The Championship Ads of the Super Bowl

My pal Robby invited me to a super bowl party that his friend was having. “There’s going to be really good food there,” he said, “and lighting.” He had me at “good food,” but the lighting sealed the deal. Good lighting is how ladies of a certain age ensure looking like ladies of a certain younger age. And yes, I’m referring to ladies in their 30s looking like ladies in their 20s.

The food was indeed good. In fact it was great. I spent so much time around the buffet table (and bar, I confess) that the only thing I saw of the Super Bowl was the halftime show, or as we all called it “WTF was that?” Yeah, we’re not Black Eyed Peas fans.

At some point during the game, someone said, “Hey, you’re in marketing, probably all you care about in the game are the ads.” At which point I said, “Oh @#$* I forgot the ads!” Yes. I forgot about the ads. Good food (and wine) can do that to me.

So when I came home I spent a couple of hours looking at the Super Bowl ads online. Most people at the party, those who actually watched the game, my boyfriend included, liked the Go Daddy ad the best. I thought it was cute. Funny Super Bowl ads are a staple of the big game. The ones that stand out in my mind, though, are the miniature movies that are anthemic in scope. The first one that comes to mind is Apple’s famous and futuristic Super Bowl ad “1984.”

So for me, as I watched the commercials, the one that made the hair prickle on my arm and will be engrained in my mind a decade or two from now is . . . the Eminem commercial for Chrysler. Beleaguered and battered Detroit is the star, and 40 seconds in, we see the car–with Eminem behind the wheel. He drives up to what looks like a grand old palace, and walks inside. We see a choir on stage. He turns to face the camera, and with his iconic angry glare points at us and says, “This is the Motor City. This is what we do.” Now all of a sudden I love Detroit, and suddenly think of Chrysler as cool. That’s a great commercial.

A few other commercials stand out for me, too. From a copywriter’s perspective, I love the Mini Cooper “Cram it in the boot.” It really struck a chord with its double entendres and over the top gleeful writing. It left me wondering how this slipped by the sensors, but I admired the clever way they took a potential concern for the small but fierce car–space–and demonstrated in a very engaging and effective way that you can just cram it in the boot.

Then there was Bridgestone’s “Reply All” ad. This commercial works because it’s a fear we all have: writing an inappropriate response and accidentally hitting the Reply All button. The creators very cleverly managed to connect with us, in a harmless and humorous way, by our fear. If Bridgestone tires could let me tear around time snatching up computers of people I accidentally sent an email, too, then where’s my local Bridgestone retailer?

The Audi-“Release the Hounds” ad is another favorite. The satire of rich white guys was hysterical–especially that they like Kenny G. I had never really thought about it before, but I have met one or two insanely rich, old white guys who, oddly, did like Kenny G. Talk about truth in advertising. I also liked the implication. Mercedes is old-school luxury; Audi is luxury’s new face. Again, I think there is some truth in advertising there. I’ve noticed that more of my wealthy younger friends are buying Audi–not BMW, not Mercedes. Part of this could be design: Audi is doing a great job. I don’t have stats to prove it (but will look for them) but I’m guessing Audi’s research knew this ad would resonate with their base.

Next up, who let the dogs out? No seriously. For every car and potato chip ad, there was a dog. I predict that by 2020 all Super Bowl ads will star only canines, no humans. My pick of the pack was probably your favorite–it seemed to be everyone’s: Doritos–Pug Attack. A pug one-ups a smart ass. What’s not to love? Well . . . what does it really say about the brand? Not much. Audi said something about their brand, Mini addressed an issue, Bridgestone found common ground and Chrysler made us feel good about not just a company, but an industry–and a city. Doritos just made us root for a pug. That’s okay. It’s a fun ad, and it gets credit for that.

Of course, the VW Passat ad is getting a ton of buzz. Yes, it went for the “human story” angle, but, sorry, I just didn’t love it. It was too safe for my taste. The only “great” moment was the father’s very subtle and well-timed eyebrow raise. I preferred their Beetle ad–we never even saw the car, but the bug, symbolic of the newly designed 2012 Beetle, took us on its own wild, energizing ride and the tease at the end was just the perfect snippet to create anticipation of the new design.

If you want to watch all the Super Bowl ads, you can do it here. Which is your favorite?

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