Watch the Top Five Super Bowl Commercials from the past fifteen years (yes, Feb. 3 marks the 16th anniversary of our coverage of your favorite Super Bowl Commercials – SuperBowl-ads.com)
Watch the Top Five Super Bowl Commercials from the past fifteen years (yes, Feb. 3 marks the 16th anniversary of our coverage of your favorite Super Bowl Commercials – SuperBowl-ads.com)
This was the eighth Super Bowl of the 21st century, but if you were only paying attention to the commercials, you might have thought it was the 1970s, ’80s or ’90s.
It wasn’t just older themes that played during the between-plays breaks in Super Bowl XLII, such as Budweiser’s Dalmatians and Clydesdales, which have been commercial stars during the big game for decades. Sunday’s Super Bowl ads also referred to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the Andrea True disco song “More, More, More” and the “Saturday Night Live” skit that led to the 1998 movie “A Night at the Roxbury.” And that was just in the first half.
Nostalgia was definitely the way to go for many of the top advertising agencies that handled the multimillion-dollar accounts for Super Bowl regulars such as Anheuser-Busch, Coke and Pepsi – and newcomers including Tide. But it was also part of a general theme of playing it safe that was pervasive this year. After Janet Jackson’s exposed nipple shocked the world in 2004 and Budweiser featured a chainsaw-wielding madman in 2007, this year’s ads were almost all fun and fit for the family.
“Less brave. No risk,” wrote Publicis US advertising executive Bob Moore, who was live blogging on SuperAdFreak.com. “More talking animals.”
As for the quality, it was a decent year, with several memorable ads and only a couple of catastrophes, including some Chinese stereotype pandas for a Salesgenie.com commercial that seems most likely to result in the first Super Bowl ad apology of the season. (Or maybe not. A Salesgenie exec boasted that his commercials were intentionally bad. In this game, some companies want negative attention.)
Around the blogosphere, the public seemed to be split, with many of the armchair critics acting underwhelmed with the output – while several experts who write about the advertising world suggested it was a pretty good year.
Standouts included a nostalgia-saturated Coke commercial, where giant parade balloons of Underdog and “Family Guy” baby Stewie duke it out over New York for an inflatable bottle of Coke, before it gets swiped by a Charlie Brown balloon. (The special effects were seamless – and after losing the football all those years, it was cathartic to see Chuck come out ahead.) A Tide ad with a talking stain was short, cute and memorable, as was Justin Timberlake getting dragged all over the city for Diet Pepsi Max.
But while the critics like style, the masses often go for the lowest common denominator. Planters Nuts will likely have a fan favorite with its commercial that focuses on a homely girl with a unibrow – who uses cashews as a perfume. And for the second time in four years, a Bud Light advertisement ended with a guy’s date getting torched by fire. At least this time the culprit wasn’t a flatulent horse.
This was also the year for late finishers, which seemed at times to match the thrilling come-from-behind 17-14 victory by the New York Giants. The Coke parade-balloons commercial came at the start of the fourth quarter, which is often a dumping ground for advertisements. And Amp energy drink may have stolen the show with a shirtless overweight guy who hooks up battery cables to his nipples and jump-starts a truck.
That was arguably the raciest ad of the afternoon, and even it had an element of nostalgia – with the Amp guy dancing to the 1986 Salt-n-Pepa song “Push It.” Other music from the past included the 1979 song “Escape (The Pina Colada song)” and “Thriller” from 1984, which featured lizards mimicking the choreography from that song’s video. (Which would have been a hit if we hadn’t all seen the same idea executed better in last year’s viral YouTube video of prisoners in the Philippines doing the same dance.)
The songs weren’t the only blasts from the past. Among the older movies that inspired ads were “The Godfather” for Audi – complete with a cameo by actor Alex Rocco, who played Moe Greene in the movie – and the “Night at the Roxbury” skit for Pepsi, with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo by original head-bobber Chris Kattan. There were also a couple of talking baby ads, which seemed left over from the Baby Bob commercials from the dotcom era.
On the SFGate Culture Blog, where readers were commenting on a live blog of the advertisements, opinions of the quality of the 2008 ads seemed split between good and bad, sometimes in the same post.
“I agree Salesgenie ads were shameful and the baby ads were creepy beyond belief,” posted one viewer. “Can’t believe so much money was wasted. The pigeon ad and Pepsi max bopping heads were funny though.”
And with the game remaining interesting until the final seconds, for once the advertisements didn’t even have a chance of stealing the show.
“Wow,” wrote another poster. “For the first time in many years the game is more interesting than the commercials!”
– To read comments about the Super Bowl commercials, go to the Culture Blog at sfgate.com.
The memorable and the squirm-inducing
Three best ads
1. Coke parade balloons: Three cartoon character parade balloons float over New York and fight it out for a bottle of Coke, with Charlie Brown coming out ahead. The visuals were great, it was very sweet and people will remember the product.
2. FedEx pigeons: The competition still delivers packages with carrier pigeons, including some that have Terminator-style cyborg eyesight (yet another 1980s reference) and other giant ones that can throw a car through a window. Very funny and clever.
3. Tide “My Talking Stain”: A job applicant gives his credentials, but all the interviewer can focus on is the gibberish-talking stain on his shirt. This was Tide’s first ad and it hit it out of the park, with something understated and memorable that tied in well to the brand.
Three worst ads
1. Salesgenie.com talking panda: A cartoon panda speaks in a Chinese accent that even Rosie O’Donnell would find offensive – which apparently was all part of the plan to prove that bad publicity is better than none.
2. GoDaddy.com Danica Patrick: GoDaddy once again plays the “we’re-so-controversial-we-got-banned” card, directing viewers to its Web site to see the company’s rejected ad. That commercial is very lame, adding little to the “beaver” joke from “The Naked Gun” while failing in its tease to show Patrick in something skimpy.
3. Doritos “Message from Your Heart”: If we wanted to see some singer we’ve never heard of playing an acoustic guitar, we’d skip the Super Bowl and go to a local coffee shop. Doritos is generally solid, but this was a miss.
- Peter Hartlaub
To see all the Super Bowl ads: www.myspace.com/superbowlads
To read what other viewers had to say about the Super Bowl commercials, go to the Culture Blog on www.sfgate.com
Ranking Super Bowl ads
BEST: Coca-Cola’s commercial featured a tussle between cartoon character balloons.
WORST: Salesgenie.com’s Chinese stereotype pandas should prompt an apology.
Ali Landry’s 1999 Doritos spot had just the right crunch.
The 1973 Super Bowl has become a frequent point of reference this year because Super Bowl VII, played Jan. 14 at Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, was the game in which the Miami Dolphins became the first team in modern pro football history to finish a season undefeated.
Their 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins, despite placekicker Garo Yepremian throwing the worst pass in Super Bowl History, gave them a 17-0 record – the record being challenged Sunday by the New England Patriots, who would with a victory over the Giants finish 19-0.
But the 1973 Super Bowl also marked another historic milestone: the commercial that many feel planted the seed for what Super Bowl ads have become today.
Today, with ad time tagged at $2.7 million for 30 seconds, the Super Bowl telecast has become the world’s premiere showcase for new television advertisements.
But that mystique didn’t come from nowhere. It came, at least in large part, from the 1973 Noxzema commercial in which Joe Namath, then still an NFL star, had his face lathered with shaving cream by Farrah Fawcett, then still a TV star.
Sounds simple enough. But then, simple is good in advertisements, when you have 30 seconds to establish your characters and your storyline and sell your product.
So over those ensuing XXXV years, what have been the best ads? That’s not quite as hard a call as it might sound because while many among those hundreds of ads have been good, only a handful have been great. (See some of the classics below.)
Before we get to our list, though, it’s worth explaining why a few well-remembered ads didn’t make our list.
The multi-year series of “Bud Bowl” spots aren’t here because in the end, the idea was better than the execution.
And the 2002 Clydesdale “Tribute” spot, in which the famous team of Budweiser horses stops across from Lower Manhattan to genuflect, isn’t here because putting it on a list with spots that are built on jokes feels like trivializing it.
So here’s our list, in no particular order – and at the end, we’d love to hear yours.
1. “1984″ (Apple, 1984). It’s not only the ad biz that still talks about this ad, wherein a lone runner with a sledgehammer declared the era of the IBM computer monolith over and a new era of personal computer freedom about to begin. Perhaps ironically, Apple’s own Mac computer is still a niche product. But the rest of the message was prophetic.
2. Ali Landry, Doritos (1998). Every filmmaker should study this ad for a lesson in how to make maximum use of 30 seconds. Landry and her Doritos walk through a crowded room and radiate such heat the sprinkler system is set off. So, by the way, was Landry’s career.
