Super Bowl Ads: A Brief Post-Mortem

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So the results are in:

  • According to the USA Today Ad Meter – a survey of 288 volunteers in Portland, OR, and McLean, VA – the most-liked Super Bowl ad was the Doritos “crystal ball” spot.  Next up were the Budweiser “circus horse romance” and “Clydesdale plays fetch” spots.
  • According to Nielsen IAG, the most-liked ad was Bud’s “fetch” spot.  After this, two Doritos spots: “crunch causes things to happen” and “crystal ball.”
  • According to Matthew Fenton, none of this is worth a thimbleful of vinegar.

Calling an ad “best” based on how much it is liked is akin to granting someone a Ph.D. in mathematics because they’ve mastered 2+2. Likeability is easy. Motivation is far more difficult, but it’s the only valid measure of an advertisement’s worth.

Bob Garfield’s Take

Bob Garfield, the resident ad reviewer at AdAge, really dropped the ball in his post-game video review. He gave a few spots (Hulu, Denny’s) high marks simply because they made him laugh. (Never mind that Denny’s “free breakfast” offer barely registered amidst the gangster gag.)

And he noted, with regret, that the ad he believed would generate the strongest ROI was the least “creative” in the bunch – the Cash4Gold spot with Ed McMahon and MC Hammer. Despite his number of years in the biz, Garfield apparently still struggles with the idea that creative notions may actually be subservient to business results.

A Few More Thoughts of Mine…

  • Coke and Pepsi apparently got hold of the exact same piece of marketing research. And now they’re fighting the Battle of Who Can Smile Most Convincingly. To be fair, this battle started a few months back. But seeing them both mine the same vein on a major stage was a little jarring.
  • Vizio and Telefora both took the unusual step of insulting the very people they’re trying to motivate. Addressing those who don’t own a Vizio TV, this spot contained the jaw-dropping line, “good thing we’re not counting on you for a stimulus package.” This is Copywriting 101; someone should be fired for drafting this copy, and someone should be fired for approving it.
  • For my money, the Taco Bell spot – with the guy who meets the girl at the party, immediately calls her, and then introduces her to his parents – was indicative of everything that’s wrong with Super Bowl advertising: All gag, no substance. Can anyone remember the new menu item that ad presented? I had to review it a second time online for it to register.

The general consensus is that the ads failed as entertainment, which is the best thing that could have happened. It’s past time to let the air out of this particular balloon.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2009 – Matthew Fenton.  All Rights Reserved.  You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.

2 Replies to “Super Bowl Ads: A Brief Post-Mortem”

  1. Hey Matt, just had to say that you’re always good for a solid take on these issues. Esp when you’re talking about Super Bowl ads, I find myself nodding as I read. Thanks for the straight up analysis.

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