Super Bowl Ads Reach for the Funny Bone

Discussion
Feb 08, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

The Super Bowl of advertising also took place last night. Thirty-second
spots sold for a minimum of $2.5 million although some fetched more than $3
million.

Many ads featured the typical Super Bowl fare of animals and guy humor
although a few took creative risks.

“There were good, solid spots, but there
weren’t any ‘change-the-advertising-world’ types,” Elisabeth Vanzura, a former
ad chief at General Motors and current chief marketing officer of MMB Advertising
in Boston, told The Wall Street Journal. Perennials Pepsi and Fed-Ex
didn’t have ads, but a number of new brands did have a presence.

Here, a few spots from key companies:

Anheuser-Busch: A human-bridge is built across a ravine to bring a
Budweiser truck to a town. Scientists choose Bud Light when they realize an
asteroid is coming. A man builds a house of Bud Light cans. Lance Armstrong
appears in a Michelob Ultra ad.

Audi: Eco-unfriendly consumers are arrested by the "Green Police."

Boost Mobile: The 1985 Chicago Bears reunite to perform a new version
of the Super Bowl Shuffle.

Coca-Cola: In one ad, Mr. Burns, the miserly billionaire on “The
Simpsons,” loses his fortune but finds happiness through Coke. In another,
a man sleepwalks through an African safari.

Denny’s: Chickens become panicked after comprehending the workload
required to fill the supply of eggs needed for the restaurant’s free Grand
Slams special.

Dockers: Men sing across the hillside on the joys of not wearing pants
as part of campaign extolling men that it’s time to “wear the pants.”

Doritos: Among the several ads the game sponsor ran, one spot featured
a samurai donning a suit made of Doritos and expertly using a chip as a weapon.

Google: In its first Super Bowl ad, Google showed off its search functionality
in a spot called Parisian Love.

Homeway.com: The Griswold family of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” fame
star as part of a yearlong campaign. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprise
their roles.

Hyundai Motor: Brett Favre wins the 2020 Super Bowl MVP award and
again gives a speech pondering his retirement.

KIA: Children’s toys, including a teddy bear and sock monkey, joy
ride in the Sorrento SUV.

Monster.com: A beaver succeeds in becoming a concert violinist through
stages after using the website.

Snickers: Actress Betty White is shown playing football as a fellow
teammate complains, "You’re playing like Betty White." A taste of the candy
bar galvanizes the player to shine. The final shot shows actor Abe Vigoda getting
tackled.

Taco Bell: Basketball legend Charles Barkley rhymes about everything
diners can get in the NBA 5 Buck Box.

TruTV: The Time Warner cable channel ran an ad with a Groundhog Day
theme showing a miniature Troy Palamulu of the Pittsburgh Steelers seeing his
shadow, leading to the declaration that there will be six more weeks of football.

Volkswagen: Reinvents the game of “punch buggy" – people hit each
other when they see any type of Volkswagen and shout out its color.

Discussion Questions: What did you think of this year’s
Super Bowl ads? Which ones stood out for good or ill? Which do you think
will benefit the sponsor most?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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20 Comments on "Super Bowl Ads Reach for the Funny Bone"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

It has to be one of the strangest traditions in America–to hold parties ostensibly to judge ads. My fav was the Doritos dog collar, quick, creative, now viral. Will people be talking about these ads for years to come like the groundbreaking Apple 1984 ad? Don’t think so.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 3 months ago

I wouldn’t know. We Canadians were (and always) are subject to CTV’s feed. We got tiresome Hyundai and Olympic coverage commercials. No entertaining ads for us! Luckily, the game and football shaped cake and dip were awesome!

