SuperBowl Ads–Warm and Fuzzy: Make Way for Disturbing

Another SuperBowl, and for once my team won. Peyton Manning really is a class act. Articulate, hardworking, enduring. He may be a shell of his former self, but what a legacy, what a career. He’s raised the bar for the wannabes and the youngsters like Cam Newton who dabs around the field and is a great interview—as long as he’s winning. But really, the SuperBowl is only partly about football. It’s also about partying, getting together with your friends and eating and drinking. And for anyone who’s interested in marketing, it’s about the advertisers who drop millions of dollars for a chance to get in front of one of the biggest TV audience of all time.

top of mind marketing_superbowl ads

Puppy-monkey-baby. Perhaps the most disturbing ad?

I always think of SuperBowl ads as an effort to reach Americans on a fundamental, emotional level. They remind us that football is an American sport and this is our tradition. Who, after all, doesn’t look forward to those Budweiser ads—those magnificent Clydesdales, the puppies, the young servicemen coming home—the ads that break your heart. But I sat there on the couch this year, notebook in hand, and not one ad really tugged at my heartstrings.

This year’s theme was about disturbing

Rather than an emotional connection, this year we got bizarre and disturbing. The grotesque puppy-monkey-baby promoting a drink that combines Mountain Dew, fruit juice and caffeine called Kickstart, though it was difficult to figure out what this was all about. The ad where a husband is stuffing himself with Doritos during his wife’s ultrasound? Distasteful, but apparently this was the most shared ad. And then there was Xifanan, sort of pink puffy personified version of constipation.

Kudos to Jeff Goldblum and Helen Mirren

Loved watching the ever-stylish and elegant Jeff Goldblum playing a grand piano while gliding up the side of a building—who cares that we’ve never heard of and never quite got the connection. And of course we love Helen Mirren—frank and uncensored, telling us to not drink and drive on a day that’s known for record-setting alcohol consumption. Yet there’s a disconnect here—I really can’t see Helen sitting down and knocking back a few Buds.

Doritos dog revenge ad steals the show

Doritos spent big this year, and their dog ad may have stolen the show. The supermarket that made it clear that no dogs were allowed somehow got outsmarted by those adorable pups. They found a way into the store, stood on each other’s shoulders, donned an overcoat and marched right up to the checkstand with a bag of Doritos in hand. Clearly, when you want a Dorito, you find a way to get it.

Some interesting stats on SuperBowl advertising

  • Automakers purchased 11 spots for a total of 9 minutes of ad time.
  • 9 million people tuned in to watch Super Bowl 50, making it the third-most watched broadcast in US history.
  • 1 million visitors came to San Francisco for the Big Game, more than doubling the city’s population. Beyonce was the most-loved tourist in town.
  • Super Bowl 50 included 49 minutes and 35 seconds of advertising, making up 22% of the total broadcast.

Does SuperBowl advertising work?

Let’s take a look at one more stat: First-time advertisers bought 32% of the ad time; 45% of last year’s Super Bowl advertisers did not return this year. As someone who’s spent a lifetime in marketing, I hate one-off efforts—they never work. Those 45% were smart to not drop their dollars into another SuperBowl ad effort with no ROI.

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