Super Bowl Ads: What Worked, What Didn’t?

Puppies still work. Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad on the lost puppy became the top-rated commercial, according to USA Today’s Ad Meter, a survey of 6,700 consumers.

Many advertisers went the “pulling the heart strings” route this year. It made breaking through the clutter that much harder. And is there is a lot of clutter. I counted 108 ads between the game’s kick-off and final gun, including promos and billboard ads.

The clutter and fierce competition make it difficult to recoup the $4.5 million price tag for a :30 spot. Advertisers pay a premium for the spots, it ‘s like buying a stock when it is high, and count on online views to help mitigate the costs.

The NFL went halfway with its PSA on domestic violence. The 30-second spot it aired was not nearly as gripping as the 60-second spot shown online. Given its awful domestic violence record, it should have aired the 60, especially considering it had five promos for Blacklist, its upcoming program.

Fiat’s “blue pill” ad got a lot of traction, it was funny and made  a simple point. I also liked the Pete Rose “In the Hall” ad — a clever, good natured poke at a controversy.

Many ads made it difficult to know what the product was until the end. Some car dealers were the worst offenders. The Go Daddy ad, a last-minute substitute for a cancelled ad on a puppy mill, was flat, a sharp break with its bombastic rep.

In the end, every advertiser should be asking the same question, is this the best possible use of $4.5 million? Something to ponder while they are pumping their chests over a Super Bowl ad.

The writer, a former TV news anchor, runs a communication and training business.