Super Bowl 2015: the Best, the Worst, the Alternatives

Everyone is a Super Bowl commercial critic. And why not? We’ve all had years of experience in the commercial-watching game. Over the years we’ve had big laughs, tears and entertainment. And this year, we expected the same from those purchasing a $4.5 million spot from NBC.

What did you think? How did this year’s playbook of 56 commercials stack up?

Best of Super Bowl 2015 Commercials

As a veteran marketer and sports enthusiast, I’ll offer my thoughts on the “best of” Super Bowl XLIX commercials.

Best moment (30-second spot)


JEEP “This Land is Your Land.” When this commercial came on, a hush fell over the 12 college students who were watching the Big Game with me. It was the ONLY commercial to quiet the room – probably the only quiet moment throughout the entire Super Bowl. Beautiful photography, good branding, haunting melody, consistent with its ongoing campaign – JEEP created a very memorable moment.  The only downside, at 90-seconds it was a bit too long and would have played better at 60.

Best play (social campaign)


Doritos #CrashTheSuperBowl. The social media fury, the fans’ voting, the contest’s ninth year running, the creative consumer entries – it’s a recipe for success! According to Hastracking.com, #CrashTheSuperBowl garnered 1,500 tweets in four days with a reach of more than 16 million. During the #CrashTheSuperBowl contest, every Facebook post from Doritos’ received thousands of likes, video views and shares. In fact, Doritos’ January 22nd post received 45,585 likes, 2k comments and 5k shares. After a month of voting, “Middle Seat” emerged the big winner, and it definitely made me (and anyone who spends time on airliners) chuckle.

Best returning champion (long-time advertiser)


Budweiser Bond of Clydesdale and Pup. Budweiser Clydesdales always deliver on emotion and charm. Besides emotional value, AdAge.com reported that previous years’ Budweiser commercials did boost purchase intent. In the consumers’ minds, the Clydesdales are intrinsically linked to the brand and their stories make you feel good. For an affinity product like beer, it’s brand nostalgia. Then again, Budweiser usually buys more than one spot so can they really count on the Clydesdales to sell beer?

Best rookie (new advertiser)


Always #LikeAGirl. While I didn’t love their commercial, it did generate the most digital activity of all the Super Bowl ads. According to iSpot.tv, #LikeAGirl earned 415,000 social actions and the highest digital share of voice compared to all other commercials. P&G repackaged its 3-minute viral video (54 million organic views) into a 60-second commercial (113 million paid views) for game day. The brand’s desire is to “spark a social change that redefines the meaning of ‘like a girl.’” So far, P&G says that their market share is up and the campaign is changing perceptions on whether the phrase “like a girl” is an insult.

Comeback player of the year


Nissan #WithDad. After nearly two decades away from the Super Bowl, Nissan returned to tug at the heartstrings of dads, possibly kids and definitely racing fans with the brilliantly filmed “With Dad” 90-second spot.  Complete with Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” soundtrack (ironically Chapin lost his life in an automobile accident), the race-inspired spot had both online and charitable tentacles, as Nissan also donated $1 million to Habitat and Wounded Warriors.

Two Playbooks Marketers Don’t Want to Steal From

Carnival Corp. ran a vote-for-your-favorite-commercial and product giveaway online leading up to the game. It was a good idea for building excitement around their first Super Bowl ad. Of the four commercial choices, fans (or Carnival) picked the best one to air on game day. What sounds like a good Super Bowl strategy, actually failed. Why? The voiceover of John F. Kennedy, documentary-style filming and slow transitions made the “winning” commercial a bit boring for a Super Bowl. And they should’ve made a much bigger splash about who won the free cruise each year for life. That could’ve become post-game social gold.

GoDaddy earned some extra spotlight when they teased a commercial parodying Budweiser’s puppy. Instead of the heartwarming scene, GoDaddy’s puppy finds his way home only to be sold online. When animal lovers complained and the public was not chuckling at the twist in the story, GoDaddy said it would pull the commercial. But what’s new? GoDaddy is often placing themselves in the midst of controversy. Perhaps they did plan to tease the puppy commercial just for the extra PR, never actually planning for it to air on game day. Or maybe not. Either way, the commercial they did air during the Super Bowl certainly wasn’t as memorable (and definitely didn’t fit their brand persona . . . unless they’re trying to change it).

Smart Alternatives to Super Bowl Commercials

Most marketers don’t have the luxury of being able to squeeze a $4.5 million media buy into their budget. And when we watch the commercials, we often wonder – was it even worth it? Among 2015’s “Best of” Super Bowl Commercials, none will most likely be inducted into a Hall of Fame. And very few will help boost sales. According to research firm Communicus’ study, 80% of Super Bowl ads do not sell product or increase purchase intent.

If you’re a smart marketer looking for better investments, I love Digiday’s article “What the Cost of a Super Bowl Ad Can Buy Online.” Maybe instead of a Super Bowl commercial, you’d consider buying 50 million video views on Facebook or brand exclusivity with a YouTube star for a year. Definitely worth considering when you have $4.5 million to invest.

Let’s keep up the smart marketing. And keep on critiquing Super Bowl commercials… just for fun.