Monday, February 8, 2016

A Review of the #Ads from #SuperBowl50

There is no dispute that the annual Super Bowl football game is one of the most-watched TV events around the world. But for those of us who live and breathe all things marketing and branding, the final football showdown of the season provides a different focus. 

The incredibly high-priced ads that grace the TV screen during the game have become known as the Brand Bowl, and since I watched the game with my smartphone for the ad discussion in real time on Twitter, it's time to determine if the millions of dollars spent on the ads achieved the desired brand recognition.

"Advertisers covet the Super Bowl because of the size of its audience — the biggest on television, by far. 2015’s game drew 112.2 million viewers, making it the most watched show in U.S. TV history," explained John Ourand, staff writer for Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Daily.

Were any of the ads as memorable as Apple's from 1984? Were any of the Tweets as memorable as Oreo's power outage Tweet from 2013? Can you recall any of the ads? What was your favorite, and which ads fell short?

According to Wikipedia, "CBS set the base rate for a 30-second advertisement at $5,000,000, a record high price for a Super Bowl ad (the price represents an 11 percent increase over the base price that NBC charged for Super Bowl XLIX last year of $4.5 million). This will be the final year in a multi-year contract with Anheuser-Busch InBev that allows the beer manufacturer to air multiple advertisements during the game at a steep discount. It is also the final year that Doritos, a longtime sponsor of the game, will hold its "Crash the Super Bowl" contest that allowed viewers to create their own Doritos ads for a chance to have it aired during the game. The Pokémon Company will be airing an ad for the first time as a way to celebrate their 20th anniversary. QuickBooks is sponsoring a "Small Business Big Game" contest, in which one of ten small businesses from various parts of the United States will have a 30-second commercial aired free of charge courtesy of QuickBooks."

"The Super Bowl 50 Host Committee has vowed to be "the most giving Super Bowl ever," and will dedicate 25 percent of all money it raises for philanthropic causes in the Bay Area. The committee created the 50 fund as its philanthropic initiative and focuses on providing grants to aid with youth development, community investment and sustainable environments."

According to Landor Associates, "Here are three tips to help you, your dad, or even your football-crazed grandma decide which brands scored a touchdown with their commercials: Is the ad on-brand? Will you remember the brand tomorrow? And, does the ad speak to the times?”

During the game, I participated in a TweetChat hosted by Jim Joseph of Cohn and Wolfe using #SuperBowlExp, and although it's always fun to see what fellow marketing folks are saying about the ads in real time, there are a couple of challenges. First, some ads run in regional or local markets, so there were several instances that Tweets referenced ads that not only hadn't I seen during the same commercial breaks, but I didn't see some ads at all. Second, there are so many hashtags that draw attention to the same thing, the ads, that sometimes, it's hard to keep up. There was #SuperBowlExp, #SuperBowlAds, #BrandBowl, #SuperBowl, and many more.

Sadly, this year, there were no Oreos, M&Ms, polar bears wearing scarves featuring the colors of the competing teams, or the entire group of Clydesdales with their pal, the Dalmatian, so while I was missing those brands or brand icons, here were my favorite ads:

Audi’s ad entitled, “The Commander,” honored David Bowie’s musical legacy and featured a memorable tagline that “Choosing the moon brings out the best of us.” According to Audi, “The legacy of the first moon landing lives on at Audi. The same spirit of discovery drives us to dream, innovate, and explore, from creating a car that goes 205 mph to building a lunar rover. It’s why we're constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.” As a previous Audi owner, I’m ready to get into an Audi driver’s seat again.

My second favorite ad was Subaru’s ad entitled, “Puppy.” A dog parent was driving around the neighborhood to keep his puppy asleep in the back seat, and when he parked in his driveway and turned off the car's engine, the puppy immediately woke up and started barking. This situation was easily identifiable for parents, but the ad was even more convincing with its final message: Dog Approved.

Two ads tied for my third favorite: Budweiser’s #GiveADamn ad featuring British actress Helen Mirren and the NFL’s #NoMore ad to speak up, become educated about, and end domestic violence. Mirren was seated in a restaurant, and told viewers to not drink and drive. The NFL
’s ad featured two friends texting, and one friend stopped suddenly. Hopefully, viewers watched both while sober and paid attention. With such a large audience on Super Bowl Sunday, I believe that serious issues should be addressed by advertisers.

Learn what the Joyful Heart Foundation (@TheJHF on Twitter) had to say about the NFL’s ad:

One of Doritos ads featured a group of dogs who desperately wanted to enter a grocery store to purchase some Doritos. Despite many unsuccessful attempts, they devised a clever disguise to fool the store employees and walk away with their purchase. You just had to laugh at this ad.

While the product was not as memorable as the actor featured in the ad, LG’s use of Liam Neeson in a role similar to his “Taken” film role was spot on. His cadence and some of his comments were reminiscent of the film series of the same name.

To answer Landor Associates’ questions, Audi’s and Subaru’s ads were on-brand (driving excitement for Audi and family fun with dogs for Subaru); I vividly recalled the ads the day after viewing them, and the ads speak to the times (people want excitement in their cars even if they’re stuck in freeway traffic, and people also want cars that their entire family – two-legged and four-legged – can be comfortable in).

