Monday, February 05, 2007

Complete Thoughts on Super Bowl Ads

As always, I overestimated local journalism. Rather than post our actual thoughts, the A-J simply posted our top and bottom ads. As a moment of pride, fellow advertising professor Harsha Gangadharbatla and I both ranked the vile Snickers ad as the worst. The difference was that Harsha's picture was on the cover, while I made the jump. Pandering to diversity, I tell you (kidding).

Then I picked up USA Today to see that the Snickers ad made the top 10. It's the end of the world, people.

Since these thoughts got edited out of the A-J, here is what I thought. Feel free to pan me.

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Overall the Super Bowl ads were lackluster this year. Early reports suggested that humor was the dominant theme and that most of the ads fell short. That was the case. Several of the ads elicited a smile at best.

To me, Bud Light was the clear winner. All of their ads were funny and in keeping with their brand image. And Bud Light’s ads actually made me laugh. They had three really clever ads, and it was difficult for me not to name Bud Light ads as all of my favorites. So we will be talking about these ads Monday, and the ads might actually increase sales.

CBS was another huge winner that will not occur to most people. I counted dozens of promotions for CBS shows, many of which already top the ratings. The promotional spot with David Letterman and Oprah in Colts and Bears jerseys was among my favorite spots of the night. CBS promos were everywhere. CBS came out of the halftime show promoting 5 straight CBS programs and specials.

There is an old adage in advertising, “it isn’t creative unless it sells.” Too often Super Bowl ad producers forget this. Sure, you might have a clever idea, but if it has nothing to do with the brand, it will not affect sales. Being effective is the real goal.

The Pizza Hut ad with Jessica Simpson in the pre-game show will not top anyone’s list. But it may have been the most effective ad of the night. Just before kickoff is the perfect time to order pizza, and that ad likely both caught attention and led to sales. As an advertising professor, I like that.

Coca-Cola’s return to the Super Bowl was underwhelming. The Grand Theft Auto videogame takeoff was clever, but it’s been circulating on for weeks. So for much of the target audience, the GTA Coke ad was stale.

Ford also underwhelmed me. In truth, the locally placed Ford ad promoting Texas patriotism was the best automotive ad that I saw tonight. And this cost Ford far less than $2.6 million.

There were several contests this year inviting the audience to submit ads. I think this “category” was won by the Chevrolet HHR car wash ad created by University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee student Katie Crabb.

Both academic research and sales data show that sex for sex’s sake does not sell (e.g., Paris Hilton for Carl's Jr.). fell short to me. Although sex ties back to the name, it has nothing to do with the company’s business.

Conversely, beer, Coca-Cola, and snacks are exactly what the Super Bowl is about. That’s why these products are a natural tie in.

I awoke to these words this morning from my dad and advertising industry executive, Sam Bradley version 2.0:

"I didn't see a single commercial that made we want to remember to try their product. I thought a couple were entertaining -- not brilliantly so."

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