSX. The only problem is the car won’t be in production until 2015.
This spot introduced the new brown-color M&M character. Ms. Brown is smart and sassy. And using humor and a killer song makes this ad melt in your mouth not in your hands.
The Overly Sexy
Using hot girls to sell everything from boats to beer is taken right out of advertising 101. But several ads crossed the line and were more repulsive than seductive. When it comes to the Super Bowl and sex, there really can be too much of a good thing.
The oh-so-subtle “give her flowers on Valentine’s day and you shall receive” pitch. I’m sure guys would send that Victoria Secret model anything for a peck on the cheek. But as a women, I cringe at the transactional tone of the commercial. But I am looking forward to seeing what they are going to do for Mother’s Day.
The entire marketing plan for this Internet registration site is creating a “too sexy” Super Bowl ad that will hopefully get banned, thereby generating a lot of publicity. This approach has gotten stale. Body paint? There is way too much porn on the Internet already, nobody needs to go to Go Daddy to see more of it.
Equal-opportunity nudity alert: David Beckham in his underwear! Goes to show you, naked men can flop just as easily as naked women. He is beautiful, but fast-fashion retailer H&M needs more than a naked Beckham to run a successful Super Bowl spot. How about an idea?
Full House hunk John Stamos eating Greek yogurt “9 ½ weeks style.” There is so much good to say about the sky-rocketing Greek yogurt category. Too bad they resorted to sex to sell it.
The Over the Top
Too many superbowl ads try too hard and do too much. More often than not it falls flat.
Smarter, bolder, faster might be the name of the commercial, but it fails to deliver on any of those traits. The real estate company selected celebrities they felt embodied these traits. Smarter: Donald Trump, Deion Sanders. Bolder: Apolo Ohno. But where is the connection to selling houses? And “smarter, bolder, faster” is the last thing people say or think about after a visit with a Century 21 agent. They should stick to the Gold Jacket.
Over the top and loving it. This testosterone-fueled ad has a little of everything, hot girls, fast cars, cool bands. It is turbo-charged and might appeal to the young men in its demographic but the brand would have been better off if the commercial had first provided an understanding what a Kia is.
Pepsi was once the choice of a new generation. But with Coca-Cola beating them up and bumping Pepsi down to 3rd place behind Coca-Cola and Diet Coke, this spot doesn’t ring true. The cruel King Elton John isn’t keeping anybody from Pepsi. Kids just don’t want to drink it as much as they once did. They are drinking Monster and Red Bull instead.
You know when the sequel goes right to video. Well this commercial is like that. After last year’s success with Star Wars’ themed The Force, Volkswagen this time mixed dogs, weight loss and some weird Star Wars stuff at the end. It wasn’t a cohesive story and didn’t ever connect to the brand. It was just Volkswagen trying too hard to make a Super Bowl commercial and it shows. Simple stories that relate to the brand work much better.
Chrysler gave us an inspirational, gritty, 2 minute mini-movie – Half-Time in America with tough guy Clint Eastwood. But what are they selling? Detroit? Obama? I don’t get the connection to Chrysler, who promotes all the Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Chrysler brands at the end. My problem is not with the production or sentiment; both are over the top and terrifically powerful. But Chrysler is the weakest of the big 3 and only survived because it sold a 53% percent stake to Fiat an Italian company. More like imported and paid for by Italy.