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Super Bowl 2011: Game scores big, Advertising mostly fumbles

The stand out star of last night’s Super Bowl was clearly Aaron Rogers. Most people will be talking about Aaron and the Packers today instead of the commercials. Because it was the game that was far more super than any of the ads. But with the most-watched commercials of the year, the Super Bowl provides a good picture of the state of the advertising industry.

Here is my roundup of who scored and who fumbled.


BMW: “Advanced Diesel – Changes.” Good commercials use good visuals. And nothing beats seeing the ultimate driving machine on the road. Unfortunately, diesel engines connote strong images of “smog,” so BMW brilliantly counteracts that concept with the song “Changes” to introduce us to the new advanced diesel cars from BMW.

Doritos: “Best Part.” Again, Doritos has a strong visual to work with: Its unique triangle covered in orange goodness. Everybody knows how the chips stain your fingers and how the crumbs stain your clothes, so the guy licking his co-workers fingers was the perfect twist. The twist really hammers in the brand strategy. Viewer-created commercials like this one have got to make Madison Ave nervous.


First downs

Pepsi Max: “First Date.” What men are thinking vs. what women are thinking is a simple idea brilliantly executed. Again, this viewer-created ad shows that big budgets aren’t necessary for a super Super Bowl ad. The key is a powerful idea. It also makes me think that a lot of talented creative people are out of work and submitting ads. “Zero Calories, Maximum-Pepsi Taste” is the closing slogan. “Zero” is nice, but it’s too bad Coca-Cola grabbed it first. The other problem is that half the commercial goes by without the viewer knowing exactly what the commercial is for? That’s a problem. The guy could have just as easily been distracted by a beer, a car or a Snickers bar.

E*Trade: “Baby — Tailor.” What I love about these E*Trade ads is that they are in the game every year and stick to one visual that hammers their brand idea. “The site that is so easy a baby can do it.” However, this wasn’t my favorite execution. I much prefer the iPad/dog commercial that has been running the past few months.

Volkswagen: “Darth Vader.” As a parent, the Darth Vader spot pulled at my heartstrings. As a piece of work, it was brilliant. It beautifully captured the innocence of childhood. What it didn’t do, however, was to connect the idea to Volkswagen. Any car with a remote start could have been slotted in.

Volkswagen: “Beetle.” I loved it. I would have loved it more, if I knew up front the beetle was suppose to be a “Beetle.” The arrival of a new Beetle car is a big deal, so they should have showed the new car. That would have also made news and increased the chatter about the ad.

Audi: ”Release the Hounds.” Well, at least they didn’t release any more dead horse heads: Audi ads have come a long way since. They now have come up with the idea of a luxury car for a new generation. The visuals (Kenny G, the hounds) were hysterical. The only problem is that consumers don’t necessarily buy the idea of Audi being more prestigious or cooler than Mercedes. First, they need to establish the prestige of the brand before they run ads like one.



Pepsi Max : “Torpedo Cooler.” Not every viewer-generated ad was brilliant, including this one. The commercial relies on the classic joke of hitting the guy in the crotch. Funny, sure. But the idea has nothing to do with Pepsi.

BMW X3: ”Defying Logic.” I think it is great that BMW is building cars in America. I think it is great that they are designing the cars in America, too. But they shouldn’t throw out their German roots. The brand is German and most of the profits are going back to Germany. I think that people buy BMWs not because they are made in the U.S., but in spite the fact they are made in the U.S. I think they should have spent more time showing off the new car.

Sealy: “Super Bowl After Glow.” Since I was watching the game with my 8-year-old son, I wanted to immediately change the channel for this one. Advertisers need to remember the Super Bowl is a family event as well as an adult one. The other problem with the commercial is that viewers have no idea what the company is selling. I certainly would have never guessed it was mattresses! They might have started off with the line “It’s better on springs.” I like the idea of being the opposite. Bouncy springs vs. memory foam. However, Sealy has been trying to tell us springs aren’t bouncy, haven’t they?

