Super Bowl Advertising: Juvenile and Sappy Rule the Day

Super Bowl Advertising: Juvenile and Sappy Rule the Day
By Mike Brown

What a start to the Super Bowl!12-seconds in, the Broncos blow the first snap, and the Seahawks are on the board with a safety, 2-0. Based on what followed, the NFL Rules Committee will be evaluating a 12-second warning for next season when if it’s clear a team is screwed on the first play of the game. Interestingly, I don’t think Volvo took advantage of the safety as part of a real-time marketing strategy. THAT was something a safety-oriented brand COULD have anticipated and been ready with something to go on social media, avoiding the $4 million Super Bowl advertising cost.

For my vote, Bud Light was the winner of paying out the pre-Super Bowl hype with its Ian Rappaport commercials (#UpForWhatever). A couple of commercials featured a supposedly non-actor (Ian Rappaport) who was introduced into a guy’s fantasy world (party girls, twins, alcohol, parties, loud music, beating Arnold Schwarzenegger at “tiny tennis”), and we found out how Don Cheadle and Arnold fit into the teasers. Unfortunately, just when I was ready to find out more about Ian, Bud Light went to a commercial featuring how great its bottles are. Huh? The bottles? REALLY?

Time for a confession: I start every Super Bowl advertisement asking, “Who is the brand?” I can’t get that tremendously distracting question out of my head until the sponsoring brand becomes clear in an advertisement. Since so many sponsors don’t show their cards until the last three seconds of the ad, I miss “getting” a lot of ads due to the din of that question. Some of the brands suffering from that syndrome in Super Bowl 48? Maserati and TurboTax (with dancing Sean) were both early examples of this.

My Best of Show for Super Bowl Advertising

I don’t know if these were the “best,” but I enjoyed these Super Bowl ads and could remember them by the end:

  • -Doritos Time Machine (with a nice Colorado-based munchies feel to it)
  • -Butterfinger Cups and the counseling session threesome (I know, I know . . . it was juvenile, but hey . . . )
  • -U2 for being familiar and extending an offer for everyone. It prompted me to act to get a free (very sloooooooooow) song download at iTunes
  • -John Stamos for Lap Yogurt (I know, I know . . . it was juvenile, but hey . . . )
  • -Squarespace – Freaked me out initially, but it was at least clear that there’s a lot of crap on the Internet and Squarespace does SOMETHING to help you deal with the horrors and sex on the web
  • -Tim Tebow for TMobile – It played on the T. It played on Tebow’s lack of a contract and all the “advantages” that provides. The guy may not fit a single NFL offensive system, but at least he can have fun with his persona.
  • -The VW ad was about German engineers getting their wings when a VW passes 100,000 miles. We find out some German engineers have bigger wings than others (I know, I know . . . it was juvenile, but hey . . . ). We ultimately find that when a VW goes past 200,000 miles, “A rainbow comes out of their butts.” Yup, that was ALL in the ad.

Other Notable Super Bowl Advertising

GoDaddy gets something (even if it’s tepid acknowledgement) for finally moving away from salacious ads toward showing individuals who were using the web to create new realities for themselves. Realities where the people at least had their clothes on throughout the commercials.

Radio Shack was the winner of my “Let’s Wait and See Award.” I loved its self-deprecating take on the 1980s calling to ask for its store back (including Alf dismantling a display), but I thought Radio Shack had already remodeled its stores. Great Super Bowl ad, but the ads ultimate success will rest solely on the brand experience. It better not feel dated the next time I go to Radio Shack – which may be in the 2080s except I’ll be dead by then.

Based on the chatter at #SBExp, @DiGiornoPizza was the winner in New Jersey-true, insult-based real-time marketing tweets throughout Super Bowl 48.

My Losers, other than the Broncos

My Huh? List of Super Bowl advertisements included:

  • -Chevy and cow breeding
  • -Bob Dylan for Chrysler – If you’re going to do the same type of thing EVERY year, you have to keep beating yourself. Having someone known for being unintelligible do a very precise voice over, isn’t quite different enough.
  • -Budweiser for its “Soldier Returning Home” ad – The soldier ABSOLUTELY deserves a #SaluteAHero welcome. But it was #crass for Bud to put its brand in the center of it. Bud is a beer, not a Hero Maker.
  • -Any sappy ad (Coca-Cola, Budweiser puppies, Cheerios, and others) – I just WAS NOT in the mood for those types of ads this year.

Even though my list of losers is short, it seems that too many Super Bowl advertisers employed a strategy that was essentially: “Let’s throw $4 million against the Super Bowl and see what sticks.” That’s a really bad strategy, unfortunately.

Other Random Thoughts

I figure that was the first time ever for a 5-0 score in the Super Bowl . . . I couldn’t believe Mars Bar didn’t do SOMETHING on social for the Bruno Mars half time show which was, despite what some tweeters in the #SBExp circle thought, kicked ass compared to Beyoncé’s show last year . . . Based on his movie, Aaron Paul is apparently done with meth and now just needs speed . . . Yes, Budweiser failed to share a workable Twitter hashtag for its “Soldier Returning Home” ad. Not sure how a major corporation and its agency let that happen . . . Said it before: movie ads just don’t seem that special among  Super Bowl ads . . . I guess @JCPenney had a whole tweeting with mittens things going that just looked like drunk tweeting to the uninitiated . . . I guess all those Omaha Sponsorship Deals are pretty much dried up for Peyton Manning. Final confession? My enthusiasm for Super Bowl advertising has about run its course. Is that just me though? What do you think?

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Mike Brown

Mike Brown is the founder of the Brainzooming Group. He has been at the forefront of leading Fortune 500 culture change, contributing new approaches in research, developing simplified tools for innovation, strategy planning, and aligning sales, marketing, and communications strategies for maximum business results. Additionally, he’s won multiple awards for his strategic brand-building approach to customer experiences in NASCAR and conference event marketing efforts.
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