Monday morning, after the Super Bowl and there is lots of arm chair quarterbacking going on. Was it right to pass or run for a given play? Did the refs make the right call?

But I am a marketing geek, and so the question and conversations which are much more interesting to me revolve around whether companies made the right play with their Super Bowl ads.  There was the usual collection of well known brands, famous people, fewer animals than usual, and as always some fun, laugh out loud moments.

As a digital marketing firm we won’t be producing any ads like this any time soon.  The multi-million dollar price tag doesn’t make sense for our small business clients, but there are lots of valuable lessons  for companies of all sizes.

With 30 second spots selling for a record-breaking $5 million there is a lot riding on every single ad.They have to break through the clutter, stop conversation at Super Bowl parties and be memorable for more than a moment.  So who scored big, and who fumbled on the five yard line?

Best Celebrity Impersonation by a Celebrity

Who knew, Willem Dafoe had great legs? In this funny twist on their long running theme, Snickers delivers a delicious interruption to the game.

What this ad does well:

  • Start with familiar images – 30 seconds is not a long time to tell a story. By relying on familiar images, the legs and billowing white skirt, they grab your attention
  • Surprise Twist – As the camera starts to pan up you realize this isn’t what you thought.
  • Visually Interesting – I love the visual transition from Dafoe to Marilyn.  With the Snickers in her hand you almost believe she is there.
  • The little extra – Just as they did in last year’s ad, after they have made the point there is a little extra humor with a cameo by Eugene Levy

Best Attention Grabbing Public Service Announcement.

Last year I thought all the public service messages were sappy and heavy handed. The perfect excuse to go refill my drink or grab a snack.

Budweiser did not make that mistake this year. The spot features a classy, sharp tongued Helen Mirren speaking her mind on the subject of drunk driving

What this ad does well:

  • Unexpected spokesperson – Let’s face it, on a list of people most likely to drink a Budweiser, you wouldn’t necessarily put the name Helen Mirren.
  • Break through messaging – Helen’s voice silences a room, commands respect, and makes you pay attention, kind of like your mom telling you to sit up and take your elbows off the table.
  • Keeps the audience in mind – The spokesperson is unlikely, but the dialogue which is full of insults you expect from a frat boy fits right in with the party atmosphere of Super Bowl Sunday.
  • Let’s have fun –  The ad closes on a high note, given you permission to have another beer.

Best Loving Tribute – Pokémon

Less of an advertisement and more of a tribute, Pokémon kicks off a one year celebration, marking their 20 year anniversary. (I have to admit I was predisposed to like the ad, since former Roundpeg alumni, Jay Mattingly was on the team which developed the ad.)  

What this ad does well:

  • Visually stunning – They clearly went all out, shooting on location, making you feel as if you are traveling with the young heroes
  • Empowering message –  There is strength in the whispered “I can do that” as it is repeated over and over throughout the ad. The subtle shift in the last frames to a father telling his son, he can do that is a clever way to remind many young parents who grew up with Pokémon to pass it on to their children.
  • Early release – This ad kicks off a year long campaign, so the early release helped build buzz before the ad actually ran on Super Bowl Sunday.  Fans even knew exactly when it would run during the game so they could share the moment with friends

Best Animal in a Food Commercial

Smart, funny and sweet animals are a Super Bowl tradition.  This year, my favorite spot was definitely the Heinz commercial.  How can you resist weiner dogs wearing hot dog buns? Ok, maybe it is because we like to dress animals up in funny costumes at Roundpeg. Either way if you missed it, this one will put a smile on your face.


So those where some of my favorites, what were yours?