Super Bowl Ad MVPs:
Which ads were on fire and which went up in flames?
Special to The Memphis Daily News
Would you write a check for $116K for ONE second of TV airtime?
That was precisely the question Super Bowl advertisers faced this year. Thirty-second ads sold for a record $3.5 million, up a whopping 17 percent from last year.
Despite the sticker shock, ads sold out in record time. It’s clear big brands are counting on a stronger economy in 2012.
Advertisers counted on their $116K-per-second ads to work overtime this year, with most releasing at least a teaser of their ad before the game. Nearly every ad encouraged viewers to engage online before and after the game through social media and other interactive web experiences.
Trending was a shift to more 60-second spots allowing advertisers to tell more of a story and promote multiple “calls to action” – like their website and social media channels.
From a content perspective, there was a trend away from celebrity endorsements and toward canine talent. There was also a sentiment of Americans rallying toward a common cause – perhaps indicative of today’s economic climate.
So what makes a Super Bowl ad great? It engages, clearly articulates brand differentiators, is simple enough to understand in a noisy game environment, drives consumers to action, and generates buzz long after the game.
There are lessons to be learned from the big brands that gambled on the big game. Some were on fire and others just went up in flames.
THREE FLAMES – Raging Inferno – These brands were definitely on fire:
Volkswagen – “The Dog Strikes Back”
Concerned about his weight, due to his inability to squeeze his growing backside through the doggy door to chase down a VW Beetle, Bolt begins an in-house fitness regimen eventually losing the necessary weight for the chase.
Both Bolt and the Beetle are “back and better than ever,” which is the ad’s tagline – a simple and relatable message. The ad offered entertainment value, engaged viewers and aligned with the wholesome persona of the VW brand.
The surprise ending, a Star Wars cantina scene intended to capitalize on the success of last year’s Darth Vader ad, “complicated the spot,” said Patrick Jordan, General Manager of the Westin Hotel. “Less is more.”
Bud Light – “Here Weego”
It’s a proven formula. Animals + comedy often = Super Bowl success. Call out “Here Weego,” and the unusual looking rescue pup named “Weego” fetches a Bud Light, making him the life of the party.
The beauty of the ad is its simplicity. Britt Summers, Project Manager of Vivid Data Group said, “the lighthearted concept felt right for the Super Bowl.” “They constantly had the product on display throughout the commercial,” added Ham Smythe, President of Premiere Transportation. No brand confusion here.
General Motors – “Happy Grad”
When parents surprise their son with a graduation gift, confusion ensues. The graduate cannot hold back his enthusiasm over a Camaro parked outside, which he incorrectly believes is the gift. He screams like a lunatic and chants with his buddies “best gift ever.”
What works about this ad is the product is front and center, and the yellow Camaro is easily identifiable. Plus, the message is simple – the Camaro generates excitement and turns heads. While perhaps not wildly creative, this ad works.
TWO FLAMES – Solid Heat – Three of the most highly anticipated spots generated solid heat:
Honda CRV – “Ferris Bueller Spoof”
The pre-game hype about this spot was tremendous – generating over 10 million YouTube views before kickoff. The movie references and theme song take Gen X back to a simpler time with fewer responsibilities.
Honda is banking on this ad inspiring Gen Xers to move the CRV into their consideration set as a cool option, which might be a bit of a stretch.
Sketchers – “Dog Races”
The world braced for another flop after last year’s Kim Kardashian debacle, but Sketchers delivered this year with a wonderfully creative, funny and engaging spot promoting its new running shoes donned by a moonwalking French bulldog. The message – we now sell running shoes and we don’t take ourselves too seriously – was received.
Chrysler – “Imported from Detroit”
In a continuation of the Motor City storyline that unfolded last year, Clint Eastwood delivered an inspiring reminder of how the American spirit is about rallying together to make it through tough times – “a proud-to-be-American message that was well timed,” according to Bleu Chef Robert Cirillo.
It was, however, a complex message to decipher in a noisy Super Bowl environment. Plus, it left some, including Chip Brown, CEO of Brown Dog Lodge, questioning whether it “was an ad for the city of Detroit or Chrysler.”
ONE FLAME – Smoldering – These brands couldn’t even muster a flicker of flame:
Audi – “Vampire Camp”
While the creativity was tremendous, the ad was inappropriately targeted to Gen Y. Even if their goal is to begin developing an early relationship with this generation, promoting the headlamps of the car – versus the actual car – seems like the tail wagging the dog.
Go Daddy – “Body Paint” and Teleflora – “Give and Receive”
It’s one thing to target your audience and something else to do so while forever alienating another, which is what Go Daddy and Teleflora have done a second year in a row with women. While not the primary target, women do buy web hosting and flowers – just likely not from these brands any more.
Visit redrovercompany.wordpress.com to view all of the most talked about Super Bowl ads from this year’s game.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and managing partner of RedRover Sales & Marketing, http://www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).