Like most marketing “experts,” I comment on Super Bowl ads every year. This year is no exception. Things I noticed this year:
- There is no real consensus among pundits as to the “best” ad
- Most everyone feels that the ad “quality” is dropping. I believe it is no longer a “spectacle” for the advertisers. This is potentially troubling because people have historically actually watched Super Bowl ads and if they stop because there is no real difference between a Super Bowl ad and a “regular” ad, then actual viewership of the ads will drop and companies will question their ad spending for the Super Bowl (as Fed Ex and GM did this year). This will impact ad revenue for the network that broadcasts the event. Who knows, maybe the Super Bowl becomes a pay-per-view event.
- As always, each “expert” has their own criteria for critiquing the ads. So do I.
We believe that ads need a purpose and that the purpose needs to be achieved for the ad to be successful. I see a few possible purposes for Super Bowl ads:
- To effectively deliver a message to the audience to induce trial
- To reinforce the company’s or brand’s image to its users
- To drive traffic to a website (which is a special case of inducing trial)
- To say “we advertised on the Super Bowl,” which we have consistently felt is a bad purpose.
With these criteria in mind, my opinion about the ads is as follows (to be clear, I do not choose to comment on ads for movies or TV shows because those ads quality and effectiveness are largely tied to the product they are promoting):
- Biggest waste: Bud Light. I counted four ads that they ran. Only one had a message and the rest had no point, and were not that entertaining either.
- Second biggest waste was Pepsi (other than Pepsi Max, see below): None of their ads gave you a reason to care, in fact their last ad, the spoof on McGyver even asked the question, what is the point of the ad? And they ran several ads with no message. But then so did Coke.
- Third biggest waste: GE. Now I know they own NBC so maybe their reasons for advertising were “corporate,” but why would you advertise the electric grid on the Super Bowl? What exactly does the audience care or do with the ad?
- Best ad to drive people to a website: GoDaddy. They are masters at this and I am certain they got LOTS of web traffic as a result. Was that traffic useful in creating customers? I don’t know.
- A few companies used their ad as a pseudo public service announcement and also drove traffic to their site. Notably Kellogg’s and Pedigree
- Budweiser continued their tradition of entertaining, heartwarming ads tied to the Dalmatian and the Clydesdale. They assume you know who they are and are just trying to leave with a good feeling about the company. And they do.
- Ads that I felt were “on message” and had above average entertainment value (I don’t usually care about entertainment value except in the Super Bowl venue, or others, where it is expected) included:
- Castrol with the “grease monkeys”
- Pepsi Max and their focus on men
- Cars.com and the reluctance people have to buy a car due to the process. (We actually researched this phenomenon in the last recession and found people delay purchasing a car about six months to avoid/delay the pain induced by the process)
- Hyundai’s Car of the Year ad that featured all the other luxury brands. I thought this was effective because it was also self-deprecating
- Teleflora and the flowers in a box spoof
- Monster.com on message. I liked the CareerBuilder approach as being on message too, but the ad would have been more effective if it had been half as long
- Hulu.com with Alec Baldwin was on message and funny
- Several pundits seemed to like the Doritos ads, especially the one where he throws the crystal ball through the vending machine. I found the Doritos ads to be less than useful or particularly entertaining.
So, again this year, these are my opinions on the Super Bowl of advertising. BTW, good game regardless of which team you were rooting for.