There was a lot of action on the field during this year’s Super Bowl including a spectacular ending. There wasn't as much action in the ads since most of them took a thoughtful, serious, sentimental approach this year.

We saw fewer special effects, sexy girls and kicks to the crotch. And the few that took that route fell flat. What did score big is what always scores big. Ads from brands that own strong positions in the mind, that dominate categories and that hammer us with a familiar theme and visual in a new and entertaining way.

 

Consistency Works

Budweiser “Lost Dog.” The more you see it, the more you love it. Releasing this ad did nothing to dampen the excitement of seeing it again on game day. Budweiser is the brand. Clydesdales are the visual hammer. “King of Beers” is the verbal nail. And the story of friendship is eternal.

Budweiser also had a solid effort with its “Brewed the hard way” ad. Perhaps they have learned the hard way, this ad is over a decade late. They should have used this approach years ago against sissy micro-pumpkin brews. Brewed for drinking is music to a frat boy’s ears. Sticking to your core makes your brand stronger.

Snickers “Very Brady.” Snickers is the #1 candy brand. And the very successful theme “You’re not you when you’re hungry” is given a brilliant Brady twist.

Doritos. There weren’t a lot of ads to make us laugh, but Doritos delivered two that did. Again, consistency is key. Doritos has been running the “Crash the Super Bowl” contest for 9 years. And it keeps pumping out great ads. Doesn't hurt the product is unique, addictive and leaves your fingers orange. All fodder for super Super Bowl creativity. Loved all the finalists.

 

#Hashtag think about it

Always’ “#LikeaGirl.” When a hashtag works, it works. When it doesn’t, it doesn’t. P&G’s Always brand is the sanitary-napkin leader with a 50% market share and the best strategy for a leader is to promote the category. P&G could have taken the “talking stain” approach they did with Tide. But instead they ran a version of last summer’s much-applauded viral campaign  which connects a drop in a girl’s self-worth to the arrival of puberty. Always empowers girls to think differently, a message that resonates with girls as well as moms, dads and brothers.

Nationwide’s “#MakeSafeHappen.” When it doesn’t work, the hashtag approach can be a disaster. Depicting all the things in life a boy will miss after dying in an accident is way too dark and depressing for a Super Bowl ad. Especially since it’s coming from an insurance company and especially since Nationwide don’t give us a clear path to saving him. Make Safe Happen? What the heck does that mean? Only a specific idea would have worked, like buckle up. But only as a PSA. Not as an ad from insurance company.

Coca-Cola’s “#MakeitHappy” takes a stand on cruelty. Spilling Coca-Cola on a server turns the world into a nicer place. Kind of ironic they picked this theme since Coke is currently being slammed by the media. The brand is under fire for sugar, calories and obesity. And the Coca-Cola company is under fire for firing 1,800 people in an effort to cut $3 billion in costs. I don't see #Makeithappy moving the needle for the brand.

#WithDad.Dove Men, Toyota Camry and Nissan all showcased Dads and how much we love them. Are Dads great? You bet. But like puppies you can’t just throw them in an ad and expect them to rub off goodness onto your brand. The best of the bunch was the Nissan ad that combined a great story, a great song and featured the product name and image through-out the commercial. Problem one, Nissan racing? Problem two, the brand is still in third place behind Toyota and Honda.

 

What were they thinking?

McDonald’s “Pay with Lovin’” Do people like free stuff? Sure! And Moms love to get a call from the kids. But love is the last thing I feel when visiting a McDonald’s. First of all, I’m usually in the drive-thru with starving kids in the back seat. Second of all, price isn’t the reason people aren’t going to McDonald’s, it is the quality of the food which has suffered from a bloated menu. Third, based on their recent results and the CEO getting the boot, I’m not sure McD’s can afford a Super Bowl ad. So I’ll pay for my fries and remember on my own to call my Mom to tell her I love her.

Fiat’s “Pill.” Is it hysterical to see an old Italian guy miss his mouth with his last Viagra? Yes! In fact, the ad does a great job of selling little blue pills. But bigger Fiat 500s? Even Jennifer Lopez couldn’t help them sell the little Fiats. This ad won’t help sell the bigger ones either.

Esurance’s “Sorta Pharmacy.” Yes, we all miss Breaking Bad. But this ad sorta misses its mark. The Lindsey Lohan “Sorta your mother” is funnier and more on point. But isn’t Esurance from Allstate just a sorta insurance company?

Nationwide’s “Invisible Mindy.” Do insurance companies really treat Mindy like she’s invisible? Most insurance agents hound you to buy coverage with ads, phone calls and emails. Nationwide first needs to make its premise clear. Then it need to repeat that premise over and over again. This ad is kind of funny. And as much as I’d love to smell Matt Damon, the ad doesn’t make the necessary connection to the brand. 

BMW’s “i3 electric car.” Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel are good sports in an ad that makes them look clueless with a 1994 clip where they try to understand what the internet is. As they drive a BMW i3 electric car, it seems to be happening again as they try to understand this “new” technology. That makes no sense; electric cars have been on the road for years. Have they never heard of Tesla? The brand has been a roaring success ever since 2009.

Dodge’s “Wisdom.” Celebrating 100 years is an amazing feat. Hearing these older folks share wisdom is wonderful. But for Dodge? What’s a Dodge? A brand in trouble that has clearly lost its way and is unlikely to make it for 100 more years. Sales at Chrysler, Ram and Jeep are way up. Fiat is flat and Dodge is down. On the Super Bowl, you advertise the winners not the losers