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 (malecopywriter.com), 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. Syracuse.com. Retrieved from http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2014/02/radio_shack_close_500_stores_super_bowl_ad_80s_stuck.html.
²Rooney, J. (2014, January 31). Audi Marketing Chief: The Story Behind Our ‘Doberhuahua’ Super Bowl Spot. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferrooney/2014/01/31/audi-marketing-chief-the-story-behind-our-doberhuahua-super-bowl-spot/.
³Shields, M. (2014, February 5). Many Brands Who Held Back Super Bowl Ads Struggle on YouTube. Adweek. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/videowatch/many-brands-who-held-back-super-bowl-ads-struggle-youtube-155458.