The greatest sporting event in the entire world (or at least in the US) – Super Bowl – has come and gone.
The game, on which New England’s Patriots won against Seattle’s Seahawks, attracted more than 110 million viewers and apparently broke the all time viewership record in the United States – and that’s already insane.
What is even more insane, is that in order to get in front of such a massive audience, you have to pay a massive amount money, or about $4,500,000 for a 30 second-long commercial – yes, that’s a heck loads of money, but for a lot of eyes and attention too.
And even if I have very little interest in the game itself (hey, we play real football with our feet in this part of the world, and we’re just way too passionate about basketball than anything else in Lithuania), Super Bowl is one of the most exciting advertising events, ever – and it’s definitely worth studying.
Naturally you might think that if companies were willing to pay at least $4.5 mln. for something that’s only 30 seconds long, they’d surely make some mind-blowing ads, right?
I went through all the Super Bowl 2015 ads and was not impressed. Although there were some great advertisements, there were also too many terrible ones, so I decided to create my own awards list and announce the winners and losers, best commercials and worst ones of this year – let’s have a look!
The Best Commercials:
Let’s start by recognising those ads that I think did a really good job.
The Biggest Awwwww:
There was just no way we could survive the Super Bowl without seeing any kitties or puppies. Similarly to what Budweiser delivered in 2014, their 2015 ad was a heart-warming story about the friendship of a small puppy and a horse:
I’m really tired of seeing puppies in all the ads, but hey – Budweiser deserves the credit for telling such a beautiful story.
So the first award for the “Biggest Awwwww” goes to Budweiser!
The Best Dad:
Three brands competed for the “Best Dad” award this year and, surprisingly, two of them are car makers: Nissan and Toyota. (The third brand is Dove but I’m giving them a different award already – on that in just a second).
Although Nissan did a good job with their ad, I feel Toyota was much better at telling the story about the joys and struggles of fatherhood, both visually and verbally, which is why they receive the “Best Dad” award.
However, I also found the patriotic card they threw in (the daughter leaving on a military mission) rather cheap. Sure, it will probably evoke even stronger emotions among the Americans (and that’s fine, because they are the real target audience – not I, right?) but it’s still a cheap effort by Toyota.
Seriously, why the army? What does Toyota have to do with it? Why not a police officer or someone else that can be equally called a “wonderful human being”?
I’m waiting for a different answer than ‘to woo American soldiers, veterans and their families into buying a Japanese car’.
The Attention Grabber:
Two ads, one by Budweiser and another by Weight Watchers, stood out from the rest. Both grabbed my attention from the first seconds by using short but strong video cuts to tell their stories:
I don’t know what about you, but I was captivated by the Weight Watchers’ ad.
The speed at which the story goes from showing innocent food images to disturbing ones, the ad copy, the reverse psychology, that simple ‘Right?’ at the very end… this ad did a brilliant job at evoking uncertainty in me about how I eat, making me more vulnerable to what they have to offer.
The award for the “Attention Grabber”, thus, goes to Weight Watchers!
The only thing that I missed, is a concrete call-to-action at the end of the ad – something as ‘Take back control. Get help with the hard part at Weight Watchers.’, so that people are actually taking an action, not just thinking about it. Maybe that’s just me.
The Act of Kindness:
Both McDonald’s and American Family Insurance, AmFam, played the ‘our brand is sooo kind’ card, but one delivered better than the other:
While McDonald’s is trying to show itself as a brand that rewards kindness, they reveal that the sole purpose of the ad is to get more people come through the doors up to the Valentine’s Day. I’m sure many people will find it sweet to be able to pay for a burger with a hug, but it’s a lazy effort to make more sales, wouldn’t you agree?
AmFam’s ad, on the contrary, makes their participants the real stars: a few million dollars were already spent to make their dreams come true. There’s also barely promotion of AmFam’s services, instead, the focus is on helping other people realise their dreams.
I think it speaks more about their values, so the “Act of Kindness” award goes to American Family Insurance.
The Killer Consistency:
This one is short – Coca-Cola truly deserves an award for keeping their ads brilliant, and doing it so consistently.
For the past few years they’ve been working really hard on the ‘Creating Happiness’ theme, and I think they’re delivering on it beautifully. This year’s ad also hooks you up from the very beginning and turns negative things, something we can all relate to, into a very positive story – great stuff.
The Much More Than Just an Ad:
There are some ads that are trying to be funny and entertaining, but there’s just no depth in them.
And then there are ads like this one made by Always:
This ad had a real purpose, and it’s much, much bigger than just getting more sales or raising brand awareness – they’re taking on the challenge of changing stereotypes.
The delivery couldn’t be any simpler, but that just makes their point so much more powerful too – great job, Always, and congratulations with the “Much More Than Just and Ad” award.
The Strongest Ad:
And my most favourite commercial of this year’s Superbowl is the NO MORE ad, which in less than 30 seconds makes a really strong statement about domestic violence.
I think the way they chose to bring attention to this problem is absolutely brilliant: it starts almost as a joke, but after just a few seconds you start realising the grim reality of women that experience violence at home and live in constant fear:
Other Worthy Mentions:
Although there won’t be an award from my side, I think these ads are also fun:
I especially commend Snickers for keeping their communication on “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry” so consistent and entertaining.
And now that we’ve looked at some of the best Super Bowl commercials of 2015, lets recognise the worst ones too…
The Worst Commercials:
The What the F… Did I Just See:
Loctite Glue, a first-time Super Bowl advertiser, is probably a company no-one really heard of before the game.
But this year people will talk about them for two reason: 1) they ran an ad on Super Bowl with a clear hope to get it viral, and 2) they blew their entire annual ad budget on it.