3. “Monks” (Xerox, 1977). Brother Dominic, faced with a lifetime of painstaking hand transcription, slips over to a Xerox machine and gets his copies in minutes. His superior declares it a “miracle.” Note to the easily offended: This is how you made a religion joke without joking about religion.
4. The Bud Lizards. (Budweiser, 1997) The Bud Lizards grew out of the Bud Frogs, who first croaked “Bud . . . wei … ser” in 1995. Personally, I always thought the frogs were a little flat and that the storyline didn’t take off until Frankie and Louie the lizards joined the game a couple of years later.
5. “Hitchhiker” (Bud Light, 2007). Bud’s done a lot of clever spots, and others that try too hard. This one gets funnier every time – the guy who picks up a hitchhiker with an ax and a demented gleam in his eye because the guy has Bud Light. A little way down the road, he stops for another guy with a chain saw because he also has Bud Light. What clinches the ad’s greatness is that when he stops for chain saw guy, even ax guy is worried.
6. “The Showdown” (McDonald’s, 1993). This is the one where Larry Bird and Michael Jordan play a game of H-O-R-S-E, trading increasingly preposterous shots that all end with “nothing but net.” No ad, and not a lot of other stories in any medium, have captured so vividly the joy, beauty and subtext of sports. I’d personally argue this is the best ad ever.
7. “Clydesdales Play Ball” (Budweiser, 1996). The horses break into two football teams and one kicks an extra point. A guy standing at the fence watching asks the guy next to him if he’s surprised. Sure, says the second guy. “They usually go for two.”
8. “When I Grow Up” (Monster.com, 1999). A bunch of kids saying that when they grow up, they want to be, like, a mindless corporate tool. Sarcasm is risky in ads, but in this one it makes the point. It makes a lot of points.
9. “Bad Cheetah” (Mountain Dew, 2000). Guy on a bicycle runs down a cheetah that has swallowed his Mountain Dew. Mountain Dew has a whole strong series with this theme, and this one may be the best.
10. “Security Camera” (Pepsi, 1996). A lot of people remember other Pepsi spots, like the 1987 “Apartment 10G” spot where Michael J. Fox goes into battle to get a cute girl her Pepsi. But I like this one, where the Coke deliveryman tries to surreptitiously grab himself a Pepsi from the Pepsi case and a hundred cans spill out on the floor. I like it because, among other things, no other ad has ever used music better, or more reverently. The only audio here is 30 seconds of Hank Williams‘ “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”
Anheuser-Busch spent about $2.7M a pop on nine ads in this year’s Super Bowl – with seven of the spots devoted to Bud Light.The lineups are just about set for Super Bowl Sunday – not on the field, but for the glitzy, star-studded TV commercials that will cost close to $3 million apiece.
“The advertisers this year have learned how to do it,” says Walter Guarino, advertising professor at Seton Hall University. “They’ll keep it light and humorous, and I think it will be a real good year.”
Like Eli Manning and Tom Brady on the field, Super Bowl legend Justin Timberlake will lead a team of stars through 63 ad spots with an airtime tab that will run about $175 million.
As of Tuesday, Fox said it had one 30-second spot remaining for the telecast.
Neal Pilson, head of the consulting firm Pilson Communications, said the spot could sell for more than $3 million, topping the $2.7 million advertisers paid for most of the others.
The bonus, he said, comes from an attractive on-field matchup that should draw more than last year’s 93.15 million viewers.
Timberlake, whose 2004 Super Bowl dance with Janet Jackson produced the “wardrobe malfunction” that has chilled broadcast content ever since, will star in a Pepsi spot this year – as will Pepsi’s 60-foot “Gift Monster.”
Pepsi will be joined on the telecast by rival Coca-Cola for the first time since 1998.
Pepsi also will promote its new Gatorade G2 drink with Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade and Yankees captain Derek Jeter, while Frito-Lay’s Doritos hopes it’s rolling out a future star in the winner of its national band competition.
Unilever, one of the few advertisers targeting women, is going for maximum established star power by packing Madonna, Shakira and the late Marilyn Monroe into a 30-second spot for Sunsilk.
The biggest advertiser, as usual, will be Anheuser-Busch, which is drawing great pregame buzz for the spot in which a plucky horse named Hank chases his life-long dream of making the Budweiser Clydesdale team.
Bud Light will get seven of Anheuser-Busch’s nine spots, which Guarino says bodes well for this year’s Super Bowl ads in general.
“Bud Light spots have been really funny,” he says. “And that’s the right idea.”
For the wrong idea, he points to careerbuilder.com, which was praised in 2005 and 2006 for spots in which a man was stuck in an office full of monkeys, then roasted in 2007 for spots where office workers fought each other.
Careerbuilder fired its ad agency right after last year’s Super Bowl, which illustrates how critical this game is in the ad biz.
“It’s the most important showcase,” Guarino says. “You can debate whether it’s worth $2.7 million for one spot, but even if you could spread that money over other shows and get as many viewers, you won’t find anything else where 98% of the audience actually watches the ads.”
At least one ad this year is unlikely to be light. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has signed on again and is expected to deliver its usual somber warning that not all fun is good fun.
The best years for spots are ones where economy, country is thriving
Strong economic times can result in a bounty of good Super Bowl ads. Janet Jackson’s exposed breast is a Super Bowl commercial killer. And venture capitalist money equals offbeat and funny — at least when it comes to the memorable dot-com advertisements of the late 1990s and 2000.
That was arguably the best era for Super Bowl ads, but there were other boom times as well — which, coincidence or not, often seem to come when confidence in the economy is rising. The landmark Apple “1984” commercial highlighted one of the best Super Bowls for ad-watchers, and the Reaganomics-fueled years that followed were stocked with plenty of clever spots as well.
There’s no formula to determine for sure whether this year’s Super Bowl ads will be hilarious or horrible. But if you look at what’s going on in the country right now, you might get at least part of your answer.
“Every year it really does mirror the biggest trends that year — what’s happening in the economy and what’s happening in the culture,” said Barbara Lippert, an Adweek advertising critic. “(During) one of the years that seemed to be a recession year in the 1990s, there were suddenly lots of commercials about home offices. Staples and others joined the pack, because suddenly everyone was a consultant from home.”
In terms of quality, history shows that morally and socially cautious times seem to be bad for viewers. Arguably the worst ads in recent years came during Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, the year following Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.” Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, the year after the Sept. 11 attacks, was also forgettable — except for a spot where the Budweiser Clydesdales knelt down facing the empty space where the Twin Towers stood.
The first dotcom boom was anything but cautious, and the results were creative, often self-deprecating (the E*Trade “Well we just wasted $2 million bucks. What are you doing with your money” ad) and occasionally very funny.
“There were a couple of years there — 1998, 1999 and 2000 — where the landscape of ads were unlike any we have ever seen before, or have seen since,” said Steve Hall, an advertising and marketing veteran who founded Adrants.com. “You had advertisers like Cisco and other high technology companies that you would never imagine would spend that kind of money. You had advertisers on there who no longer exist.”
Below are arguably the five best years for Super Bowl ads — based on popularity of the advertisements with audiences, not the success of the companies that paid for them.
5. The year: 1984
Highlights include: Apple “1984”; McDonalds “Meat N’ Potatoes”
The breakdown: Employment numbers were finally on the rise again, and so was the quality of these ads. Viewers remember the Ridley Scott-directed “1984” ad for the Apple MacIntosh, but there were other fun entries — including a couple of clever McDonald’s ads plus an always reliable Master Lock bullet spot. Celebrity appearances were particularly interesting this year, with Bill Bixby shilling for Radio Shack and Alan Alda selling game consoles for Atari.
4. The year 1999
Highlights include: Monster.com “When I Grow Up”; Budweiser “Dalmatians Separated at Birth”
The breakdown: As the dotcom money started pouring in, Monster.com’s hilarious kid-themed spot (“When I grow up, I want to be forced into early retirement …”) made everyone forget bad entries by HotJobs and Buy.com. Anheuser Busch also had one of its best years, featuring a doomed lobster that holds a bottle of Bud Light hostage and a simple-yet-effective checkout aisle spot featuring two slackers who have to choose between toilet paper and a six-pack. The Victoria Secret Web-only fashion show was a success of sorts — the site crashed because of too much traffic.