None of this year’s ads stood out like the following ads from the past: Apple’s 1984 ad; the surprise featuring Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Oprah; the young boy dressed as Darth Vader for Volkswagen; Budweiser’s talking frogs; Budweiser’s Clydesdales bowing down to New York after September 11; and Chrysler’s launch of its “Imported from Detroit” campaign.

And now, I’d like to hand over the virtual microphone to Jenn Herman. Jenn provided a social media tip for one of my blog posts back in December, and now she’s sharing her thoughts about the Super Bowl ads. Jenn is a social media consultant, speaker, and globally recognized Instagram expert. She is the forefront blogger on Instagram marketing and her blog, Jenn’s Trends, has won the title of a “Top 10 Social Media Blog” in 2014 and 2015. Through her blog, consulting, and speaking, she provides tips, resources, and training for small to medium sized businesses that need to structure their social media strategies. Her business background includes Administration, Sales, Human Resources, and Marketing, and she enjoys bringing these skills together to help grow businesses. Visit Jenn’s website at and connect on Twitter and Instagram at @jenns_trends.

My favorite commercial from the Super Bowl this year was the Doritos spot with the baby on the ultrasound. It was funny, entertaining, and downright lol-worthy. Not to mention, I craved Doritos nacho cheese chips the whole time I was pregnant, so I might be a little biased! But I honestly loved every aspect of the commercial and I always enjoy the Doritos commercials as they really take the competition aspect of Super Bowl seriously. Now, I know a lot of people got all upset about this one, and to each his own, but I found it funny and entertaining. I don't see the need to take it too literally.

Second on my list is the Mini #DefyLabels spot. Even though it wasn’t a funny or innovative commercial, it was timely and relevant to the trending topic of rhetoric these days, and I thought it did well to dispel those labels. It felt empowering and supportive, and that resonated with me. It also showcased the car well, and in all reality, that’s still the point. With the right marketing message, Mini could do well with this new campaign.

I’ll admit that my third choice didn’t start out that way. The Prius commercial began with the bank robbery suspects evading police. It seemed awkward and drawn out. But as it continued and really played on the advantages of the Prius, it got pretty entertaining. The real winner came in the follow-up spots that took the story that much further as the police get involved with their own Prius. I loved the way this played into trends, behaviors, and marketing all together.

The Hyundai Genesis commercial featuring Kevin Hart started the day off strong and was definitely one of my favorites. It had a slightly Bad Boy (when Martin Lawrence’s daughter goes on a date) theme to the content but I liked that. It was quirky, funny, and sold the features of the car in a way that made you feel like you couldn’t live without them, even though you totally could.

Finally, and apparently against what many have to say, one of my favorites was the Audi R8 Commander spot. I found it endearing and it gave me goosebumps. Not to mention, the car was gorgeous! So, yeah, those who found it insensitive, unrealistic, or ridiculous to compare the car with a space shuttle, it’s a commercial – calm down.

Of course, there were plenty of other good ones. Overall, it was a “good” representation of ads. But there really weren’t that many knock-it-out-of-the-park winners for me. On the other hand, there were some serious WTF commercials! Chronic constipation, digestive issues, and toe nail fungus all took the top honors for cringe-worthy spots. Why do they insist on torturing us? And, finally, the whole #PuppyMonkeyBaby...don't even get me started on this ridiculousness! If this represents the product you’re pushing Mountain Dew, you quite effectively convinced me never to touch that toxic concoction!

A big thanks to Jenn for sharing her thoughts with me and appearing here on my blog. And if you’d like to see how the top 50 ads rated, here’s the link:

PR Week reported that brand tracking companies differed over who “won” the PR battle during last night's Super Bowl, but all pointed to Doritos, Hyundai, and Budweiser being among the best at engaging the public and social media users. Brandwatch tracked social media brand mentions during the game’s four-hours and crowned Doritos the winner with 89,000 mentions, followed by Pepsi with 38,000 mentions. Pokemon, Mountain Dew and Budweiser made up the rest of its top five.

Jacques de Cock, a faculty member at London School of Marketing, said the game will have been watched in half of US households. "The Super Bowl is a phenomenon unsurpassed in the world. It is one of the few national social events, which is also why social media traffic during the game is so high...What is also remarkable is that advertising is not viewed as something to skip, but is seen by 77 percent of viewers as part of the entertainment and therefore more watched and engaged with than any other television advertising during the year."

Image Credit: Thanks to Tom Fishburne for use of his cartoon with this post. Tom is the Founder and CEO of Marketoon Studios, a content marketing studio that helps businesses reach their audiences with cartoons. Check out his work at


A quick wave to Julia Carcamo, who attended Mardi Gras this year. Julia and I collaborated in 2012, 2013, and 2014, to discuss the Super Bowl ads, and here are the links to previous posts:

Julia’s post from 2015 – I was sidelined:

Joint Post on February 3, 2014:

Joint Post on February 4, 2013:

Joint post on February 6, 2012: