“Brotherhood,” Budweiser’s 2013 Super Bowl ad, was among those which stood out among rather routine fare.
Super Bowl ads (the complete list) this year provided few gems, according to an emerging consensus of industry professionals.
Many were deemed lame or even confusing, and generally considered ineffective and off-brand. Several brands seemed to suffer rather than benefit from the frenzy of sneak peeks and full-commercial reveals in this year’s rush for pre-Game exposure and social buzz.
And here’s our own graded report card the performance of each brand that advertised in national ads during the game (thus exclusing pregame spots from brands like McDonald’s, and regional ads including the spot for Carl’s Jr. featuring a supermodel and a chicken sandwich):
Budweiser, “The Brotherhood” Who can resist a Clydesdale colt that doesn’t forget who raised him? The combination of animals, sentiment and the iconic beer brand and its venerable Clydesdales helped this spot rise above most.
Chrysler: The automaker scored for the third year in a row with its penchant for rising to the big Super Bowl moment. Both of its anthem spots were stirring, while also providing just enough presence for its Jeep and Ram brands.
GoDaddy.com: The brand got most of its attention for its close-up make-out spot featuring Bar Refaeli and a geeky nerd, demonstrating how “when sexy meets smart, small business scores.” But the far more effective commercial was the one challenging would-be inventors and entrepreneurs to put their ideas “on the line” by beating everyone else online with them. Who hasn’t had exactly the kind of thought uttered by everyone in the ad? But the use of Danica Patrick was gratuitous in a commercial that didn’t need to rely on conventional GoDaddy fare to be good.
Mercedes-Benz: Though it lost some of its effectiveness with its Kate Upton teaser and early ad release, the ad came through with its punch line: Now you can get a worthy new Mercedes for under $30,000.
NFL Network: The comedic device featuring Deion Sanders as “Leon Sandcastle” was simple and hit home: Watch blanket coverage of the upcoming NFL draft coverage on the league’s official network.
Speed Stick: The panties-folding story line of “Unattended Laundry” by the Colgate-Palmolive brand created a perfect perspiration-inducing moment. Talk about selling the benefit to the target audience!
Taco Bell: The brand won hearts with “Viva Young,” its depiction of retirement-home escapees having a night on the town that their grandchildren might enjoy — which, of course, included Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos.
Tide: The clever send-up about the Joe “Montana Miracle Stain” was vintage Super Bowl humor and featured a nice tie-in to the game’s actual participants.
Toyota: The Big Game follow-up to its web teaser tripped all the right levers for a Super Bowl ad: humorous without being sophomoric, family-friendly and with a twist at the end. Plus the ad featuring the light comic touch of Kaley Cuoco provided plenty of shots of the roominess and style of the new RAV4 that it promoted.
Audi: Though the crowdsourced ending of the “Worth It” version of Audi’s “Prom Night” spot obviously was the favorite of the online voters who weighed in, the more clever conclusion would have had the kid looking at the photo of his father and recognizing he was a chip off the old block.
Axe: Some viewers knew “Lifeguard” was coming because Unilever had released an extended version online, but this beach scenario created a payoff chuckle anyway. And it’s a great launch for the Axe men-in-space promotion that will be huge for the brand over the next couple of yearse.
Bud Light: In the climax of its season-long “It’s Only Weird If It Doesn’t Work” #herewego campaign, the brand made generally effective use of Stevie Wonder, voodoo and the New Orleans vibe over two commercials (“Journey” and “Lucky Chair“) during the game.
CBS: With a lot to brag about these days, the host network of the Super Bowl didn’t miss a trick in its own promos. The promo with David Letterman and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was the most winning. But did CBS really need to depict the co-stars of 2 Broke Girls pole dancing?
Coca-Cola: The brand’s best spot for pure creative enjoyment was the commercial urging viewers to “look at the world a little differently,” with “security cameras” capturing shots of people around the world stealing kisses, being “honest pickpockets” and hugging their friends with open happiness. The bigger hype was for “Coke Chase,” which got a lot of pre-game buzz on social media for Coke, but the two spots lacked fizz on their own. Why exactly did the showgirls win?
Hyundai: A handful of Big Game ads and the brand’s sponsorship of the “Kickoff” show effectively dimensionalized Hyundai’s product lineup by focusing on its new, seven-passenger Santa Fe SUV and a high-performance version of its Genesis coupe.
Kia: The car brand scored with its “Space Babies” yarn, showing a father using the Sorento’s nifty infotainment system to cut off his son’s birds-and-bees line of questioning. Interbrand analysts also liked it because it showed that the brand has “an answer for everything.” A second Kia spot, “Hotbots,” about its Forte model (tagline: “Respect the Tech”), wasn’t as engaging or convincing.
NFL: The league once again showed its progressive side (under the NFL Evolution banner) by highlighting the achievements of 9-year-old Samantha Gordon in a boys’ game. Curiously, the sport didn’t take advantage of the chance to underscore the seriousness of its approach to the head-injuries issue that is only growing, as it did last year in a spot featuring Ravens’ Ray Lewis.
