Villing & Company

Tackling the Question of the Best 2010 Super Bowl Ads

On Super Bowl Sunday, it's tough being in marketing and a sports nut at the same time. Once the game starts, I can never find a good time to go get something to eat or drink or do whatever nature may be calling me to do. If I leave the room during commercial breaks, I might miss one of the year's iconic TV spots. Conversely, slipping away during the game could cause me to miss a critical play like, say, a surprise onside kick to start the second half. It's hard I tell you. As hard as picking winners in the greatest game in advertising: the best spots among this year's crop of clever, creative or corny commercials. But, like thousands of other self-proclaimed pundits, I will gladly share my opinions.

First, we have to define what makes a great Super Bowl commercial. Is it the one the fans like most as monitored by USA Today and countless other observers? Or is it the most effective in terms of making a clear brand statement within the context of a compelling or entertaining commercial? Ultimately I suppose this distinction is in the eye of the beholder. To my occupational eye, the proper focus should be on the side of presenting a strategically focused marketing message in a particularly memorable way.

That's why one of my favorites was the Google "Parisian Love" spot. It won't win many votes among the masses because the humor was subtle and there were no mind-boggling special effects. But if anyone has been living in a cave for the last 20 years and didn't know what a search engine did, this spot was a great illustration presented without words in powerful story-telling fashion.

Speaking of telling stories, when I saw an early clip of the violin-playing beaver, I thought there was no way this could be more than a gimmick - the marriage of a cute animal and special effects that had no relevance to the product. I was wrong. The message was clear. The viewer engagement strong. A dam fine commercial.

Great storytelling was also obvious in the Coke "Sleepwalker" spot. The special effects were impressive on many counts – not the least of which was the way they reinforced the brand message.

I would have to give honorable mentions to the Hyundai "Old Brett Favre" spot, the Bridgestone "Whale of a Tale" and the Snickers "Game" commercial featuring Betty White and Abe Vigoda.

The latter spot would probably be on my list of the top pure entertainment spots as well. Although much of Budweiser's advertising was a letdown from previous years (especially the one with the longhorn steer trying to bond with the Clydesdales), I did enjoy the Bud Light "Bud House" commercial in that it was a big idea executed in a big way.

Two unexpected surprises for me were the truTV "Punxsutawney Polamalu" and the Denny's "Chicken Warning" commercials. This may be unfair, but I just don't expect great advertising from Denny's and this spot was both fun and a good reinforcement of their free breakfast promotion. The truTV spot would probably not be meaningful to anyone who is not a fairly knowledgeable football fan, but I found it to be clever and entertaining.

As always, there was no shortage of disappointments. In keeping with the night's subplot of aging celebrities (The Who, Brett Favre, Abe Vigoda & Betty White, etc.), the Boost Mobile remake of the Chicago Bear's Super Bowl Shuffle was weak and irrelevant. Another subplot was "men in underwear" and gave us Careerbuilders "Casual Friday" and Dockers' "Men Without Pants". Back to back, no less. Neither was very funny or original.

During our staff meeting this morning, one of our team asked who was tired of GoDaddy's commercials. I certainly am. The Danica Patrick “sex sells” spots may have created some interest the first year or two, but now they are just plain old. And one more point on this recurring theme of oldness, is anyone else tired of Papa John as hero of his own commercials? I suppose there is something to be said for consistency, but all I see is another CEO in love with seeing himself on television.

These are, of course, my opinions. But coupled with the many other voices out there, a common thread has emerged as to what was good in Super Bowl advertising and what wasn't. It seems the commercials most commonly viewed as successful were produced by people who recognized the Super Bowl is not your ordinary YAM (young adult male) sporting event. With an estimated 106 million viewers, the audience was substantially more diverse. Advertisers like Snickers and Google recognized the breadth of the audience and crafted their messages accordingly. By contrast, GoDaddy and like-minded marketers were clearly directing their appeal based on a much lower common denominator.

Knowing your target audience is one of the fundamentals of marketing. Failing to heed those fundamentals is a big risk. Sort of like failing to anticipate an onside kick.

Filed Under: Advertising, Super Bowl

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