3. The year: 1995
Highlights include: Budweiser “Frogs”; Pepsi “Diner”; Pepsi “Sucked In”
The breakdown: The “Bud … wise … errrrr” frog ads were the audience favorite in this solid lineup from the heart of the Clinton era. But there were other successes as well, including a clever Doritos spot playing off Texas Gov. Ann Richards and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s political differences (“Mmmm. These are so good, I think I’ll eat them liberally”). Pepsi had a great lineup, with a Pepsi and Coke distributor who try to find peace in a diner, a boy who gets sucked into a Pepsi bottle and a clever spot with a frustrating vending machine bill changer.
2. The year: 2003
Highlights include: Reebok “Terry Tate Office Linebacker”; FedEx “Castaway”; Budweiser “Horse Football Instant Replay.”
The breakdown: A year and a half removed from the Sept. 11 attacks and a year before the “Nipplegate” fiasco, advertisers were having fun again. “Terry Tate Office Linebacker” and the FedEx lampoon of the Tom Hanks film “Castaway” got the biggest laughs, and there were many effective celebrity ads – including Willie Nelson for H&R Block, a surprisingly humorous Yao Ming for Visa and several increasingly funny Pepsi Twist spots with Ozzy Osbourne and his family – who move in next to the Osmonds.
1. The year: 2000
Highlights include: EDS “Cat Herders”; E*Trade “Wasted $2 Million”; Mountain Dew “Bad Cheetah”
The breakdown: Irrational exuberance has its advantages. Emboldened by the success of Monster.com’s 1999 ad, more than 15 dot-commers participated – and they were willing to go places that traditional Super Bowl ad powerhouses such as Budweiser and Pepsi would never venture. E*Trade’s famous “We just wasted $2 million bucks …” ad was a keeper, but even the bad ones this year were pretty interesting. (Remember that trippy Pets.com hand puppet-themed “If You Leave Me Now” spot?) “Cat Herders” from EDS was another classic.
Article updated for 2008 msnbc.msn.com
Thirty-four years ago this month, Farrah Fawcett sensuously applied Noxzema to Joe Namath’s manly chin — touching off an escalating arms race of expensive Super Bowl commercials that have frequently been more entertaining than the games.
Last year, advertisers weren’t shy about spending $2.5 million on a 30-second commercial, but only the Budweiser “Magic Fridge” commercial came within striking distance of our Top 10 list.
Below are the best Super Bowl commercials of all time, the keys to their success and the prospects of the company after the spot aired. As you can see, just because people are still talking about an ad more than 20 years later doesn’t mean the product changed the world:
10. Budweiser “Frogs” (1995):
Three frogs, perched on a log outside a bar, croaking, “Bud … Weis … Errrrrr.”
What worked: The fact that Budweiser milks every commercial concept to death – does anyone doubt there will be a “Magic Fridge 2” this year? — makes it easy to forget how cool this ad was when you first heard it. The buildup was great, with an oddly infectious catchphrase.
The results: For better or worse, the frog ads and the spin-off lizard commercials made Budweiser — which was starting to become an old-guy drink — cool again for younger partiers.
9. Xerox “Monks” (1977): Faced with a hopelessly mundane copying job, Brother Dominic puts down his quill pen and turns to a Xerox 9200 duplicating system.
What worked: “Monks” seems a bit dated now, like watching NBA video from the early 1950s. But this was the George Mikan of early Super Bowl commercials, with a narrative style and series of punch lines that set the pioneering tone for hundreds of ads that followed.
The results: The promise to reproduce documents “at an incredible two pages per second” may not seem impressive now, but Xerox is now used as both a noun and a verb – the definition of a successful brand.
8. Tabasco “Mosquito” (1998): A mosquito tries to draw blood from a Tabasco-loving yokel — with explosive results.
What worked: The commercial was simple, funny and violent. With no dialogue, no music and only two characters (including the exploding insect), Tabasco memorably promoted its brand.
The results: Tabasco still hasn’t replaced ketchup in the condiment market, and probably never will. With its huge loyal following, does Tabasco even need commercials?
7. Electronic Data Systems “Herding Cats” (2000): A “Bonanza”-like family of cat herders talk about life on the range.
What worked: Kitties and cowboys made this a favorite for both kids and adults, but the near-seamless special effects were the real MVP. Advertiser EDS came back a year later with a similar formula, featuring the “Running of the Squirrels.”
The results: We still don’t know what EDS does, but it has 117,000 employees and just signed a $1.27 billion contract extension with the British Ministry of Defense — so the ad certainly didn’t hurt the company.
6. McDonald’s “The Showdown” (1993): Michael Jordan and Larry Bird engage in a physics-defying hoops-shooting contest for a Big Mac and fries.
What worked: Every basketball fan knows that Bird would win this contest 10 out of 10 times, but it was still a clever idea with a catchphrase that continues to pop up in “Horse” games. (“Over the second rafter, off the floor … nothing but net.”)
The results: This commercial seems to have blessed everyone involved. Jordan won three more championships and Bird transitioned into a solid career as a coach. And while salads and chicken products have been killing off the rest of the menu, the cholesterol-heavy Big Mac value meal remains an untouchable fast-food staple.
5. Monster.com “When I Grow Up …” (1999): A group of kids stare at the camera and declare their desire to “have a brown nose,” “be a yes man” and “claw my way up to middle management.”
What worked: Kids are cute, and even cuter when reciting lines such as, “When I grow up … I want to be forced into early retirement.” It was great brand recognition for the new company.
The results: Monster survived the dot-com implosion and despite a stock controversy in 2006 has become a prosperous company that employs close to 5,000 people worldwide.
4. Reebok “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker” (2003): To boost productivity, a CEO recruits a linebacker from Reebok to slam into a series of “Office Space”-style cubicle drones.
What worked: A series of brutal hits, punctuated by lines such as, “Break was over 15 minutes ago, Mitch!” made this the best Super Bowl ad of the last five years.
The results: Terry Tate got people talking about Reebok for something other than sweatshop controversies. The company provides shoes for all the major sports and hosts clothing lines for rappers Jay-Z and 50 Cent.
3. E*Trade “Monkey” (2000): Two dim-witted guys and a monkey clap to some cha-cha music in a garage, followed by the punch line: “Well we just wasted 2 million bucks. What are you doing with your money?”
What worked: Easily the cheapest ad of the year to produce, it was an instant classic —remaining self-deprecating about dot-com excess while lampooning the well-publicized cost of Super Bowl ad time.
The results: The marketing Gods have a way of punishing tech companies that blow too much money on flashy ads. (See: Pets.com. Or don’t. They haven’t been around since 2000.) E*Trade lost hundreds of millions of dollars in 2001 and 2002, and the company’s shares — once trading at more than $60 — dropped below $3 in 2002. The company has since bounced back to profitability.
2. Coke “Mean Joe Greene” (1979): A kid offers his Coca-Cola to a battle-weary “Mean Joe” Greene — who softens up enough to toss his jersey as a reward.
What worked: A cute kid with a soft drink was the perfect foil for the surly Greene. Grown men still burst into tears when thinking about “Mean Joe” throwing that jersey.
The results: The ad became an instant pop culture classic, boosting Greene’s career. Among the offshoots was the inspiring “The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid” — perhaps the first hourlong TV movie in history to be based on a one-minute commercial.
1. Apple “1984” (1984): A jogger representing Apple throws a sledgehammer into a giant Big Brother image representing IBM — promising a populist shift in the future of personal computers.
What worked: With “Blade Runner” director Ridley Scott in charge, the ad generated more hype — and post-game water cooler talk — than any television commercial in history. Do you even remember who played in the Super Bowl in 1984? (L.A. Raiders and Washington.) You almost certainly remember the biggest Super Bowl ad of the year.
The results: The most storied Super Bowl ad of all time might have boosted sales of George Orwell books, hot red running shorts and sledgehammers. But it didn’t do much for the Macintosh — Apple continues to be the Reform Party of computer manufacturers. Maybe there was a storage locker filled with iPhones behind that huge video screen?
Honorable mentions: Pepsi “Apartment 10G” (1987); Pepsi “Diner” (1995); Pepsi “Sucked in” (1995); Mountain Dew “Bad Cheetah” (2000); Budweiser “Magic Fridge” (2006).
“The Super Bowl ads are better than the game.”
No doubt you’ve heard at least one friend or relative make that statement, usually after a few drinks, a large gambling loss or a horrible set of Super Bowl events that mock the sports gods — such as Washington quarterback Mark Rypien being named MVP.
But have we really reached the point where commercials have become more entertaining than the sporting event that surrounds them?
Football purists will say they hate the ads, but they still seem to talk about them as much as the game itself. A good Super Bowl might get lost in your memory, but a good Super Bowl ad will be embedded in your brain for years to come. Chances are you remember every line and camera angle from Coke’s famous “Mean Joe Greene” commercial from 1979. But can you name the two teams that played the same year?