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
11 years 3 months ago
It was good to have Super Bowl ads with a sense of humor this year. The country could certainly use a laugh. As far as which Super Bowl ads are the most effective, my admittedly simplistic criteria are how well known the brand is known going in and how well the ad reinforces the brand. Beyond that, it is vanity at best and a waste of a lot of money at worst. My favorite was the beaver violinist for Monster, both humorous and reinforcing of the well-known service. As far as vanity, the Google ad is a perfect example. They already dominate the category, what’s the point of spending another $2.5 million? As far as a waste of money, I had no idea what Boost Mobile or TruTV offer. I still don’t. If you’re introducing a service on a broad scale and you’re going to spend $ millions, it’s probably a good idea to let people know what the service is (I’m just sayin’). Coming close behind (pardon the pun) are the Dockers ads. Let’s… Read more »
Phil Rubin
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

It is mind boggling that around $250 million was spent on advertising and there was and is so little to show for it.

Aside from a lot of uninspired creative, there was no shortage of bad taste and yet so little focus on customers.

This year Denny’s seems to have made some progress with its free Grand Slam breakfast offer–at least via their website they now have a sweepstakes and an opt-in. A great call to action–a free breakfast, and hopefully this year they’ll convert some of these “triers” to repeat buyers.

From a creative standpoint, Google was the clear winner. In terms of vividly illustrating what it is really all about as a brand and as a “product,” Google hit the real grand slam.

For $3 million per :30, it is amazing every year that companies don’t do more with their Super Bowl opportunities to engage customers, drive opt-ins and create measurable payback.

Warren Thayer
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

At the Bowl party I attended, we were guessing what the ads were about or what they were trying to sell. We agreed that it was often hard to tell, and no, we didn’t drink that many beers. David Ogilvy’s old line, “It’s not creative unless it sells,” came to mind repeatedly. The consensus: all the seeming focus on underwear in several spots made Hanes the big winner of the night.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
11 years 3 months ago

That’s easy! I loved the one with the girl (or baby) who ate that chip (or drank that coke), then said that really funny thing to their spouse (or Betty White), then got in the car with Mr. Burns to make the party right, before heading off for a free grand slam breakfast with the GoDaddy girl. Who said Super Bowl ads aren’t memorable?

Ron Margulis
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

The best Super Bowl commercial wasn’t even a commercial, but rather a promo for CBS–the Letterman piece with Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno. Classic Letterman, and apparently he wrote the bit himself.

Two other thoughts:

The Google ad will likely benefit the company most because of the absence of Yahoo and Bing.

AB InBev overdid a bit. It seemed every other ad was for Bud, Bud Light or Michelob.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
11 years 3 months ago

Betty White was the best. Too many car ads. Overall, I was somewhat disappointed. I felt like this was a year that a retailer could have really made a powerful statement and that did not seem to happen.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

To me, the Doritos ads were a scream; they struck the perfect tone for the Super Bowl without dipping into misogyny, as many others did (Twitter was all a’twitter about this as the GoDaddy ads ran). At the end of the day, I’d give the award to The Who. They may be long in the tooth, however, CSI got a primo plug!

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Ads had a tough time this year competing with a nailbiter game and The Who. Loved the little kid who instructed the guy “Don’t touch my mama, and don’t touch my Doritos.”

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

I thought the ads were overshadowed for the 3rd year in a row by a great game!

Doritos and Denny’s were the winners in my book. They used humor but made sure the consumers knew the products! If you were at a large party like I was the visual was very important due to the noise and I felt these two advertisers got their message across with or without sound!

Jonathan Marek
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

The Google ad was elegant. Which makes it unique among Superbowl ads. I don’t know if they will get any real benefit from it–ironically, unlike everything Google does, it isn’t measurable! But at least it was classy.

On a different note, what was Sketchers thinking? Am I missing something, like maybe dreadfully boring is the new cool?

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 3 months ago

Snickers (Betty White) had it all. Product relevance, relevance to the sporting event it was created for, humor, and interest across a wide viewer age range.

James Tenser
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

My vote too goes to the the Letterman-Oprah-Leno Superbowl party promo. Maybe the Dorito-shiraken bit came in second.

