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Commercials: Monday’s Quarterbacking the SuperBowl Ads

February 7, 2011

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The game may be over, but the points are still being scored on the SuperBowl’s famous TV ads.

As always there were thrills (VW’s Passat: Young Vader) to head scratchers (Mini: Cram It in the Boot). The SuperBowl is, well, the super bowl for commercials, too.

This is the one time of year advertisers pull out all the stops. Some ideas are beautiful in simplicity (Doritos: Pug) with the dog running in super slow-motion like a great replay of a linebacker down field, determined to get to his Doritos. And it even had a great zinger of an ending: the pug knocks down the glass door to the backyard in its eagerness to get to the Doritos.

Other ads leave you with a sense of “What were they thinking?” (, which went from normal to somewhat bizarre in seconds. If the point was to sell deep discounts online for local services, I think that fact was forgotten quickly by the butch guy morphing into a statuesque redhead in under 30 seconds. What did that have to do with great discounts? Zilch.

For all the money spent on creating, producing and broadcasting these product promotions, it can be a wasted effort if the advertiser misses targeting the right audience, is too mysterious in delivering the message, and fails to sell the product. Symptoms of these mistakes can include:

  1. Making the message too clever to understand what they’re selling;
  2. The product gets mentioned too late in the commercial, or it’s too unrelated to the story being told, so it’s forgotten two seconds after it’s over;
  3. Not enough repetition to stick in the conscious mind; and
  4. Other elements of the commercial are so busy, the viewer is too distracted by them to remember anything about the product itself.

Many of the commercials did not make these mistakes. At the top of the vote list:

  1. VW Passat: Young Vader – I highlighted this commercial in a blog post last week (scroll down) as one of the best. Simple message, engages the viewer and keeps her. No distractions.
  2. Doritos: Pug – Mentioned above, Doritos scored a number of hits (and a few misses) through clever ideas simply told. Their repetition with several commercials helped cement their brand image.
  3. Bridgestone: Karma – What can I say? I’m a sucker for a cute animal story. (This is why the VW Beetle commercial also did well.) I applaud their originality in this story for safety and a nod to karma with the beaver saving the driver at the end.

These are but three of the top vote getters online for best commercials during the game. My personal favorite was the Chrysler 200: Eminem piece. It was a daring piece in that it’s a 2-minute commercial, rarely seen when every second of air time costs a fortune during the game. The narrative storytelling in this commercial was original and top notch. Visuals remained simple enough but familiar of our past, even beautifully patriotic in a Lee Iococca kind of way. And the “Imported from Detroit” slogan made it brilliant. As a successful attempt at bringing back pride in the American Car, they couldn’t have done better.

If you’ve been trying to remember these great commercials while reading this, and you’re lamenting I didn’t include YouTube links, I thought you might simply prefer to view them at your leisure here at the end. FoxSports nicely put all the SuperBowl ads up on their website, so you can see them all and vote for your favorites. You’ll see buttons for Most Good Votes and Most Bad Votes. (And you probably won’t be too surprised at which ones folks didn’t care for.)

A round of applause is due to all those who put together the best of their creative ideas. There’s some truly brilliant marketing going on from the creative and art directors across the land, from selling cars, to food, to soft drinks and beer. After all, that’s what the commercials are for: to sell the stuff. It’s the American Way!

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