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.

Super Bowl Ads: the Touchdowns & the Personal Fouls

Go Daddy French Kiss ad

Memo to Go Daddy: the Super Bowl is family entertainment. The domain registration company drew the game’s worst personal foul. Its French kiss ad with closeups of the lip lock appeared even though millions of kids watch the game. The company revels in its history of provocative Super Bowl ads. But when kids turn to their parents with that “what’s this?” look I want Go Daddy to answer them. Ads are designed to catch your attention and this one certainly does. But the conclusion people draw should worry Go Daddy — no one in company management has a clue about good taste.

Call me a sentimentalist, but the Oprah voiceover paying tribute to our troops and Paul Harvey’s poetic God made a farmer ad were touchdowns — thoughtful, emotional and visual. I liked the Skechers’ ad where the man runs down the cheetah and bumps knuckles with the gazelle. Funny, clever, with a strong connection to the product.

Volkswagen’s “no worries” ad drew some criticism over its portrayal of the Jamaican accent. The criticism is misplaced. The ad portrays the “get happy” personality in a most positive light.

Many of the ads did not stand out very much, in part because the bar has been raised pretty high for the big game’s commercials. When it comes to the Super Bowl, some of the best competition is off the field.

The writer is an adjunct media professor, former journalist and owner of a speaking, and media and messaging company.