The rise in publicity for Super Bowl ads, big halftime shows and other off-field stunts are no accident. Although the Nielsen ratings for the Super Bowl have fallen over the decades, the game-watching demographic has widened to include more women and men who don’t like the sport.
“Originally it was just a football game, and guys who liked football were the ones who watched it,” says Don Bruzzone of Alameda’s Bruzzone Research Co., which has been measuring the effectiveness of Super Bowl commercials since 1992. “And then all of a sudden it grew into an extravaganza that would appeal to almost everybody.”
Super Bowl advertisements will cost about $2.6 million for a 30-second spot this year. (They cost a “mere” $324,000 when the San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals in 1982.)
Bruzzone’s Paul Shellenberg says in terms of who’s advertising, 2007 is looking a lot like 2006 — with regulars such as Budweiser and Pepsi returning with several spots. As of Monday afternoon, there were fewer movie spots scheduled than usual, although Shellenberg said the studios often wait until the last minute.
The ads are a huge gamble for advertisers. Bruzzone’s research shows that a successful commercial gives a buyer eight times the impact of an ad that doesn’t resonate.
The price for an ad has become a punch line, which has even been used in the commercials themselves. When all the figures are added up, though, Bruzzone says research shows that advertisers aren’t throwing away their money.
“There are a lot of intelligent people making decisions about this sort of thing,” Bruzzone says. “They’re priced at just about what they’re worth.”
Bruzzone doesn’t keep track of which are “good years” and “bad years” for Super Bowl advertisers. Fortunately, we do. What surrounds this article is a sincere and enthusiastic — while not especially objective — attempt to determine whether the ads are, in fact, more entertaining than the game.
My methodology was simple, if not scientific: I’ve already watched every game for the past 10 years, and I spent several afternoons last week watching Super Bowl ads archived on YouTube and the very helpful Superbowl-ads.com Web site.
You can decide whether it’s worth your time to add up my winners and losers to find out who’s ahead — but I will reveal that it’s close. Look for a Monday morning SFGate.com Culture Blog entry that determines whether Sunday’s Super Bowl commercials were better than the game.
The game: Green Bay 35, New England 21
The ads: Fred Astaire dances with a Dirt Devil vacuum and Holiday Inn promotes their renovations by joking about a guy who has undergone a sex change.
Final score: Neither side wanted to win. The game was predictably one-sided — Brett Favre (left) and the Packers were favored by 14 points and won by 14 points — but the ads were worse, including a digitally enhanced Astaire corpse and Holiday Inn’s big “screw you” to the gay, lesbian and transgender community. Football 9, commercials 2
The ads: Louie the Lizard tries killing off the Budweiser frogs, while a guy eating a lot of Tabasco spells doom for a mosquito that tries to suck his blood.
Final score: Terrell Davis running over the heavily favored Packers was cool, as was the sight of John Elway receiving his first Super Bowl ring. But it’s hard to beat an exploding bug. Commercials 31, football 24
The ads: The Monster.com “When I Grow Up” ads spoof corporate culture, Budweiser has a firehouse dalmatian puppy spot and Victoria’s Secret’s sexy ad proves that horny men are still the primary Super Bowl demographic.
Final score: Not sure what was more annoying — Just for Feet’s semi-racist ad that appeared to feature white guys tranquilizing a black runner from Kenya or the Atlanta Falcons’ stupid “dirty bird” dance. The ads gain the edge when Falcons safety Eugene Robinson gets arrested for solicitation of prostitution the night before the game. Commercials 14, football 10
The ads: E-Trade unveils its classic dancing monkey/”We just wasted 2 million bucks” commercial and EDS features its memorable spot about cat herders.
Final score: This is why TiVo was invented. The 2000 Super Bowl and commercial-fest were both so entertaining that there was literally no time to urinate. With arguably the most entertaining Super Bowl of all time and the best commercials falling on the same year, there can be no losers. Commercials 42, football 42 (tie)
The ads: Cedric the Entertainer shills for Budweiser, Bob Dole shills for Pepsi and EDS features the “running of the squirrels.”
Final score: Not a great year for commercials — does anyone even know what EDS sells? But the ads were still way better than this defense-oriented game, which featured the coma-inducing combination of Trent Dilfer and Kerry Collins as starting quarterbacks. Commercials 15, football 6
The ads: Charles Schwab features Barry Bonds, the Coen brothers direct an H&R Block commercial and several ads feature 9/11 tributes.
Final score: The post-9/11 commercials were classy, but became repetitive — and in retrospect, the Barry Bonds/Hank Aaron home run goof looks like something that should be turned over to the grand jury. The football game was a lot better, with Adam Vinatieri (above) kicking a last-minute field goal to seal the win. Football 28, commercials 17
The ads: Reebok’s Terry Tate: Office Linebacker, the “Cast Away” movie spoof and a Clydesdale football instant replay commercial all generate big laughs.
Final score: The only thing uglier than Budweiser’s crude “Upside Down Clown” ad was the Raiders’ game plan, which gave up 34 unanswered points to former Oakland coach Jon Gruden’s Buccaneers. The refs almost had to invoke the mercy rule in this contest. Commercials 72, football 0
The ads: A Sierra Mist commercial featuring a bagpiper getting cold air blown up his kilt looks like a Jane Austen film next to Budweiser’s flatulent horse. The 78 other ads seem to be focused on erectile dysfunction.
Final score: Everything went right during the game — a great contest between the Panthers and Patriots — and everything went wrong between plays. Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” (above) highlighted the crude and unoriginal commercials, which led to audience outrage and FCC action. Football 41, commercials minus 212
The ads: Diddy arrives at the red carpet in a Pepsi truck, Budweiser introduces a trash-talking cockatiel, and Ameriquest has a couple of decent-but-forgettable mistaken-identity ads.
Final score: Even though we didn’t have to see Mickey Rooney’s bare bottom (it was banned by the fun police), this was definitely a rebuilding year for the ad industry. Meanwhile, Tom Brady, linebacker Mike Vrabel (left) and the Patriots held off the Eagles and Terrell Owens, who stopped acting crazy for a few hours and added some drama by playing hurt. Football 35, commercials 3
The ads: A caveman gets chided for not using FedEx (it hasn’t been invented yet), Jim Henson’s Muppets are everywhere and the “magic fridge” gets Budweiser back on track.
Final score: The Seahawks didn’t come to play and neither did many of the advertisers, but at least we got to see a prehistoric dude get stomped on by a brontosaurus. Commercials 10, football 9
Are Super Bowl ads worth the money?
With a 30-second spot said to cost as much as $2.6 million, some question the wisdom of advertising during the Super Bowl.
By Paul R. La Monica, CNNMoney.com editor at large
Blue-chip companies such as Anheuser-Busch (Charts), Pepsico (Charts), Coca-Cola (Charts) and General Motors (Charts), as well as smaller firms like GPS navigation system maker Garmin, online lead generator Salesgenie.com and privately held Web registrar GoDaddy.com are all rolling the dice with Super Bowl ads this year.
CBS (Charts), the network that will be airing Super Bowl XLI on February 4, is said to be charging as much as $2.6 million for a thirty-second spot. Add on the costs to produce the commercials (which could also approach the multi-million dollar ballpark) and investing in the game is an expensive proposition.
A panel of advertising experts debated whether or not Super Bowl ads made financial sense at an event sponsored by news agency Reuters in New York Wednesday.
Jon Bond, co-founder of Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, a New York-based ad agency, said that because the game typically generates a huge audience (nearly 91 million watched Super Bowl XL last year) it usually is worth the investment for large companies. But he added that advertisers need to do more than just simply air a commercial.
“You need an X-factor,” he said, adding that Super Bowl commercials tend to make the most sense for consumer products companies, mainly because these firms are often able to get better product placement in stores leading up to the game if they have a Super Bowl commercial airing.
But others said that there is too much uncertainty about whether or not a Super Bowl ad will pay off since even though you can measure how many people watch the game, you don’t really know how many people are watching or paying attention to the commercial, let alone whether or not the commercial is even relevant to a particular viewer.
“The biggest problem is that nobody knows if the Super Bowl is worth it,” said Dmitry Shapiro, chief executive officer of Veoh, a privately held online video firm. “That’s the problem with TV advertising as a whole and the Super Bowl is just the epitome of it.”
To that end, there is a growing sense among some marketers that the Super Bowl is not the best venue to advertise a product.
According to a survey released Wednesday by the National Sports Marketing Network, which has 7,000 members representing sports marketing agencies, the sports leagues and TV networks, 41 percent of respondents said a Super Bowl commercial was not worth the investment while only 37 percent said it was worth it.