Anheuser-Busch: All of them. How the mighty have fallen. For years A-B seemed to have a system for creating a stable of funny, talk-of-the-party Super Bowl ads, along with a killer visual, the Clydesdales. This year, the ads weren’t funny and the Clydesdales were relegated to a bit part.

Stella-Artois: “Crying Jean.” This ad made me cry for the brand. Absolutely horrible. Again, the brand has an iconic image, the Stella glass. They showed the glass but connected it to crying ladies and a moody, pathetic-looking singer.

GoDaddy: “New Girl.” The twist of using Joan Rivers was funny. But their sexist shtick is worn out. The site is very effective, the advertising is not. They are lucky because they face no real competition in the category.

Groupon: “Tibet.” We can chalk it up as a rookie mistake to run a shocking and disturbing commercial without much redeeming value. After the intense excitement about the company and a pending IPO, this was a big PR black eye. The first part of the commercial showing Tibet and the needs of its people was poignant, but then to make a joke of it and your company, not savvy. Groupon has a problem when creating an commercial since they don’t have a strong visual to work with. What they are known for are their email messages. It’s harder to advertise a service that is unseen. The most successful service-company commercials first develop a powerful visual like the Aflac duck, the Geiko gecko and the E*Trade baby.

Snickers: “Logging.” It is hard to follow-up on the commercial that brought back the beloved Betty White. It was a classic, Betty White getting tackled on a muddy football field. It was fitting and shocking. This year Snickers substituted Lewis & Rosanne Barr. Nobody wants these celebrities back, and who even remembers Lewis? And getting hit with a log, not funny.

Chevrolet: “Old-Age Home.” Funny! Very funny. But the spot never got the brand message across. Could have been a commercial for anything. Chevrolet ran several spots during the game. Each was totally different, each was a one-off joke. So typical of GM; they spend a ton of money but they never get an message or idea into the mind.

Chrysler: “Eminem movie.” Chrysler is going to need a lot more than Eminem to save the company. The commercial was powerful in showing the images of Detroit and using its hometown hero Eminem. But I’m not sold that Detroit will ever come back to past glory. It is sad. Chrysler and “imported luxury from Detroit” are just not an easy sell. Chrysler should have started with what it already owns, the Minivans. (For Ford, it’s trucks.) What also watered down this ad is that Eminem also appeared as a cartoon in a dreadfully-awful Brisk ice-tea ad.

Motorola Mobility: “Empower the People.” If you want to compare yourself to Apple’s 1984 Macintosh commercial, you’d better be able to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. The Xoom tablet? I’d rather see them hammer the success of the Motorola Droid, an Android phone has been the much talked about alternative to the iPhone.


Laura Ries :

View Comments (10)

  • Hi there
    I'm making plans for getting a new auto and I need help selecting in between an Audi or a Mercedes?
    I'm trying to pick among and Audi A4 and C class
    I already own an A4 and i am actually pleased with it
    however I want to hear from people who own a Mercedes or have owned both
    which one should I choose
    Thanks for your help

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  • How in the world can the Volkswagen "Darth Vader" ad even be worth a positive mention as a "First Down"? It had NOTHING to do with the brand. It didn't NOTHING to sell the car. Yes, it's cute. Yes, people talked about it. But it could just as easily been for Honda or Chevrolet or Kia. It was an entertaining 60-second short film with VW's logo slapped onto the end and with the car playing a very generic supporting role. Unless you're completely changing the principles of effective branding that you and your father have preached in the past, I don't see how you can call this anything other than a waste of money -- as an AD.

  • Laura,
    The Chrysler ad connected with people on an emotional level like none of the other superbowl ads.
    you might want to rethink this one. thanks.

  • Aaron Rogers is a very good player, for years I have been following his career and this is my favorite player. Regards Pozycjowanie

  • The challenge of our past remains the challenge of our future; will we be one nation, one people, with one common destiny, or not?

  • Hi Laura,
    I really loved the Darth Vadar ad from a cute perspective.
    Must admit as much as the ad was memorable, I have no idea who it was for!

  • I couldn't disagree more with the Chrysler ad. I thought far and away it was the best of the day. Just because the company is in trouble doesn't reflect on the ad itself.