The Super Bowl: Ads That Worked, Ads That Didn’t
by Ian Doescher
The Big Game is past, and now we can all move on with our post-game analyses, celebrations (Go ‘Hawks!) and mourning (ooh, sorry Peyton). As a marketing agency, Pivoteers pay keen attention to the commercials that appear during the game. Here are three main criteria I look for in an ad:
- Does the content of the ad match the company’s message?
- Is the commercial entertaining (generally either funny or touching)?
- An hour later, do I remember what company the ad was for? (That is, if I remember the ad at all.)
If an ad fails on any of these three criteria — particularly the first or third — it doesn’t work. So, let’s take a look at three ads that didn’t work so well, and three that did:
THREE ADS THAT DIDN’T WORK
1. GoDaddy: Bodybuilders
The best I can say about GoDaddy’s Super Bowl ad this year is that at least they are no longer using scantily clad women to sell their products. Unfortunately, these body builders aren’t much better. The idea behind the commercial is that GoDaddy can help you build your own website so you can create tons of business for yourself. The problem with this ad, for me, is that it fails on my point #1 above. What do bodybuilders have to do with GoDaddy, or with building websites for that matter? Yes, this is a memorable commercial, but is the link strong enough to make you remember it’s for GoDaddy (and not, for instance, for spray tans)? I don’t think so.
2. Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt: Full House Reunion
In general, I love that the Full House guys (Bob Saget, John Stamos and Dave Coulier) have reunited in ads, and particularly for a hilarious spot on the Jimmy Fallon show. But this commercial doesn’t work for me, largely because it fails on my point #3 above. In fact, it wasn’t even that an hour later I couldn’t remember what brand this was for — while I was watching it both my family and I thought it was for cleaning products of some kind. It was hard to remember that it was a commercial for Yogurt, and impossible to remember it had been for Dannon Oikos yogurt (when I tried to find it for this article, I started off by Googling “Chobani Super Bowl”). Remember, an ad only works if people remember your product!
3. Toyota: The Muppets and Terry Crews
Honestly, it pains me not to like this commercial. I love the Muppets and am the perfect target market for the rebirth of their popularity. But as I was thinking of a commercial that failed on my point #2 above — that of being entertaining — this commercial leapt immediately to mind. The problem is there’s no real story here. The Muppets come in and create chaos in the life of Terry Crews, and we’re supposed to take from this that Toyota will help you when you’re going to unexpected places. It’s all pretty thin, counting on the zaniness of the Muppets and a shirtless Terry Crews to make its point. But honestly, it’s too chaotic and disjointed to work. (The one exception is Kermit’s last line, which is a moment when this commercial really shines. Unfortunately, by that point it’s too late.)
THREE ADS THAT WORKED
1. Kia: The Matrix
This commercial works on all three of my points above… Kia is trying to get you to reconsider your notion of what a luxury car is (because when you think luxury car, the first name that comes to mind probably *isn’t* Kia). So they borrow from The Matrix, a movie series all about reconsidering reality. The commercial gets better and better as it goes, too: the hilarious/ridiculous combination of Laurence-Fishburne-as-Morpheus-as-parking-attendant, the other male actor’s spot-on delivery of the line, “We just wanna get our car…”, Morpheus breaking into perfectly lip-synced opera, the quick shot of the Agents Smith, and then the city exploding in a Matrix-like mind bender. The whole commercial is well thought out, memorable, and perfectly in sync with Kia’s brand.
2. Doritos: Time Machine
Doritos’ method of having people submit commercials is nothing short of brilliant: they get their pick of spots, they don’t have to spend lots of money on production, and they end up with fantastic results. The time machine commercial this year works so well because it’s very entertaining, it fits Doritos’ casual and wacky brand, and you remember that the commercial is, in fact, for Doritos. All three actors play their parts superbly, creating an ad perfectly in sync with Doritos’ personality.
3. Microsoft: Technology Empowers Us
I wanted to include at least one great commercial in this list of successes that is moving as opposed to funny. For me, Microsoft’s commercial about technology and how it empowers us was the most heartwarming commercial (with Budweiser’s “A Hero’s Welcome” coming in a close second). It’s possible a tear escaped. Maybe. Microsoft shows the power of technology and makes its case as a frontrunner in that arena. Whether you believe the claim is true or not is beside the point — this is a well done, memorable commercial.
It was another great year for Super Bowl commercials, and another helpful reminder of what makes some ads work, and other ads… not work as well. Thanks for a fascinating watch, Super Bowl advertisers! Now if only the game itself had been as interesting…