This year’s Super Bowl was memorable in many ways.
The game itself was particularly impressive, with the San Francisco 49ers almost snatching the win away from the Baltimore Ravens thanks to the power outage, which caused the game to be suspended for more than half an hour. And then there was, shaking up the stage with a fantastic performance that had fans groveling at her feet. People were hoping for a thrilling, great show, and the Super Bowl this year was all that and much, much more.
But what of the famed Super Bowl commercials—were they as entertaining as they were supposed to be? These 30-second spots, which cost about $4 million each, are expected to be the crème de la crème, with ad agencies known to push boundaries in their attempts to make an impression during those valuable few seconds in between the game.
To find out which of these ads worked and which failed, I talked with Avi Dan, founder of the marketing consulting firm Avidan Strategies, who is also a contributing blogger at Forbes. Dan is well-placed to judge the Super Bowl ads—after all, he has more than 30 years of experience in the advertising sector, having worked with several top global ad agencies including WPP’s Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, Saatchi and Saatchi and Havas Advertising.
Dan told me that he wasn’t very impressed with this year’s Super Bowl ad fare. “I thought there were very few good ads,” he said, “and [there were] possibly, really bad ads.” According to Dan, the best ad of the night, ironically enough, didn’t come from the television screen—it was instead a tweet from cookie manufacturer Oreo that Dan found most appealing.
During the power outage, Oreo tweeted: “Power Out? No Problem,” adding an image of their signature cookie with the tagline: “You can still dunk in the dark.” That tweet went viral, getting more than 15,000 retweets, and it also added 8,000 new followers to their Twitter account. “It was the smartest ad,” Dan said. “To me, the tweet was better than their commercial.”
Another brand that impressed Dan with their Super Bowl ad was Dodge Ram, who had a particularly evocative two-minute commercial that showed photographs of farmers at work with Paul Harvey’s memorable “So God made a farmer” speech at the National Future Farmers of America Convention in 1978 playing in the background. “It was poetic and emotional,” Dan said. “It had a very Americana feel to it.”
Although Dan found Budweiser’s Clydesdale ad quite heartwarming, he felt that none of the other beer commercials during the game made an impact, which was surprising when considering that beer ads during the Super Bowl are usually the best of the lot. The controversial GoDaddy ad featuring supermodel Bar Refaeli kissing a nerd was another ad that had Dan cringing. “It just didn’t make any sense,” Dan complained. “It was absolutely awful.”
While there were a few other ads that were impressive (Tide, Samsung, Volkswagen), Dan found the majority of the Super Bowl commercials to be rather uninspiring when considering the exorbitant prices brands paid to gain those air slots. “Out of the 40 or 50 commercials that were aired, only 5-10 of them were really good commercials,” Dan said. “The rest of them were, you know, not particularly good.”
According to Dan, the reason for this dismal showing is the different frame of mind with which agencies and brands take when making ads for the Super Bowl. “When you work on a commercial, what’s really important is whether you sell products, and that’s the way you approach it. But, in case of the Super Bowl, everybody wants to make an epic movie, without thinking if it will sell products or not. And when you try to make an epic movie, a lot of times, you are going to fail!”
However, Dan is still quite hopeful about the ads that will appear in next year’s Super Bowl, since agencies would have learnt a lot from the successes and debacles of this year. Thanks to Oreo’s superb success on Twitter during the game, Dan expects proponents of next year’s game ads to make an extra effort to use social media to augment the experience of whatever advertisement they choose to play on screen.
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