The Google Paris spot earns props for its concept, but the romance seemed contrived, and you had to READ it to get it, which cuts out about 80% of the audience.

Is it just me or did the current Anheuser-Busch ads seem a bit soul-less under the new management?

The Who performance was workmanlike but entirely predictable. Too bad they couldn’t work up a new wrinkle…and I don’t mean a hi-def close-up of Roger Daltrey.

Lucky that the game was pretty darned good or my attention might have wandered.

Dennis Serbu
Guest
Dennis Serbu
11 years 3 months ago

Show me the metrics. What will be the post game brand lift for these companies that dumped millions of dollars of their treasure into the Super Bowl. Speaking purely for myself, I didn’t jump in the car and run to the market, nor likely did any of the ads inspire me to do so in the future.

Most of these ads seem to be the product of self amusement for the respective marketing departments of very large companies. The ad by the Census did reinforce that our government it is totally screwed up and out of control with wasteful spending. Ironically, I have a vision of Doritos in a casket which is a major turnoff, and a Tortilla chip so hard it can inbed itself into someone’s neck.

No thanks. I think I consumed my last bag.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 3 months ago

I thought the ads were uninspired, lacked creativity, and were reaching for slapstick humor. Tackling old people, men not wearing pants, men and women not wearing clothes in an office, 4 separate ads showing people hitting one another; I don’t know. Either I’m getting old, or the humor of the Three Stooges is 100% back in vogue. Which would not necessarily be a bad thing.

The only ad that I thought was creative, well-done, and truly memorable was the David Letterman, Oprah, Jay Leno promo. It was inspired simply after all that has happened with the barbs going back and forth. And if you know the back story with all 3 participants, the 15 second ad was genius!

Leon Farbes
Guest
Leon Farbes
11 years 3 months ago

The ROI pressure to be effective in creating a 30 second Super Bowl commercial costing a minimum of $2.5 million per spot must be considerable–especially in this economic climate.

From the comments I read, Pareto’s law comes to mind: 80% of the effective Super Bowl ads were produced by only 20% of the companies that created the ads. If you weren’t motivated to try, buy, or re-buy the various commercial brands, and you were left scratching your head wondering what some of the ads were trying to achieve, then the creative and approval process for that ad is faulty.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 3 months ago

I did not see all of the Super Bowl ads, but of those I did, I didn’t find any that were particularly memorable. Perhaps the one with Betty White and Abe Vigoda, but who was that for???

Bob Houk
Guest
Bob Houk
11 years 3 months ago

I thought the Audi ad was hilarious, but more in the sense of making the green movement look ridiculous than telling me anything about their product.

It seems that too many SB ads are more about marketers’ egos than selling product or promoting brand names.

GoDaddy gets dopier every year, which is, come to think of it, an achievement in itself. But to their credit, they are certainly the best-known brand in their category. Bud is getting tiresome.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
11 years 3 months ago
My curmudgeon hat firmly in place, I thought the Super Bowl ad landscape was desolate. As a (very, very lucky) two-time CLIO recipient for campaigns that ran during Super Bowl broadcasts, I was appalled. BTW, in the list offered, why wasn’t the Clydesdale/Longhorn Steer spot included among the Anheuser-Busch offerings? Throughout the ads was woven a distinct thread of mean-spiritedness and disgusting weirdness. Men in tighty-whities in the workplace? Who remembers the Griswolds or the Super Bowl Shuffle? A Simpson’s character loses $billions but is consoled by a Coke? Chickens afraid of having to lay more eggs? The latest version of an animatronic beaver, still very unrealistic? Sure, I introduced dancing raisins and an animated, sexy, chrome robot voiced by Kathleen Turner, but those campaigns were entertaining. People wanted to view them over and over. The music stuck in their heads. How many of this year’s Super Bowl ads are you eager to view again? How many stuck in your head (in a positive way, tighty-whities excluded)? It was announced today that the National Organization… Read more »
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