Super Bowl 2014 Ad Recap: What Was Better Than Eh, All Right

I do like football.  I can even sometimes sit through a whole game on television (it’s more fun if I watch it live, like most sports).  However, when The Big Game comes around, I don’t watch it for the Game.

I’m an ad dude.  Perhaps in a past life, I was like Lawson Clarke, Male Copywriter (, except I would’ve been “Male Account Manager” and I just wouldn’t have recreated the Burt Reynolds Cosmo shot.  But when the Super Bowl comes on television, I am instantly attracted to the ways big brands attract and engage consumers, and even create content that transcends the boundaries of strategic marketing and enters the realm of fine art.  Most of the ads I selected for this blog may not be considered “art”, but in my opinion they were the highlights of the Game for not only communicating the essence of a brand in unexpected fashions, but for connecting to consumers with methods that were funny, emotional, and ethereal.

RadioShack, “The Phone Call”, GSD&M, Austin, TX

RadioShack’s major issue was that it had to update its image.  Quite literally, as the ad would suggest, the company was stuck in the atmosphere of its heyday of thirty years ago, and this past fall, it was stuck with a $625 million debt and secured a loan to repay it and then some¹.  So, it utilized the Super Bowl to shed its antiquated image and reestablish itself as a twenty-first century store selling twenty-first century gadgets from twenty-first century brands.  This spot was unique in that the company addressed its troubles head-on by offering a signal of change that was not only effective, but downright humorous.  I mean, come on, it’s Dee Snider, Hulk Hogan, and Erik Estrada trashing a store.  And check out the devious look on Mary Lou Retton’s face.  Clearly she’s got maliciousness on her agenda.

Heinz, “Hum”, Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago

I really liked this ad because it communicated the simple pleasures of a product such as Heinz ketchup.  It outlined the unique selling proposition of smacking the bottom of the bottle to get the ketchup out, and leveraged the pleasure people feel when doing it to say, “Hey, everyone!  This is fun!  Look at all these happy people smiling and humming while eating Heinz ketchup!”  Truth be told, however, the bottle fart at the end with the old woman’s priceless look is what did it for me.  I laughed for the next ten minutes.

Maserati, “Strike”, Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, OR

This ad came right in the beginning of the game, and was one of my favorite ads of the Bowl.  Maserati introduced the Ghibli model to North America with artistic vision, poetic, allegorical descriptions of the company’s competitive strategy and spiritual essence, and art and copy that was more theatre than advertising.  I also really enjoyed seeing Quvenzhané Wallis again following her Oscar-nominated performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild.  My favorite part is when the music dies out and she’s figuratively describing the company’s implementation of the product – they’ve waited through the rise of well-known American brands through the muscle-car market, but used the time to develop a superior product.  Now, just like a panther prepares to pounce on its prey…they’ll strike.

Audi, “Doberhuahua”, Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco

How can you creatively illustrate a slogan in a way that’s big, resonant, and hilarious?  Venables Bell, as Audi’s agency of record, helped introduce Audi’s A3, an entry-level luxury sedan, to the market by articulating the disadvantages of compromise.  Just as a consumer doesn’t need to to crossbreed a doberman and a chihuahua, they don’t need to compromise luxury for an entry-level segment vehicle.  Loren Angelo, Audi’s North American VP of Marketing, stressed the added value of Super Bowl commercials when they are shared online before the game across multiple channels, thereby leveraging brand equity and generating buzz before the game even airs².  If you check out my Twitter feed (@HeyNickNappo), I also posted an Adweek article that discussed how brands that posted their ads on YouTube before the Super Bowl generated millions of more hits than those that waited until after the game³.  Although I didn’t indulge in any of the ads before the Game, millions more did, and I think in the future every brand who advertises during the game should post the ad on YouTube beforehand if they want to remain competitive.

One other thing – Sarah McLachlan.  Was she perfect in there, or was she perfect in there.  After I finished laughing at the Heinz ad, I was laughing for another ten minutes at her inclusion.

Budweiser, “Puppy Love”, Anomaly, New York

Perhaps Lawson Clarke said it best when he tweeted on Monday:

Everyone loves puppies.  Everyone loves Budweiser.  Everyone looks forward to seeing the Clydesdales every Super Bowl.  So it came as no surprise to me when AdBowl rated this ad as the #1 spot of 2014.  The formula is simple – take a well-known brand that is synonymous with football and our American heritage, plus cute animals, multiplied by huge exposure on social media.  Instant success.  I was surprised, though, that it came so late in the game.  By that point, most viewers had probably tuned out and shuffled over to PBS to watch “Downton Abbey”, but it didn’t really matter because Budweiser showcased its ad on YouTube a week before the Game.  In many cases, it was the ad before any YouTube video started, so many people saw it then and shared it before its national airing.

And those, ladies and gentlemen, are my favorites.  Of course, there were several others I liked, but this post has gone on for too long already.  I’m more interested in what you have to say, anyway.  What were your favorite commercials?  Why did you like them?  Do you think Super Bowl ads shown on YouTube before the game are effective marketing strategy or just plain annoying?  Leave a comment below!

In a couple weeks I’ll do another post like this for Olympics advertising.  Until then, stay in touch!

¹Herbert, G.  (2014, February 4).  Radio Shack to close 500 stores after admitting to being stuck in the ’80s.  Retrieved from

²Rooney, J.  (2014, January 31).  Audi Marketing Chief:  The Story Behind Our ‘Doberhuahua’ Super Bowl Spot.  Forbes.  Retrieved from  

³Shields, M.  (2014, February 5).  Many Brands Who Held Back Super Bowl Ads Struggle on YouTube.  Adweek.  Retrieved from



4 thoughts on “Super Bowl 2014 Ad Recap: What Was Better Than Eh, All Right

  1. Nice post! I absolutely loved the Budweiser ad – who doesn’t love puppies and the traditional Budweiser horse?! I think a component that their ads have that others do not is the emotional factor. The brand always tugs on your heart strings with its commercials, unlike others that just use crazy images and noise to capture attention with little connection with the audience at all. Like we have been learning, a brand should always strategize from its consumers perspective: What does my customer want, expect, feel, etc. All brand messaging should resonate with consumers in some way. I think Budweiser always hits the nail on the head in that aspect. Is there a particular ad you felt was just plain pointless and did nothing to enforce its overall message or relate to its consumer?

    • Yes, SodaStream’s ad with Scarlett Johansson. It was literally her selling the product for 10 seconds then doing a sexy dance. The ad did nothing to enforce the essence of the company, who I believe was advertising in the Bowl for the first time, and was just poorly and crudely done. It was definitely the weakest of the bunch this year.

  2. I thought the commercials during this year’s Super Bowl were mediocre at best. There were not many that grabbed my attention (I was playing games on my iPad while my husband watched the game) except the Radio Shack one. I thought it was genius. I have not shopped in a Radio Shack in years, primarily because they seem outdated. That was a great ad to call attention to the changes they’ve made. And I will admit the Greek yogurt ad with John Stamos made me look up at the TV. A little risque but it made me laugh.

  3. Hey Nick!
    Thank you so much for this post! Overall, I have a lot to learn from your blog set-up. Also, from your great ability to motivate bilateral conversation with your audience!
    Just like you my favorite part about the Super Bowl is the commercials! Therefore, I think that companies benefit from the pre-game advertisements. Simply put my favorite commercial was the Audit Commercial because it made me laugh. Mostly because I am a dog person and own a Rottie who looks very similar to the Doberman used for the ad’s highbred. However, unlike the popular consciences I was not crazy about the Budweiser Commercial. I found it to be way to cliché.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s