It’s a question we always ask after the final play: who had the best commercial? Considering that twenty five percent of us watch the Super Bowl primarily for the ads it’s a fun one to answer.
No, this year we didn’t see the likes of “So God Made a Farmer.” But overall we saw good things: more emotion and less cheap laughs, more smart film techniques and less blatant over-production, and, most importantly, more strategic messaging and smarter uses of the Super Bowl as a medium.
When Forbes asked some of America’s most prominent creative leaders what they were looking for in a great Super Bowl commercial this year, they said “ads with feeling.” There was plenty of that this time; and if there was one overall winner it was probably Budweiser with “Puppy Love.”
Put dogs, horses, America, beer, a chart topping slow song and wrap it all up in emotion and you’re nearly guaranteed to win the Ad Meter.
“Puppy Love” was released online a week early, a tactic that VW pioneered with “The Force”. Overall, this early release approach, which so many brands did, took some of the viewing surprise factor away which was especially notable during the 3rd and 4th quarters when a very lopsided game needed fresh commercials.
Beyond Budweiser there were other brands that deserved notice.
A Super Bowl ad is as close as a brand gets to having the attention of America. So one of the strongest reasons to put an ad in the big game is if it’s introducing something new, which is why movie studios smartly run Super Bowl ads.
Beyond Hollywood, two brands did well with this strategy. TurboTax—who many knew very little about until this campaign—and Maserati which was probably the very last brand you’d expect to see in the Super Bowl.
WeatherTech, Nestlé, Sonos and several others introduced new things, too. But while being on the Super Bowl was a solid strategic choice for those brands, their ads just didn’t creatively rise to the size of the stage.
Another reason to run a Super Bowl ad is if a well-known brand wants to expand the way people think about them. Which is why RadioShack deserves high marks. Their self-deprecating spot took courage and it signaled that, finally, something’s changing. Hyundai’s “Dad’s Sixth Sense” also did a nice job of expanding the way people perceive Hyundai’s safety and in-car technology.
A third solid reason to run a Super Bowl ad is if a prominent brand has something important to say. This is the hardest reason of all because if the message isn’t perceived as important enough by the viewers it risks getting panned. Chevy did this well with “Life” as did Microsoft with “Empowering.”
There were other ads worth mentioning. Honda, Jeep, Cheerios, Coca-Cola, T-Mobile, Doritos and Heinz all did well. B of A, who raised $1 million to fight AIDS in one hour, and Esurance, who gave away $1.5 million for a tweet, took different tactics, which were nice to see.
Overall, it was a fairly solid portfolio of Super Bowl work. No amazing standouts, but in total, brands brought us some good things to think about. And, of course, our Seahawks brought the Lombardi Trophy up to the beautiful Northwest.
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