So what were the best and worst of the Super Bowl ads? It’s always tough because for brands it is often a mixture of strategy, positioning, and where you are aiming in this great country of ours. If you are on the West or East Coast there is a different sensibility than in middle America. If you were to poll middle America, Muppets and Puppies will usually win the day. If you poll the East Coast you might have a win for Colbert and Pistachios. And if you were to poll ad agency peeps you would get a different reading altogether. Then there’s research and strategy people… they would have yet another opinion. But these are my opinions on both the ads and the opinions of America. So here we go.
Newcastle — They didn’t run a Super Bowl ad. What they ran was an ad about doing a Super Bowl ad before the Super Bowl. This was better than actually running a Super Bowl ad. The strategy was smart, taking advantage of the Super Bowl atmosphere for ads, mocking it a little, and basically ambushing the Big Game Advertisers. Best of all the ad and digital content were both great. Big win for Newcastle.
Radio Shack — This was fantastic. Anytime a brand admits an issue and plays it to get attention for fixing said issue, it tends to go well. The ’80s called and they want their store back. And the ’80s come to get it in the form of more ’80s icons than I expected in an ad. Everyone from Hulk Hogan to Mary Lou Retton. I am pretty sure I saw them take some CB Radios; 10-4 Radio Shack. Good times and a big win for them.
Bud Light Epic Night Out — Everyone I know was saying the stunt thing was played out. I don’t think so. Real people like to watch real people in ads. And people still love stunts and pranks. The Internet is filled with them. Not to mention it’s a great way to let the everyman touch the brand. The Bud Light stunt wasn’t great. The guy they picked was a demo conglomeration of the Bud Light customer. He was excited but cool, dressed neatly but casual, in good shape but not slim, well-groomed but not metrosexual. In other words, he was fake. Also it seemed pretty easy for the guy to go along. It lacked any edge to make it dangerous or at all a tough decision. in other words — NO TENSION. That left it to Arnold Schwarzenegger to save it. And he did. There is a magic to Arnold that rings true in almost everything you see him in, even though you can barely understand what he is saying. So a win for Bud Light but it was a close call.
Turbo Tax – They have done a great job this year by centering on what YOU can achieve in life. And at the end of the ad, getting back money on your taxes by doing them yourself is just one of those things. It’s a simple strategy that works well and is executed nicely in their Super Bowl ad and in others I have seen. On the other side of that is H&R Block which has been doing a decent job talking about the Billion Dollars taxpayers left behind. Looks like it is going to be a tough battle to get your tax-planning dollar for years to come. Big win this time for Turbo Tax.
Audi Doberhuahua – I want a Doberhuahua. I love dogs. I am not sure I want an Audi but the better the commercials get the closer I will get to driving one. And if they come with a Doberhuahua… I’m in. One more note — they released their ad before the Super Bowl which is what a lot of advertisers are doing these days. It’s smart. They got tons of play with the Sarah McLachlin teaser and they got me on board early.
Doritos Time Machine — Doritos has made a name for themselves by being the biggest brand to totally crowdsource their ads. The Time Machine ad was one of those silly things that makes me chuckle and not much more. I get the idea that kids will try and swindle you out of your Doritos but I get tired of all the snacks where everyone is trying to get the last one from you. And the tricks those kids play to get them are just dumb. I want that kid that developed the test for Pancreatic Cancer to come up with a way to get all the Doritos. Something real.. like killing us all so that he was the only person on earth who could eat the Doritos. Doritos are delicious but I would gladly give some to a kid. Hell, a kid can put a finger on my Butterfinger as long as I don’t have to eat it afterward. But they can’t have my fries. That is where I draw the line.
Microsoft – Was that Hawking or just some random Microsoft computer? Actually it was Steve Gleason typing with his eyes but it was hard to tell in the ad. Computers and technology in general have obviously helped people live better lives. And Microsoft has been a big part of that. I felt like the ad jumped around too much though. I think Steve’s story is enough. In other words, I like what they tried but the ad didn’t hit me as hard as I wanted it to. It felt like Microsoft was trying to say too much about too much technology instead of showing us how big they were in Steve’s eyes. Still, they got close.