What’s more, 94 percent of the respondents said that, assuming the budget was the same, they would rather launch a product via a new media campaign (i.e. the Internet) as opposed to using a Super Bowl commercial.
One marketing expert conceded that Super Bowl ads are not for everyone.
“It’s a big bet for a 30-second spot that you don’t know for sure if it will have an impact,” said Julie Roehm, the former senior vice president of marketing Communications for Wal-Mart Charts. “There is a much bigger risk than reward and it is only worth it for very few companies.”
Roehm was fired by Wal-Mart in December amidst allegations that she accepted an expensive dinner and other gifts from potential vendors. Roehm has denied any wrongdoing and said Wednesday at the Reuters event that her biggest mistake at Wal-Mart was being “overly confident” that she could adapt to Wal-Mart’s culture.
Prior to her stint with Wal-Mart, she worked for DaimlerChrysler and was responsible for the company’s controversial decision to have its Dodge brand sponsor the Lingerie Bowl, a pay-per-view event that aired during halftime of the Super Bowl, featuring supermodels playing football.
Despite some skepticism about the viability of Super Bowl ads, a sales executive from CBS said that demand for ads is still strong.
Joann Ross, president of network sales for CBS, said that the network still had not completely sold out the available spots for the game but expected to do so next week. She said this is pretty standard though.
“It is the biggest event of the year but it’s also a high-ticket item. Some advertisers get in early but others like to wait for a discount,” she said, adding that there has been more interest from advertisers since the AFC and NFC championship games aired Sunday.
Super Bowl stimulates appetites for HDTVs
The game has the potential to be a fairly desirable match-up for advertisers since it features the Indianapolis Colts, whose quarterback Peyton Manning has appeared in ads for companies such as Sprint and Mastercard, and the Chicago Bears. Chicago is the nation’s third-largest TV market.
To that end, Coca-Cola, said Wednesday that it will be airing three commercials during the Super Bowl. This is the first time the soft-drink maker has advertised during the game since 1998.
Ross said it’s also worth noting that even though many of the ads are by Super Bowl marketing stalwarts like Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi, several companies that have never advertised during the game before have decided to take the plunge this year, including Garmin (Charts) and Salesgenie.com, which is a subsidiary of publicly traded marketing services company infoUSA (Charts).
“On the one hand, there are advertisers that are tried and true and you have others that are willing to roll the dice and take a shot because they know this will be the widest reach they can get,” Ross said.
She added that one advertiser which is a prominent supporter of Black History Month, is considering buying more ads in order to promote the fact that this is the first Super Bowl featuring a black head coach. In fact, both coaches, Indianapolis’ Tony Dungy and Chicago’s Lovie Smith, are black.
Panelists were mixed on the hot new Super Bowl advertising trend, commercials generated by or based on ideas from consumers. Pepsi’s Doritos brand, GM’s Chevy and the National Football League itself are running Super Bowl ads.
Bond said that this showed that advertisers are trying to become more and more like media companies and that is a good idea to tap the talent of people that are creative who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance.
Not everyone agreed.
“It sounds lazy. I’m so sick of ‘you,’” quipped comedian Mo Rocca, who was one of the panelists.
Now that the matchup on the field is set for Super Bowl XLI, the lineup for advertisers for the game is also filling up.
Announcing Wednesday that they will join about a dozen already planning to suit up for advertising’s biggest game will be beverage giant Coca-Cola, sales lead website Salesgenie.com and GPS device maker Garmin. Drug company King Pharmaceuticals said earlier this week that it will advertise during the game on CBS on Feb. 4.
Last year, Coke bought ads in the pre-game show and its energy drink Full Throttle sponsored the kickoff, but it has let rival Pepsi have the game to itself for cola ads since 1998. Its advertising this year in the game will be for its flagship Coca-Cola brand.
Coke will air a 60-second ad with video-game-like animation. The ad has been shown in movie theaters since Dec. 29 and on the new season of American Idol. The company likely will have a 30-second ad, as well, says Katie Bayne, head of Coca-Cola brands for North America. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to use high-profile appointment viewing.”
Last year, more than 90 million people watched the game, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Super Bowl ad developments:
•Rookie advertisers. Salesgenie.com’s ad will show how its service providing sales leads can make a businessperson successful — without too much hard work. Garmin’s ad, for its personal navigation system, is a humorous take on the troubles of using a paper map for directions.
•Returning players. Taco Bell will introduce a pair of comic live lions in an ad for its new Carne Asada Steak Grilled Taquitos. The lions “chat” about game hunters that they are watching return to camp with the new taquitos.
“When the Super Bowl falls at the beginning of a new product launch, it makes perfect sense to advertise,” says Jeff Fox, chief creative director for Yum Brands, Taco Bell’s parent. “What better way to reach so many people at once?”
As part of the promotion, Taco Bell also will launch an interactive website where the comic lions recite punch lines from visitors.
•Not laughing. Published descriptions of a Nationwide Mutual Insurance ad — Britney Spear’s estranged husband Kevin Federline appears to be a rap star, but turns out to be a french fry cook — prompted National Restaurant Association CEO Steve Anderson to send a letter to Nationwide CEO Jerry Jurgensen expressing “serious concerns.”
It says, “An ad such as this would be a strong and a direct insult to the 12.8 million Americans who work in the restaurant industry.”
“The intent of the ad isn’t to offend or insult the many fine individuals who work in the restaurant industry,” says Steven Schreibman, Nationwide ad chief. “The focus … is the element of surprise.”
By STUART ELLIOTT
Published: February 7, 2005
It may be hard to say, and harder to believe, but Madison Avenue could owe Janet Jackson a big thank-you.
The commercials that were broadcast on Fox last night during Super Bowl XXXIX were, in general, markedly better than typical spots from the last few Super Bowls – though there were some stinkers. And the reason for that improvement could well be Ms. Jackson’s breast-baring during the halftime show last year.
The reaction against the notorious “wardrobe malfunction” also generated attacks against crass, boorish commercials that ran before and after Ms. Jackson’s performance. Those spots relied on crude humor to pander to a large segment of the Super Bowl audience: younger men who live to laugh at bathroom jokes and misogynistic jibes.
Chastened by the complaints, advertisers and agencies promised to clean up their acts and proceed cautiously with commercials for 2005. That pledge was widely interpreted as foreshadowing a dull, play-it-safe Ad Bowl inside the Super Bowl.
But many of the 30 sponsors of the game rose to the occasion, proving they could deliver attention-getting ads without stooping to the fraternity-house antics of last year, featuring disreputable characters like a flatulent horse, a crotch-biting dog and a monkey pitching woo to a woman.
For instance, FedEx turned its Super Bowl marketing playbook back to 1998, when it won plaudits for a witty commercial by BBDO Worldwide in New York, part of the Omnicom Group, that mocked the conventions of Super Bowl commercials.
The 2005 version, also from BBDO New York, crammed into 30 seconds the 10 ingredients purportedly guaranteed to insure Super Sunday success. They included an obligatory celebrity (the actor Burt Reynolds), a bear (the required dancing, talking animal), two lissome cheerleaders (representing attractive females) and, when the bear became a film critic, one of those surprise endings so beloved by copywriters of Super Bowl spots.
The best moment: When Mr. Reynolds paused to deliver a pitch for FedEx, it was identified on screen as Item No. 8, “Product message (optional).”
Fox charged an estimated average of $2.4 million for each 30 seconds of commercial time, and some advertisers, alas, could not resist reflexively reaching for the lowest common denominator. For example, CareerBuilder.com, a job Web site owned by three newspaper companies, ran three commercials by Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago featuring a cast of – yawn – mischievous monkeys dressed as office workers.
Those viewers who still longed for the callow carryings-on of last year were rewarded with formulaic sight gags involving whoopee cushions, bananas and a literal interpretation of the phrase “kissing up to the boss.”
What follows is an assessment of some of the best and worst other commercials. The spots described below are among 35 provided to reporters before the game, out of the total of 50 commercials that were scheduled to run.
Anheuser-Busch A gauzy valentine to American troops, which ended with the Anheuser-Busch corporate logo superimposed on screen, was touching, but some viewers may have wondered whether “Busch” had been misspelled. And a commercial for designating a driver managed to deliver its message with a wink rather than a lecture. Agency: the Chicago office of DDB Worldwide, part of Omnicom.
Bubblicious A spot for Bubblicious gum, sold by the Cadbury Adams division of Cadbury Schweppes, was short (15 seconds) but sweet. The commercial, for the new LeBron’s Lightning Lemonade flavor endorsed by LeBron James, showed that having your bubble burst is not always a bad thing. Agency: JWT in New York, part of the WPP Group.
