Villing & Company

If I Had a Million Dollars: Is Super Bowl Advertising a Good Investment?

Super Bowl advertising. Is it a good investment? You be the judge.

So, who won the Super Bowl? Not the game. The game within the game. The advertising. It depends on whom you ask.

By now you’ve probably heard all kinds of opinions about the best and worst commercials in the Super Bowl. The one good thing about the spectacle that has become the “commercial” side of the Super Bowl is that it creates a buzz about advertising in general and TV advertising specifically. Obviously, TV commercials have not become totally irrelevant, as many pundits would have us believe the other 364 days of the year. Hey, there’s nothing like kissing a monkey or a crystal ball in the groin to capture our attention, right?

Picking a winner is not so clear-cut, however. Let’s face it. Except for a few informed viewers, the polls are strictly a beauty contest. And clearly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

USA Today’s Ad Meter says that Dorito’s “Crystal Ball” won -- and that was produced by two unemployed guys from southern Indiana for $2,000. According to Bruce Horovitz, the USA Today reporter, the success of these two advertising wannabes leaves the industry ad pros “with a lot of ‘splaining to do.” What it says to me is that when it comes to commercial popularity, the lowest common denominator usually ends up scoring pretty high. (To enhance this argument, see Patrick "Shower".)

Kids and animals are always good for scoring points with the Super Bowl audience. Although cleverly written, the spots featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales have become a one-trick pony and probably need to be retired. And Castrol’s “Grease Monkeys” should never have been hired in the first place. That was just creepy.

Ultimately, these commercials really should be judged in the context of an overall campaign strategy – something the average viewer is not privy to. For example, even the cheesy Cash4Gold spot with Ed McMahon and MC Hammer got high marks for the way it drove traffic from paid search to a corporate Blogspot with embedded YouTube videos. One of my favorites, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, created a powerful integration between the brand and its “Plant A Seed” cause-marketing initiative.

It’s said that the three most powerful words in the English language are “win,” “free” and “sex” (not necessarily in that order). Based on that criteria, surely, the most powerful commercial in the Super Bowl was Denny’s “Free Breakfast” offer. The immediate ROI may not be great, but I’m guessing Denny’s had a longer-term strategy in mind. (This just in… Denny’s estimates it received $50 million in publicity with an investment of $5 million.)

So what were my picks for the best Super Bowl commercials? I’m glad you asked. Trying to balance my own personal tastes with some degree of professional expertise, my choices were…(envelope, please)…

Coke Zero – The original Mean Joe Greene commercial was one of the best of all time. Who better to exercise “taste infringement” than Coke’s sister brand?

Bridgestone – Although it didn’t get a lot of comment from the press, I thought the Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head spot was very powerful in the way it creatively connected a whimsical sense of nostalgia with the brand message.

Cheetos – Chester the Cheetah’s dry observations about annoying people crack me up. What more can I say? Unfortunately, the connection between this new TV ad campaign and is virtually non-existent.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t put network promos in the same category as other TV commercials, but I thought NBC did a brilliant job in making their promotional spots very entertaining, especially the “Feelin’ Alright” spot for the network’s Monday Night line-up.

Like I said, it’s mostly a matter of personal opinion and these are mine. What do you think? We’d love to hear from you.

All in all, Super Bowl night was reasonably entertaining. The football game wasn’t half bad, either.

Filed Under: Advertising, Super Bowl

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