Colbert for Nuts – You can’t miss with Colbert. The two ads together were incredible. Of course, I am a fan and there was a little inside baseball here for the ad community. But he hit it out of the park in my opinion. Big win for Pistachios.
Bud Puppies – This so reminded me of the Bud Frogs. Once Bud finds something that works they drive it into the ground. And you shouldn’t drive horses and puppies into the ground– well, especially puppies. This was a total copy of last year’s friendship ad with a puppy. Didn’t work for me but will work for middle America. Don’t they know that dogs are man’s best friend… not horse’s best friend. So big win for middle America, big loss for me and my ilk.
KIA’s The Truth — You can’t handle the truth about luxury. If you ever saw real luxury it would blow your mind. And once you see it you can never go back to your plastic, phony existence with your small cup holders and sad turning radius. I know KIA has a car with a lot of amenities for less money. So do a lot of cars. That’s why we buy brands. This made their brand look like an old movie. Big loss for KIA.
Hyundai — Wow, this was just plain bad. I hardly ever say that about Super Bowl ads because I know how much work goes into them. But this ad was tough to understand from the beginning and seemed to throw everything at the screen to talk about the different aspects of the car. But none of that came through. All that came through was — I think I am watching something but I am not sure what. And lastly — girls are really supposed to like your car — not try and destroy it and kill you. And what is a witch doing on the road anyway? Are all women witches? You can see the issues here. Big loss.
Jaguar — I so wanted to like this. I really did. But again, like a lot of ads this year, it felt flat again. I mean, you have villains. We expect a lot from villains these days. I know that people who do commercials watch HBO or even the Following. Villains are really evil. They are using mind control and stuff. These guys just drive around in helicopters and Jaguars. Big deal. They don’t even have lasers. Where’s the laser going at Bond’s privates? Where’s the laser aimed at the White House? Where’s the laser aimed at the Space Station? You see what I am saying.
Go Daddy — Best Go Daddy ad ever. I did not see the end coming when all those muscle bound maniacs rounded the corner. Of course, they could have been running for the GNC store but whatever, great ad for Go Daddy.
VW Wings — It was kinda funny and well done. Plus I liked the fact it was focused on reliability instead of safety. It ended up being a more interesting way to go. And the edgy joke at the end about rainbows coming out of your butt was great. it won’t play in Nebraska but who the hell cares. It’s a VW not a Ford F-150 or a Chevy Even Larger and More American than a Ford F-150.
T Mobile Contract – T Bow for T Mobile. I love the strategy for this. T Bow is looking for a contract and T-Mobile will help you out of your contract. So showing how T Bow is free to do what he wants because he doesn’t have a contract is great. However, the ads seemed flat to me. It felt like they were going through the motions on the situations. I didn’t laugh or cry. I didn’t care all that much either way. I just felt like T Bow made some decent money and I’m pretty sure there was a contract somewhere here.
Coke — I just heard on the news that Conservatives are upset that Coke ran an ad with “America the Beautiful” sung in foreign languages. I didn’t love the ad and thought that any time you use a patriotic song like that in an ad you are pandering. But now I like it more because I hate ignorance. This is simple. We are a very inclusive country. It’s called a melting pot not an assimilation pot. And the fact that people from other countries are singing “America the Beautiful” shows just how powerful our idea of Freedom really is. So this is a win for me.
All in all not a great year for the Super Bowl advertisers. Nothing made me howl with laughter, tear up or give me chills. There were some sound strategies, interesting takes and things I definitely remember but not like in some past years. The Big Game ad landscape is changing. More and more advertisers are taking advantage of Super Bowl month instead of the game alone. Social gives advertisers the ability to shine around the game instead of in it. It is evening out the playing field so to speak. So good luck next year.