Super Bowl Ads: The Good, the Average and the Lame

Are you one of the millions who watched the Super Bowl just to see the commercials?  If so, on behalf of the advertising industry, please accept my apologies.

I’ve been watching Super Bowl games and the accompanying ads since before Mean Joe Greene tossed his Steelers jersey to a kid to get his Coke back.  I’ve seen Apple launch the Mac, frogs ribbet Budweiser, Cindy Crawford make a can of Pepsi sexy, and babies make day trading interesting.

As Super Bowl games go, Sunday night was a classic.  As Super Bowl ads go, it was a bust.

OK, sure, they weren’t all bad.  But as a group, they struggled to be considered even average.  Maybe my expectations are too high, but at more than $3.5 million dollars a spot (that’s more than $100,000 per second), I think high expectations are warranted.

Just for fun, here are my highs and lows of this year’s spots.  I’m not basing this on strategic effectiveness or campaign integration (as some campaigns did a great job of online/offline integration).  I’m just watching ads as if I were the brand’s CEO hosting a party with a house full of guests looking for ads that are unique, memorable, ownable and interesting.

Ads predicted to make the all-time Super Bowl reel…

None.  In fact, not even close.

Taco Bell - Super Bowl commercial 2013

From my make-believe CEO chair, I would say…

Congratulations Marketing Manager, you are moving to a corner office and adding VP to your title:

  • Dodge Ram’s Paul Harvey and the American farmer
  • Taco Bell’s retirees enjoy a night on the town
  • Budweiser’s Clydesdale (featuring a foal born January 16 and filmed on the 22nd)

Nice work. Go ahead and start working on next year’s spot:

  • Coca-Cola’s security cameras “Give a Little Bit”
  • E-trade baby finding a way to use his money
  • Jeep’s welcome home to the troops
  • McDonald’s congratulations on becoming an All-American

About three dozen spots are in the middle, somewhere between above- and below-average.  Several were decent ads and many contained a chuckle (Audi, Doritos, Samsung, VW).  But I would struggle to figure out how any are worth $4 million.

And then there are the busts.

Please get the agency RFP ready:

  • Budweiser Black Crown (I’m sure the beer will do fine, but no thanks to the ads.)
  • Beck’s Sapphire with a black fish (beer for Sushi, or what??)
  • Hyundai Turbo (proving that just because they can make cars doesn’t mean they can make commercials.)
  • Lincoln MKZ (no, it’s not your father’s Lincoln, but he’d probably like this commercial.)
  • Toyota Camry (proving their ads can be as vanilla as their cars.)
  • Kia Forte (OK, I’ll “respect the Tech” but not the ad.)
  • Blackberry Z10 (If this is supposed to save the brand, bet the under)

Don’t forget to leave a forwarding address with HR:

  • Bridgestone NFLPA spot (Was this a promo, an intro, an ad or a mistake?)
  • Century 21 spots.  All of them.  Most notably the husband choking on the hot dog. (The Realtor decided to go big or go home . . . please lock the door behind you.)

And the best thing about Super Bowls –whether you watch for the football or the ads—there’s always next year!