American Marketing Association / Alter Agents

Super Bowl 50’s Best Ads

February 10, 2016
Super Bowl 50's Best Ads

Key Takeaways

​What​? Marketing researcher Rebecca Brooks discusses which advertisers moved brand perceptions during–and after–Super Bowl 50.

So What? There’s a fine line between entertainment and information. Only brands that understand that will succeed and gain share of market, and mind.

Now What?​​ Move past using a celebrity or sensational claim to get attention. Consumers have to be able to remember who an ad is for, not just think it’s funny.

​​There’s a fine line between entertainment and information. Here’s one marketing researcher’s take on which advertisers moved brand perceptions during–and after–Super Bowl 50.

The Super Bowl turns every American into an ad critic; everyone has an opinion around the water cooler the next day. It is also an annual anxiety event for brands and advertisers that bet enormous dollars–and professionals reputations–trying to make their creative newsworthy.

I have my two cents, too, about the winning Super Bowl ads, but before we get to that, let’s qualify what makes a great commercial for the Big Game. For an ad to truly be effective, it can’t just be a memorable story or funny punch line. People have to remember who the ad is for, and it must move brand perceptions. It’s a fine line between entertainment and information. Interestingly, what was made abundantly clear in last night’s broadcast was featuring a Hollywood personality–and more than a dozen Super Bowl 50 ads did–was no guarantee of success.

With all that in mind, here are the brands that I thought were this year’s MVPs:

Doritos – Ultrasounds and Dogs: With the tongue-in-cheek hospital vignette featuring the baby ultrasound and then later in the broadcast, the dogs shopping for the chips, Doritos converged three essentials to secure my favorite campaign of Super Bowl 50. Using social media and engaging their fans, they had a lovely ramp up to the Big Game with their user-generated ads. In addition to all the free conversation generated by how they got the ads made, all their ads were funny and, importantly, featured Doritos as the game changer and key actor in the spots. Hands down they win in my book for peak memorability and branding.

Audi – Astronaut: In a crowded field of other automotive ads (a total of nine car brands were in the mix), Audi stands out as a champion. The ad, which showed a nearly lifeless old man brought back by the power of an Audi, was emotional, visceral and unambiguously bold. The car was absolutely the star of the piece– gorgeous, space-age looking machine–and the audience was woken up as much as the retired astronaut.

Squarespace – Key & Peele: The brand’s 2015 Super Bowl was a dud, but they definitely got it right this year. By leveraging Comedy Central hipster duo Key and Peele, they connected their brand not only to what they actually do, but also to a game-long event that kept them on the top of Google search during the game. Now that is how you connect a website brand with the Super Bowl audience. (Pay attention

T-Mobile – Steve Harvey and Balls: This was a mixed brand for me. The Drake spot was tedious with overplayed “Hotline Bling’ jokes and an ad that focused only on the cellphone industry’s negatives. But, the Steve Harvey spot played in the first quarter was brilliant. Not only did it capitalize on the popular broadcaster’s headline grabbing flub at the Miss Universe pageant, which happened just six weeks ago, but it also slammed Verizon’s heavily played commercial–featuring the banal colored balls metaphor–that touts their supposed superior coverage. What made this ad even better was Verizon playing their same ball spot in the third quarter like they hadn’t just been fully owned by T-Mobile. It was pure trolling at its best and even more impressive that it played out so beautifully in traditional advertising (and not only on social media). The ad, indeed, did great on social media as well with Steve Harvey trending throughout the game.

Toyota Prius – Outlaw Nerds: While it may not necessarily be the ad everyone talks about the next day, for my $5 million this ad had the most return on its investment. While Mini just put people in front of a static car to claim they aren’t their stereotypes, Prius actually changed perceptions when it showed the car on a chase that showcased all of its advantages: speed, handling, gas mileage (as cops had to refuel), and a quiet engine to sneak around the sleeping police road block. The ad made the car look cool, exciting and sexy all while promoting practical attributes. The humor put this ad over the top. The wry disbelief that a Prius made a great getaway car for the nerd outlaws (using actors from The Wire) was not only very clever but integrated into the whole story, as opposed to being just tacked on. This commercial had Prius trending all over SB50.

NFL – Super Bowl Babies: While the whole game is an ad for them, their Super Bowl babies teasers and full ad were stellar. Using Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose,” the ad featured people born nine months after their hometown won the Super Bowl. It was a clever way to show how the Super Bowl is so interwoven with our lives that birth rates actually increase in cities that host the game. Fun, uplifting, memorable and thoroughly American .

I can’t wrap up this list without highlighting the biggest stinker of the game: the Buick ad.

Buick – Whatever: Don’t remember it? I barely do either. In this ad, a wedding bouquet is tossed and women go crazy trying to catch it. First of all, stale joke. Men watching on the sidelines give a “I don’t believe it” response and then one of them says “Just like I don’t believe that is a Buick.” Huh? Oh, there is a car in the ad, and it’s driving away focused on the occupants so I can’t even see the car. What did the latest model from Buick have to do with a wedding and a tired joke about over-eager bachelorettes? They should have spent that $5 million sending $50,000 Buick vouchers to 100 lucky winners and filming their reactions for YouTube. Call me, Buick.

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