Budweiser The playful horses in a commercial for Budweiser beer, sold by Anheuser-Busch, were far better behaved than their gassy counterpart in a Bud Light spot last year. A stable of Clydesdales faced off in a snowball fight, and the cute “razzberry” in the finale was as naughty as they got. Agency: DDB Chicago.
Degree A commercial for a new line of Degree deodorants sold by Unilever took a risk by pretending to celebrate men who avoid risk, as embodied by a make-believe brand of “Inaction Heroes” dolls bearing names like Mama’s Boy. The spot succeeded where so many failed last year, by treading the fine line between boldness and tastelessness. Agency: Lowe & Partners in New York, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.
Lay’s Come back, MC Hammer, all is forgiven. That seemed to be the message delivered by a commercial featuring the 1980′s rapper, for the Lay’s potato chip brand sold by the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo. As for the connection between salty snacks and silly singers, as Mr. Hammer might put it, “U Can’t Figure This Out.” Agency: Spike DDB in New York, owned by the director Spike Lee and DDB Worldwide.
McDonald’s The fast-food company McDonald’s surprised with a hilarious commercial, far more clever than its usual fare. The spot, presented in a deadpan “mockumentary” style reminiscent of “This Is Spinal Tap,” was centered on a French fry that allegedly resembled Abraham Lincoln, which improbably became the subject of a bidding war on the Yahoo Shopping Web site. Agency: DDB Chicago.
MasterCard Cynics laughed last fall when Advertising Week in New York City began with a parade of familiar advertising characters. But the idea now seems, well, priceless, thanks to a delightful dinner reunion of 10 brand icons like the Jolly Green Giant, Mr. Peanut and the Morton Salt girl, sponsored by Debit MasterCard from MasterCard International. One disturbing thought: What was in that casserole Charlie the Tuna ate so heartily? Agency: McCann Erickson in New York, part of the McCann Worldgroup division of Interpublic (which created a MasterCard character for the occasion).
Pepsi-Cola A prosaic idea to promote iTunes and Pepsi-Cola, sponsored by Apple Computer and PepsiCo, turned up not once but twice: Uncap a Pepsi bottle and hear music; recap the bottle and the music stops. What, viewers didn’t get it the first time? But it was worth the double play to hear Gwen Stefani and Eve sing “If I Were a Rich Girl,” based on the song from “Fiddler on the Roof.” What’s not to like? Agency: the Playa del Rey, Calif., office of TBWA/Chiat/Day, part of the TBWA Worldwide division of Omnicom.
Silestone Jocks almost always play stock characters in commercials, taking parts like thug, superstar or dim bulb, but a droll spot for the Silestone brand of quartz surfaces sold by Cosentino defied convention. “I am Diana Pearl,” former athletes like Mike Ditka and Dennis Rodman declared, “Spartacus”-style. Huh? The punch line: It’s a color of Silestone they like. Agency: Freed Advertising in Sugar Land, Tex.
Subway A slyly subversive commercial for a new line of Fresh Toasted Subs sold by the Subway chain, owned by Doctor’s Associates, managed a feat that eluded so many spots last year: pulling off a sight gag without being obnoxious or offensive. It seemed to show an amorous couple parked for a hot makeout session, but as a pair of inquiring police officers learned, appearances can deceive when guys get hungry. Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, part of Omnicom.
By Gregory Solman
LOS ANGELES A study of Super Bowl advertising effectiveness shows that movies marketed during the big game perform 40 percent better at the box office than films that are not.
The report by Rama Yelkur, Chuck Tomkovick and Patty Traczyk, of the marketing department of the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, was first published in the Journal of Advertising Research. It covered 21 movies advertising on the Super Bowl telecast from 1998 to 2001, though the professors said the model has been shown to apply to 2002 to 2004. In 2003, for example, all 10 movies advertised on the game opened at No. 1 at the box office.
“We studied the movies because the data is pure and available,” said Tomkovick. “In a sense, it is always a new product,” with no prior box-office accumulation. The research discovered that movie marketers who advertise on the Super Bowl earn better opening weekend revenue, first week business and bigger total U.S. receipts.
To purify their model, the authors dismissed artsy, small- and mid-budget releases that would be unlikely candidates to advertise at Super Bowl rates of millions of dollars per 30-second spot. “We looked at male-oriented, youth-oriented action or comedy movies in pre-packaged forms,” said Yelkur. “The movies compared had to have made the top 10 for at least one week. And we looked only at February to August releases.”
Tomkovick added that the study took into account the placement of the movie within the game, and factored “a smattering of [overall] marketing investment as a criteria” to even the playing field. “The score of the game doesn’t turn off the Super Bowl advertising viewers,” he said, adding that 8 percent of all viewers watch the game solely for the new commercials. “In fact, we’re found that the less scintillating the game, the more attention is paid to the commercials. That’s how it’s gone from being the Super Bowl to the Bud Bowl to the Ad Bowl.”
By BRIAN KRASMAN, Daily News Editor
While many viewers tune into the Super Bowl to see the actual football game, just as many, if not more, watch to see the advertisements.
It’s probably the only day of the year when television remote controls are not in use, because no one appears willing to turn off the game and miss the ad everyone will be talking about the next morning.
Sunday’s Super Bowl XXXIX will be no different. While many viewers will be waiting to see if the Patriots win their third NFL championship in four years or if Terrell Owens will line up at wide receiver for the Eagles, those scenarios likely won’t be the topic of discussion the next day.
Chances are the ads from Internet upstart godaddy.com will be.
“I think there will be a lot of people talking about how bad it was,” admits Ken Phipps, owner and operator of superbowl-ads.com, based in San Francisco, Calif.
Of course, Phipps, says, the spot likely is bad on purpose, and anyone who logged onto the Web site – the company specialized in registering domain names, Web site construction and maintenance – this week to see the one ad Fox refused to air likely are to agree.
The spots feature a well-endowed female with the godaddy.com logo on a white tank top. As she stands before a committee on a channel called G-Spin (a spoof of C-SPAN), she performs a routine she wants do at halftime of the Super Bowl.
On the rejected spot, she lowers one of her tank top straps to reveal the logo again, making fun of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction issues at last year’s big game.
The Internet company isn’t the only one to have an ad rejected. Super Bowl ad heroes Anheiser-Busch had a spot rejected that shows a halftime show worker trying to open a bottle of Budweiser with a dress planned for the exhibition. Obviously the dress rips, and when the woman goes to perform at halftime, well, viewers get an added visual surprise. That, however, is implied and not actually shown.
The effort Fox is making to air ads that won’t stir immediate controversy again is influenced by past events.
“Basically it’s because of last year’s Janet Jackson thing,” Phipps says. “They want a cleaner Super Bowl this year.”
Companies are paying upwards of $2.4 million per slot for this year’s game, although some ads are packaged when multiple spots are purchased.
Many of the Super Bowl ads go for humor, others stick to business. Many of this year’s spots are designed specifically to move a new product and don’t rely on any of the bells and whistles plenty of the other companies use.
But Phipps says the most effective ads seem to be the ones that play on people’s emotions, no matter what they are.
“Humor is definitely high up there,” Phipps says of elements that make a memorable Super Bowl ad. “But there are heartwarming ones, too. You can think of the (Nuveen) one a few years ago with Christopher Reeve when he gets up and walks. Then there was the Anheiser-Busch one with the donkey and Clydesdale going to New York City after Sept. 11.”
While humor is big, often companies go overboard and do things that aren’t funny. Even the seemingly immortal Anheiser-Busch has had its share of less-than-humorus moments, Phipps says.
“There were the Budweiser frogs,” he says. “It was great at first with the Bud-weis-er. But it got into this big thing with the lizards trying to oft the frogs. It got out of control.”
Phipps’ site, which he has operated for the last seven years on his own, has a listing of the best Super Bowl ads from last year all the way through 1998, but he also has a section listing the best ads of all time.
The day after the Super Bowl, Phipps plans to have links so people can vote for their favorite ads or see others again. But while he hopes to get a lot of traffic at his site, he urges people to remain patient with the expected load of people.
“Maybe come back in a month,” he says, laughing.
There’s also a link to ifilms.com, which plans to have the ads ready to view.
If you just can’t wait to see what’s in store Sunday night, here’s a list of some of the bigger spots planned.
While the company had one ad rejected, there are plenty more set for the big game. Cedric the Entertainer returns for a spot, as does a weird looking robot and the classic Clydesdale horses. Giddyup!
In what might also be an ad everyone is talking about Monday morning, the online resume builder has a spot showing a man in a customer care call center who literally is working with an office full of monkeys. Disgusted, he apologizes to the poor caller for the, um, monkey business going on in the background.