Was it worth it?
If you’d ask me, I’d say NO. But then again, their selling glue to anyone really, so they could win a lot by just getting in front of the 1/5th of the population in the US.
If they’re not coming back in 2016 with another ad, I just hope it’s not because they went bankrupt after spending all this money for nothing.
The It’s Getting Old:
There are two nominees for this award: Dodge and Clash of Clans – both involved something old, but for different reasons.
As Dodge is celebrating their 100th anniversary, they asked a number of 100+ year olds to share wisdom on how to live a great life. And actually, I quite liked the way they delivered the ad, kudos to them.
Clash of Titans, on the other hand, got Liam Neeson to deliver the too well-known revenge speech to someone he just lost a game to:
I have nothing against Liam, and the video’s already been seen more than 18 million times on YouTube at the time of writing this article, but come oooon – it’s been 7 years since Taken was released, maybe it’s time to move on and find something newer?
So the “It’s Getting Old” award for lacking imagination goes to Clash of Clans.
The (Un)deserved Hate:
Clearly one of the most talked-about ads this year is the Make Safe Happen by Nationwide Insurance – just not in a very positive way.
Although the ad is powerful and well done, it received a huge backlash from the audience – after all, it’s a story about a child who won’t realise his dreams because… he died:
As one person put in on YouTube: “I would have appreciated the intent of this commercial if Nationwide had not taken the decision to show this during the Superbowl. This is a gut punch to anyone who has suffered a recent (or past) loss.” – and I think it’s a great comment.
Nationwide made a mistake of not thinking enough about the context of the event – millions of people are watching the Super Bowl because they are looking for entertainment, not for saddening stories about dead children.
By ignoring this simple fact, Nationwide disappointed the audience and, thus, receives the award for the “(Un)deserved Hate”.
The Dirty Boobs Seller:
As every year, there had to be someone playing the sexy girls with big boobs card. This year it was Carl’s Jr. and Victoria’s Secret.
It is very, very cheap to use girls with barely any clothing to sell your burgers, Carl’s Jr. – I don’t have any respect for that.
On the other hand, I think Victoria’s Secret ad deserves kudos – they are selling lingerie after all, and they did a beautiful job of doing exactly that for the righer(er) reasons.
The “Dirty Boobs Seller” award, hence, goes to Carl’s Jr. for using women’s body to sell completely unrelated products.
The Furthest Stretch:
I mentioned above that at least three brands competed for the “Best Dad” award, Nissan, Toyota and Dove, or at least tried to – I watched Dove’s effort and was left confused:
I love all the mini stories about fathers taking care of their children, but I wish it ended there…
Trying to convince us that using Dove’s men+care products somehow results in caring about others and being a great dad is the furthest stretch ever.
Dove products will not make a man stronger, and they will not help men become more caring or loving of their children – thinking otherwise is ridiculous and deserves the “Furthest Stretch” award.
The Biggest Bollocks:
I named it the “Biggest Absurd” award at first, but the “Biggest Bollocks” fits even better: the single nominee is Newcastle Brown Ale – the, apparently, “No Bollocks” brand.
Sure, you can tell us everything about how “No Bollocks” you are, but a Super Bowl ad that tries to fit in as much as 37 brands into a 60 seconds long commercial is nothing but the most absurd, non-sensical idea – real bollocks:
“Equally Bad” Mentions:
The list is even longer with these, but we have to stop somewhere..
- Halftime Touches Down by Pepsi – gosh, a flying stadium that sucked up a few cans of Pepsi, a guitar and a blue wig should be exciting?
- Newfangled Idea by BMW – not sure how this got approved by BMW. Seriously, instead of showing electric cars as a cool and luxurious thing, the ad is portraying their drivers as some stupid people – would any potential i3 buyers want to be associated with them? It also creates an impression that the cars don’t deserve any serious attention – is that your idea about getting them more popular?
- Avocados from Mexico – the process of drafting an avocado ‘about for billion years ago’. Enough said.
- Make Some Noise by Lexus – easily forgotten, nothing unexpected or attention grabbing.
- KimsDataStach by T-Mobile – similarly to BMW, T-Mobile’s ad is using the irony to tell that the people who use their services are all obsessed with Kim Kardashian and are… kind of stupid – if I was a T-Mobile client, I’d already be gone. The fact that almost 60% of feedback on YouTube are dislikes, must say something too.
Aaand there you have it! That’s the complete list of the best and the words ads of the Super Bowl.
Although there are many more, I think they’re not as worthy to be mentioned – they’re either decent, or ok, but nothing exceptional.
To finish off, I want to share with you three tips that I truly believe will make your advertising much better:
- Know your context – it’s absolutely crucial you start by evaluating the environment in which your content will be seen. Think about the audience’s expectations for the content and analyse what are the rules for each of the channels, traditional media or social networks. This year Nationwide burnt really bad by not taking the context into account.
- Think about perceptions – so many brands failed at this. It looked like the majority of the brands had little idea about who they’re actually targeting, and how that audience would perceive the ad. Otherwise, they wouldn’t go around insulting the same people they want to turn into clients, would they? If you want to drive people closer, not further from your brand, be laser-specific when defining your target audience and think about how they will perceive your ad.
- Learn storytelling – my all time favourite ads are those that tell a great story. Some use images or words, others – both, but they all tell stories. And if you really want to evoke a lasting emotion among your audience, you need to tell stories too. It’s time you started learning how to do it properly. Period.
That’s it! Easy, right? 🙂
If you wanted to watch all the Super Bowl ads of 2015, feel free to do so:
Thanks and take care!