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VOL. 39 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 6, 2015

Super Bowl ad winners and losers

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Think there was only one big game on Super Bowl Sunday? A typical NFL game has only 11 minutes of actual “game action” compared to 63 minutes of commercials, according to The Wall Street Journal. With 30 seconds of commercial airtime going for $4.5 million this year, it is clear that Super Bowl advertising is serious business, making for an equally interesting off-the-field game unfolding when the clock stops.

With the stakes high, brands must generate pre- and postgame buzz, extending the life of that $150,000-per-second investment. That is why a number of advertisers released Super Bowl ads several days before the big game last year.

This year, the trend was to hold out until very close to the game to pre-release ads – a strategy brands hoped would allow them to capitalize on pregame social media buzz without diluting the in-game and postgame excitement that accompanies newly released commercials. Many brands elected to only release teasers, versus the full ad, for that very reason.

Among brands that pre-released their Super Bowl ads via YouTube, Anheuser-Busch was the clear winner, generating more than 30 million combined views of its “Lost Dog” and “Coin” ads before the game ever started.

The theme of each year’s lot of Super Bowl ads most often mirrors overall public sentiment. This year, advertisers responded to the market’s need for positive stories of strength and empowerment. This storyline is woven throughout ads from Toyota, featuring Paralympic athlete Amy Purdy and Muhammad Ali; Coca-Cola, delivering a happiness message; Proctor and Gamble, promoting empowerment for women; Microsoft, connecting technology to empowerment; and Dove Men+Care, challenging male stereotypes that define strength.

Super Bowl ad popularity polls are common after the big game, though popularity doesn’t always equate to effectiveness. Memphis-based RedRover Sales & Marketing’s team of marketing strategists assessed this year’s crop of ads according to: viewer connection, strength of storytelling, memorability, reinforcement of brand differentiators, overall alignment of the ad with the brand and likelihood to drive brand affinity and sales.

RAGING INFERNO – These brands were on fire, making good use of their Super Bowl investment:

Budweiser – “Lost Dog” – The bond between puppy and Clydesdale was rekindled in this sequel to last year’s widely popular “Puppy Love” spot. A puppy, lost far from home, fights treacherous conditions to return with a little help from his friends, the Clydesdales. Anheuser-Busch reinforced its claim as the feel-good brand.

Coca-Cola – “Make It Happy” – The message is simple and strikes right to the heart of a common American sentiment – the desire for more tolerance. Coca-Cola reminds viewers what the brand has always stood for – inclusion and joy. Similar to Budweiser, the Coca-Cola brand doesn’t have to promote product benefits; there’s a larger, more intrinsic brand connection.

Carnival Cruises – “Come Back to the Sea” – This spot features a speech given by President John F. Kennedy about how we are all tied to the sea. The ad reminds viewers of the power of the sea and how it connects us to the world. The beautiful imagery and emotional power of this ad may sway those who have never taken a cruise to consider it.

SOLID HEAT – These brands also generated some heat:

Always – “Like a Girl” – Procter & Gamble delivers a powerful message of empowerment for women and young girls in this spot, which encourages viewers to redefine what the phrase “like a girl” means. There isn’t a natural connection between this message and the Always brand, but with enough consistency and frequency of message, they may follow in the footsteps of Dove, which has come to stand for beauty of all shapes and sizes.

Mophie – “All Powerless” – This apocalyptic ad from Super Bowl newbie, Mophie, had just about everything you look for in a spot for the big game – breathtaking graphics, unexpected humor, the ultimate cameo and a connection to the brand’s core feature – keeping the world powered.

Avocados from Mexico – “First Draft Ever” – Few imagined Avocados from Mexico would pull off such a surprisingly clever and memorable ad as a Super Bowl freshman. The scene begins “about 4 billion years ago” with countries drafting animals and vegetation like teams draft players today. Jerry Rice and Doug Flutie commentate; animal hijinks ensue. Mexico selects the avocado as the perfect fit to flourish in its rich volcanic soil and ideal weather.

SMOLDERING – These brands, sadly, couldn’t even muster a flicker of flame:

Nationwide – “Boy” – What began as a typical coming-of-age story, ends in tragedy in an effort to educate consumers about the number one cause of childhood death – preventable accidents. Viewer reaction was fairly consistent across Twitter – that the ad was too dark for the Super Bowl and simply in poor taste.

GoDaddy – “Working” – When GoDaddy responded to the petition of over 40,000 consumers demanding the brand remove its originally produced “Puppy Ad” from the big game, the web hosting brand only had about a day to pull together a backup spot. The alternative commercial – called “Working” – fell flat. It was a no-win situation, though focus group testing could have prevented the original snafu.

T-Mobile – “Kim’s Data Stash” – Kim Kardashian mocks herself, saving others the effort, as she talks about some of life’s most serious topics – from selfies to her outfits. The key message – that T-Mobile lets you keep unused data – gets lost in the ridiculousness that is Kardashian.

Visit redrovercompany.com/superbowl to view all of this year’s Super Bowl ads.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and managing partner of RedRover Sales & Marketing, www.redrovercompany.com, with offices in Memphis and Nashville. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).

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