Ads are set to go hyping the auto company’s new V8 VC90 sport utility vehicle. Nothing outrageous is planned as Volvo hopes images of the SUV speak for themselves.
The deodorant stick gets face time with a spoof of “G.I. Joe” called “Mamma’s Boy.” In the ad, some poor dude gets pushed around by his mamma. Not sure how that sells deodorant, but whatever.
The auto maker has a series of five-second spots ready to air to display the quickness of their vehicles. The spots, designed to catch the attention of the MTV generation (none of whom can afford a Cadillac, but I digress), have been running since the NFL playoffs started.
This maker of tasty snacks already has some weird spots running on TV, and this one that features the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and a unicorn is likely to fit right in.
You’ll be able to tell the longtime car maker is psyched about its new Mustang convertible by the flashy ad it prepared. This one is expected to air during the first half.
The financial organization crafted an ad featuring legendary performer Gladys Knight, building their catch phrase, “If you’re into it, we’re into it.”
Apparently the Janet Jackson controversy isn’t forcing Cialis to soften its stance on erectile dysfunction. Expect a really uncomfortable ad featuring aging men who can’t, you know, perform.
Two spots are planned to promote its new Ridgeline pickup truck.
The Texas-based countertop maker is hoping to take a seemingly boring product and make it more exciting using pro athletes. In one shot, former NBA star Dennis Rodman is shown soaking in the bathtub. Yeah …
Hey ladies, having trouble seeing? Well, you’re the target audience for the 02optix, a new type of contact lens.
The soft drink giant has six celebrity spots set to air pushing the bubbly soda. And if that’s not enough, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Eva Longoria team up in an ad that pairs Pepsi with iTunes.
Although the camera company hasn’t had a Super Bowl ad since 1981, Olympus plans to make a big splash this year with a campaign that revolves around the theme, “Let your pictures groove.” The spots are said to look a bit like rock videos. Wait, they still make those?
The chip maker snagged Spike Lee to make a concept commercial called “The Fence.” In it, a bunch if items get thrown over a fence, including a bag of Frito Lay chips.
The hot sauce company has a spot called “Tan Lines” ready to air. Not sure what that entails.
You thought you decided on that new Volvo, huh? Well, wait till you get a load of Lincoln’s new Mark LT pickup truck. They’re going to show it to you in dramatic living color.
Plenty of big movies are planned for release this year, and the Super Bowl will be the place where these pictures get major face time. Included are trailers for “War of the Worlds,” “The Longest Yard” remake, Vin Diesel’s new comedy “The Pacifier,” “Hitch,” the much-anticipated “Batman Begins” and “Dukes of Hazard.”
There are plenty of other commercials set to air from companies such as Visa, FedEx, McDonald’s, Ameriquest and Subway.
So don’t worry, you’ll get your advertisement overload. And no matter what you think of the spots, they can’t be any less compelling than Bill Belichick’s hair.
By William Spain, MarketWatch
CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — Behind all the hype about the high cost and the battle for creative dominance lies the big question about the big game: Is spending zillions of dollars to produce and air ads during the Super Bowl a savvy investment, or a punt of no return?
Or is it both?
Figuring out the precise payback from any TV ad, or series of ads, is next to impossible, and that is no different for the ones that run during the Super Bowl Sunday. Immediate sales increases after a Super Bowl ad that can be directly traced back are rare, one of the factors that keeps so many normally free-spending names on the sidelines.
What marketers do know, though, is that their ads will actually be watched, avidly. They have become such an integral part of the event’s broadcast that, unlike during the most popular prime-time shows, very few viewers flip channels or hit the bathroom during commercial breaks.
“It is the biggest media event in the country and the only one that people tune in to watch the commercials,” said Ken Kaess, chief executive of Omnicom Group’s (OMC: news, chart, profile) DDB Worldwide, which has more clients in Sunday’s broadcast than any other ad agency — a list that includes PepsiCo (PEP: news, chart, profile) , Anheuser-Busch (BUD: news, chart, profile) , McDonald’s (MCD: news, chart, profile) and Tabasco.
In addition to that rapt attention, there is usually plenty of pre- and post-game buzz, Kaess added: “If your ad is successful, it’s incredible how much PR value you can get out of it.” Watch interview with DDB’s chief executive.
And that helps Super Bowl spots seem to defeat ad-killing technology like TiVo (TIVO: news, chart, profile) , he said. Last year, four of the top five most popular TiVo downloads were commercials; the other was the notorious Janet Jackson breast incident that got Viacom (VIA: news, chart, profile) in trouble, according to Kaess.
Paying $80,000 a second
Last year’s game was watched by an average of 89.8 million viewers, the highest since 1998, according to Nielsen Media Research. A 30-second spot cost an average of $2.3 million, and there were 49 minutes and 25 seconds of commercial time aired.
This time around, the price has tweaked higher to $2.4 million — about $80,000 a second. And with teams from two of the top five TV markets facing off for the first time in 25 years, there is no reason to believe viewer numbers will go anywhere but up.
Advertisers can find other ways to get in front of that many eyeballs, albeit not all at once. What they can’t get anywhere else, though, is the guarantee that they will watch.
After the 2004 Super Bowl, an ad retention study by Initiative found an average retention rate of 97.6 percent. Depending on positioning within the game and within the commercial “pod,” some rates were as high as 100 percent. H&R Block (HRB: news, chart, profile) , Microsoft (MSFT: news, chart, profile) , Anheuser-Busch and Altria (MO: news, chart, profile) hit that triple digit, while the worst performer — a federal antidrug ad — still managed an impressive 96.9 percent.
“It is an incredible opportunity to make an impact, to move the needle, just pick your cliche,” said Tim Spengler, director of national broadcast for the Interpublic (IPG: news, chart, profile) media buying firm. “It is a platform like no other in media, because you are looking at an event that that has the whole country galvanized to a single TV show, which never happens any other time.”
Spengler, who buys for Home Depot (HD: news, chart, profile) and Time Warner’s (TWX: news, chart, profile) AOL, among other brands, added that even if sales don’t immediately bounce after the game, there are other ways of telling if it was a win.
“There are a number of metrics other than correlation of short-term sales. It might be a success from a trade perspective; you might have better heft in getting your products [distributed],” he said. “There are so many variables in a given marketing mix. There is always going to be art in this business.”
None of the Super Bowl advertisers contacted by MarketWatch would specify what makes for an acceptable return on the investment. That is possibly because even with all the fuss, they still just can’t tell.
Anheuser-Busch in particular — typically the biggest spender, with better than five minutes of ad time bought in each of the last three Super Bowls — declined any comment at all.
“The ad industry has not figured out how to connect the dots,” said Steve Fredericks, chief executive of ad tracker TNS Media Intelligence. “So far, all we have been able to glean at best are correlations. The data just aren’t available to measure how many people watched a commercial.”
Show me more than the money
Another issue is that Super Bowl ads are judged by their entertainment and aesthetic values rather than by return, according to Mark Stevens who runs the consultancy MSCO and is the author of the book “Your Marketing Sucks.”
“The Super Bowl is a great place to advertise if you can afford it and if you can deliver on what you are doing,” he said, asserting that many of the game’s advertisers cannot.
“That is an exercise in stupidity. … You don’t know what the best ads are because those commercials haven’t sold anything yet,” he added. “This just highlights an issue that is applicable every single day of the year in every place that you advertise.”
Indeed, getting too creative — trying to break through the clutter — can backfire. Late Wednesday, Ford’s (F: news, chart, profile) Lincoln-Mercury division abruptly yanked an ad that was designed to launch a new luxury truck.
The spot, created by WPP Group’s (WPPGY: news, chart, profile) Young & Rubicam, featured a priest getting keys to a Lincoln Mark LT on a collection plate and later spelling out “lust” as the topic of his next sermon; it will be replaced with a spot featuring a convertible Ford Mustang. (Watch Ford Mustang ad. Also see Ford trucks commercial.)
Ford executives, who discussed the withdrawn ad at length on Tuesday, declined to return phone calls after the decision not to use it.
Sometimes an advertiser is not expecting much out of a Super Bowl ad, but only trying to make sure a counterpart doesn’t get anything either. That is especially true in cutthroat competitive categories.
“If you don’t put in an appearance, your credibility as a brand suffers,” said Tom Pirko, head of beverage consultancy Bevmark. “You have to be there because if you are not, one of your competitors will swallow up all the oxygen. Whatever the return is, you just buck up and pay it.”
William Spain is a reporter for MarketWatch in Chicago.