Skechers: The big game commercial for its GoRun2 shoes made a simple claim—they help you run fast—simply. The Forrest Gump-like sprint to catch the cheetah made the spot worth watching.
Budweiser Black Crown: In two spots (“Arrival,” the first post-kickoff ad, and “Celebration“) this new beer label told us that — surprise! — it appeals to hip, beautiful customers; and likely alienated the bulk of its audience.
Calvin Klein: The ad takeaway: chiseled guys like model Matthew Terry look good in Calvin Kleins and they’ve got a new line, called Concept, to shop for. A little eye candy never hurts, but easily mistaken for a tattoo-free David Beckham for H&M commercial?
Doritos: Let’s get “Goat 4 Sale” straight: The goat likes Doritos so much that it ate its resentful owner out of house and home? Hmm. Far more effective was the other “Crash the Super Bowl” spot (and eventual winner): “Fashionista Daddy,” about a father (and his friends) lured into playing dress-up by his savvy daughter and a bag of the chips.
Gildan: About what you’d expect in a first Super Bowl appearance by the youthful apparel brand better known as a vendor. But were the leopard-fur handcuffs really necessary?
“Got Milk?”: The Super Bowl debut for the iconic campaign did a good job of showing how obsessed Duane “The Rock” Johnson could be about getting his milk in the morning. But did all those innocent people have to suffer? Maybe not a good lesson for the kids in the ad after all.
Lincoln: The first and most straightforward spot, the MKZ-touting “Phoenix,” was by far the better of the brand’s two during the game. The Jimmy Fallon-inspired “Steer the Script” crowdsourced mash-up ad was just too short in the 30-second Big Game version (see the extended spot to compare) for viewers to sort it out.
M&M’s: Unlike last year’s Super Bowl campaign by M&M’s, which featured Vanessa Williams as the voice of Ms. Brown, this year’s “Love Ballad” spot featuring a red M&M with a crush on Naya Rivera of Glee fame didn’t quite hit the spot, but at least will work through Valentine’s Day.
Pepsi: We sure hope Pepsi has reaped enough social-media buzz to justify the outlay for spending $50 million on a partnership that kicked off with sponsoring Beyonce‘s high-energy halftime show. The “flipcard” crowdsourced countdown halftime intro was clever. PepsiCo’s second-half “Party” ad for Pepsi NEXT evoked Risky Business and well made the point that Next’s taste is enough like real cola to distract folks from just about anything.
Prudential: This spot about the need for balanced retirement-savings accounts was more fit for a Sunday-morning Meet the Press slot.
Redd’s Apple Ale: What could be more straightforward than touting an apple-based brew than hitting a guy on the noggin with an apple so he remembers to order it? Probably worth the $4 million MillerCoors shelled out for the commercial.
Volkswagen: Controversy about the Jamaican accent of the primary (non-Jamaican) actor aside, VW’s Big Game commercial ended up as sort of a placeholder for the brand, and it didn’t do much to promote the Beetle in the ad except to show that you could occupy the back seat.
Wonderful Pistachios: It was something of a coup to get Psy to ply his Gangnam-style arts for the brand at the Super Bowl — some brand was bound to do it, even if he’s starting to wear out his his welcome. Unfortunately, the most effective part of the spot was the leggy pistachios themselves.
Beck’s Sapphire: A flat-footed spot for the new brew, with a statement about its bottle and an odd singing black goldfish.
Best Buy: Amy Poehler was funny and engaging, as always, but the commercial didn’t convince us that the retailer’s famed “blue shirts” — a key differentiator for the customer service aspect of the brand in these days of “showrooming” — were actually up to answering her questions.
BlackBerry: A missed opportunity to make a big statement about its new BlackBerry 10 phones and operating system. Don’t tell us what the new BlackBerry can’t do in your first national commercial — tell us what it can do!
Cars.com: We understand that the online car-buying portal wants to make the transaction easier. But the Super Bowl ad spent way too much time on its humorous conceit involving a wolf and her cub, which wasn’t all that funny or memorable in the Game Day zoo of animal spots.
Century 21: Its “Smarter. Better. Faster” positioning about Century 21 agents deserved better than this lamely played skit in which an agent helps a new groom find a starter home and rescue him from having to move in with his in-laws. Actually, Century 21’s pre-game ad, using a convenience-store scenario to promote the capabilities of its agents, was funnier.
E*Trade: OK, it’s finally time for the baby to grow up. The gag has gone on at least one year too long.
Oreo: The premise of the “Whisper Fight” spot — people arguing, some violently, over which part of the cookie is the best — was promising. The speedy (in a sea of Twitter hashtags) social tie-in with a well-timed twitpic and Instagram integration gets high marks. But why whisper when you’re kicking off a debate?
Samsung: We get it: Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd are funny and likeable. But “The Next Big Thing” doesn’t tell the viewer why Samsung has, or should have, Apple on the run with its smart phones and tablets. Wouldn’t that have been worth communicating?
Subway: Poor Jared. Celebrating 15 years with as the brand’s biggest slimmed down fan, and all he got was a so-so Super Bowl nod and a promotion called, confusingly, “Febru-any,” not to mention mostly B-list celebrities.