Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads

Finding the Legends and the Fools

I was honored to be a USA TODAY AdMeter voting panelist on the best and worst of this year’s Super Bowl ad ratings. At $3.8M for 30 seconds, I expected to see the best creative and strategic work of the year. Advertising is a blend of art and science, and, when it comes together just right, it can become legendary during the Super Bowl. And when it doesn’t, fools are made. It is my joy to comment on both!

There were 55 ads from 44 advertisers…yes, some bought more than one. Anheuser-Busch bought six for their brands Budweiser, Bud Light (2), Black Crown (2) and Beck’s Sapphire.

This year’s ads break down into two categories: Brand ads and product introductions.

Brand Ads
These are the touchy, feely, feel good ads that so many people talk about the day after because the spot made you feel something…it touched your heart, maybe you teared up or it caused you to think, “I can do better.” The top three most powerful brand spots were Budweiser’s Horse and Trainer Reunited, Chrysler Ram’s Farmer and Jeep’s Families Waiting.

The FarmerI found the Farmer spot most engaging as it effectively wove together several storylines that I connected with, including: the benefits of hard work, unsung heroes, family, pride in being American and agriculture (growing stuff, which I do on a very small scale). What it did not do is make me want to buy a truck. If I ever become a farmer, then I’ll definitely have to get one.

Product Intro/Re-Intros
There were 30+ new product intro or product re-intro spots aired during the game. Tide is not a new product, but their Miracle Stain spot told an engaging story and added a twist at the end. Kudos to P&G for the second highest rated spot overall.

Asking Amy PoehlerI thought the most effective “intro” spot was Best Buy’s Asking Amy Poehler. The Saturday Night Live alum barrages the Best Buy sales representative with all kinds of relevant and irrelevant questions including, “Do you work on commission?” The message that is delivered is clear…in the confusing world of technology, come to Best Buy to ask any question you want and they will answer it without any pressure from commission sales people. This spot is powerful because the message aligns perfectly with Best Buy’s strategy and their actual in-store experience (which I have had many times).

Least Effective Product Intro Spot
A young man is using his phone to make some impossible things happen like setting himself on fire and turning a semi-truck that is skidding down the road into 10,000 rubber duckies.

Blackberry Z10

The voice-over says, “In 30 seconds, it is easier to show you what it can’t do. The new Blackberry Z10.” This content was not compelling since Blackberry is definitely in the catch-up mode with their competitors. They did have a mild call-to-action at the end of the spot in a 3-second graphic that said, “See what it can do at” There was simply nothing engaging about this spot, which tells me that the z10 experience is probably for Blackberry users only and they are not even trying to compete with the iPhone or Droid devices.

Social Media Influenced Spots
A lot of noise was made this year about engaging social media to help develop or determine the content of the Super Bowl spots. Brands that pursued input from their fans included:
* Audi Prom, where fans determined one of three possible endings
* Lincoln Steer the Script, where “road trip stories” submitted via Twitter were used to develop the storyline
* Pepsi Half Time Countdown leveraged user submitted photos
* Coke took input from their fans to determine the winner of the Coke Chase
The bottom line of this year’s social media efforts was not to create new customers, but to engage the current users of the brand. The only one of these spots that was compelling to me was the Audi Prom spot. All three variations were great, so Audi had little to risk with whichever ending their fans chose.

The Black Out Winner
Oreo TweetAs the lights went out for 35 minutes and we watched the network struggle to fill the void, someone at Oreo was on top of things and tweeted, “Power out? No Problem!” and attached this image with, “You can still dunk in the dark.” That tweet went viral big time. Well done, Oreo…I think I’ll buy a box today and celebrate your win.

Super Lessons for Business Owners

  1. Winning product spots demonstrate your points of difference (Best Buy).
  2. Use Social Media to engage your current audience first (not for prospecting).
  3. Be prepared – Oreo saw an opportunity, was staffed to take advantage of the opportunity, executed it effectively and will reap the rewards.

I just told you what I liked and didn’t like and WHY.

Now it is your turn.

What spots do you think were most effective, or what was your favorite or lowest on your list…and WHY?

Tell me in a comment below!

See the USA TODAY AdMeter results here.

Posted in hmt
One comment on “Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads
  1. Carol Venn says:

    Loved the Doritos commercial with the dad dressing up to participate with his daughter.
    RAM commercial-very emotional but couldn’t figure out what was being advertised until near the end. Also, do the younger people know Paul Harvey?
    Tide commercial – creative & enjoyable.
    Pepsi Next – slap stick for all of us parents going through those teenager years.
    Sketchers commercial with “rodeo” ending.
    Kia commercial with baby astronauts – enjoy the last line.
    Coke chase-kept me focused wondering how the commercial would end.
    Did not like:
    Go Daddy commercial – gross-out; not good for young people to see.
    Bud Black Crown- Yawn.
    Taco Bell with older people dancing..what advertising until the end?

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