Spending millions to advertise in the Feb. 6 Super Bowl will likely pay off for Hollywood’s movie studios, say marketing experts at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, who have studied Super Bowl advertising for five years.
Advertisements during the high-profile game are selling for an average of $2.4 million per 30-second spot, a record amount for the National Football League’s championship game.
The movie industry is among those most likely to benefit from advertising in the game, said Charles Tomkovick, UW-Eau Claire professor of management and marketing, who with Rama Yelkur, associate professor of management and marketing, completed the first known Super Bowl advertising effectiveness study of its kind.
“All else being equal, spending $2 million-plus for a movie ad in the Super Bowl will pay off handsomely for most studios,” Tomkovick said.
Research results, which were published in the Journal of Advertising Research, found that the average Super Bowl promoted film achieved twice as much first weekend, first week and total U.S. box office revenue than non- Super Bowl promoted movies. Even when researchers applied more rigorous tests, controlling for release dates and budget size, they found similar results.
Hollywood began running a couple of Super Bowl ads in the early 1990s. Then in 1996, Fox spent $1.1 million to promote “Independence Day,” which achieved U.S. revenues of $300 million and $500 million worldwide.
“This was the turning point,” Yelkur said. “Movie advertisers en masse realized the benefits of Super Bowl advertising.” Eight movies were advertised in 2002 and 10 in 2003.
Researchers examined box office gross revenues for movies advertised during the 1998-2001 Super Bowls. They compared it with data from a random sample of movies that weren’t advertised during the game over the same time. They compared first weekend, first week and total U.S. box office revenues. They controlled for movie release dates and refined their analysis to include only high budget films.
Opening weekend revenues for Super Bowl promoted movies in 2002 and 2003 were phenomenal, Tomkovick said. Fifteen of the 18 earned the top U.S. Box Office position for their opening weekend. Two came in second and the weakest of the 18 premiered at No. 4.
Source:University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
After backlash, marketers plan to rein in the raunch
By Martin Wolk MSNBC
Last year’s Super Bowl is best remembered for Janet Jackson’s halftime ‘wardrobe malfunction,’ but the singer’s accidental overexposure was hardly the event’s only breach of good taste.
The CBS broadcast of the showdown between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers also was marred by a crop of unusually weak and offensive advertising that featured a flatulent horse, several crotch jokes and suggestive commercials for rival brands of erection pills.
Advertising on this year’s broadcast is likely to be toned down a bit as marketers and executives from this year’s broadcaster, Fox, aim to avoid a backlash from family-oriented media watchdogs and tough-talking federal regulators.
‘Marketers seem to understand the mood of the country with regard to what is tasteful and what is not,’ said Lou D’Ermilio, spokesman for Fox Sports Net.
Outgoing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell made last year’s halftime show Exhibit A in his campaign against on-air indecency, and the agency fined CBS parent Viacom Inc. $550,000 for the brief depiction of Jackson’s bare breast.
Viacom is contesting the fine, but advertisers and marketers have gotten the message, said Jeff Goodby, whose ad agency was responsible for last year’s incendiary horse and is working on several commercials for this year’s game.
‘This year, I think most advertisers are going to be incredibly well-behaved,’ he told The Associated Press.’ ‘Everybody knows where the line is, and I don’t think it will be crossed.’
Fox has rejected at least two ads including one that depicted 84-year-old actor Mickey Rooney’s naked rear end. The rejected spot, which promoted a cold remedy, showed Rooney’s towel falling off as he fled a sauna when someone coughed.
Another ad that failed to make the cut suggested a possible cause for last year’s infamous costume breakdown. The ad, which was killed by Anheuser-Busch, showed a beer drinker backstage at last year’s Super Bowl unwittingly using Jackson’s dress to open a bottle of beer.
For advertisers, who are paying $80,000 a second for air time, the stakes are as high as for the players on the field. The Super Bowl is the most watched broadcast of the year, and the only one where millions tune in specifically to see the commercials.
Here is a preview of some of the advertising slated to run during Super Bowl XXXIX Sunday:
Food and drink Anheuser-Busch is by far the Super Bowl’s biggest sponsor with a total of five minutes of commercial airtime valued at $24 million before discounts. The beer giant has not disclosed its exact plans but has previewed one ad showing its famed Clydesdales having a snowball fight and another featuring a beer robot.
Longtime Super Bowl advertiser Frito-Lay will debut a 30-second commercial directed by Spike Lee that tells the story of a grumpy neighbor who refuses to return a kids’ ball thrown over the fence. Once softened up by a bag of potato chips, he not only returns the ball but tosses back a number of items that have been missing, including a pet dog, a 1972 Chevy Impala and rap music pioneer MC Hammer.
Subway has bought a fourth-quarter time slot to promote its new Fresh Toasted Subs ‘ without the chain’s well-worn spokesman Jared. The humorous 30-second spot shows two police officers approaching a vehicle parked at a romantic spot, but what they find inside is something surprising.
Emerald of California, hoping to get snack-minded viewers to think beyond chips, will launch a humorous campaign for its new brand of snack nuts.
McIlhenney Co. returns to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1998 to promote its Tabasco brand hot sauce with an ad called ‘tan lines’ that will feature a model in a halter top.
Pepsi-Cola, the No. 2 advertiser in the big game with two and a half minutes of air time, will be appearing in its 20th consecutive Super Bowl. The beverage marketer has not yet disclosed its plans for this year’s game.
Cars and trucks Anyone who thinks America’s love affair with sporty trucks is waning should tune in Sunday.
Ford’s Lincoln division will use the game to launch its Mark LT, a pickup truck that comes with heated leather seats and a $40,000 base sticker price. The Lincoln ad, on the theme of temptation, focuses on a clergyman who finds the keys to a new truck in the collection plate.
Volvo will counter with an astronaut themed-ad for its new XC 90, a sport-utility vehicle powered by the company’s first V-8 engine. It is the first Super Bowl spot for Volvo.
Honda will launch a national campaign for its first pickup truck, the Ridgeline, with two 30-second spots.
General Motors will offer a 60-second ad titled ‘Barrels’ that shows off its Cadillac V-Series performance cars, including the forthcoming XLR-V compact convertible.’ GM also will broadcast two unusual commercials before and after the game, each of which will last just five seconds ‘ the time it takes for a V-Series Cadillac to go from 0 to 60 mph.
The silver screen Movies have become a huge product category for the Super Bowl and could account for three or four minutes of the precious 30 minutes of national air time available during the big game.
One possible reason’ Super Bowl movie ads seem to really work. One recent study found that movies promoted during the Super Bowl and released within the next seven months took in 40 percent more in ticket sales than other comparable movies.
“They may not talk about the ads around the water cooler Monday, but they have an impact on the target market that is interested in the movie,” said Chuck Tomkovick, a marketing professor at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire and lead author of the study.
Among the movies to be featured in this year’s game is ‘The Pacifier,’ a comedy with action-movie star Vin Diesel as a Navy SEAL assigned to protect a suburban family. Other movies expected to make a showing include ‘Hitch,’ a romantic comedy starring Will Smith, and two remakes ‘The Longest Yard’ with Adam Sandler and ‘War of the Worlds’ directed by Steven Spielberg.
Business and consumer services Talking about money can be such a downer in the party atmosphere of the Super Bowl, so first-time sponsor Ameriquest Mortgage will avoid specifics and try to engage viewers with humor.
Ameriquest will offer two 30-second spots with the tagline ‘Don’t judge,’ featuring people whose actions get misinterpreted, including a man cooking a surprise dinner for his girlfriend and a customer shopping at a store. The company also is sponsoring the halftime show featuring Paul McCartney.
CareerBuilder.com will broadcast two 30-second spots about people who could use the online job listing service because they work with chimpanzees ‘ literally. GoDaddy.com, which sells Internet domain names, is courting controversy with a humorous ad depicting an attractive young woman testifying before a censorship committee in Salem, Mass. The ad will appear twice after Fox rejected a second, more risqu’ ad from GoDaddy.
MBNA, which provides affinity credit cards for thousands of organizations, will step out of the shadows to launch a brand awareness campaign. FedEx plans a 45-second spot starring Burt Reynolds on behalf of its FedEx Kinko’s Office and Print Services.
Also appearing Cialis is back with a 60-second ad showing mature couple snuggling to the 1963 hit tune “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes. Olympus returns to the Super Bowl for the first time in 24 years to promote a new digital music player with a built-in camera, the m:robe 500.
Unilever will launch a campaign for a new line of deodorant for men that features dolls dubbed “In-Action Heroes.” The deliberately low-tech spot shows a Mama’s Boy doll that never sweats because he never takes risks.