The Best and Worst Stories Told by Super Bowl Commercials
To those who are still disappointed about the outcome of last night’s Super Bowl game, we bring consolation in the form of an analysis of the best and worst commercials – from a storytelling perspective, of course! If we missed anything, we'd love to hear from you in the comments!
While some coverage has said that brands played it safe this year by not trying to be over the top to demand attention, other industry experts have noted that this made the Super Bowl easier to watch with family, thus expanding brands’ overall reach beyond the select few who consider themselves ferocious advocates.
LPPers choices for the best and worst Super Bowl commercials demonstrate that the brands that stood out from the pack this year did so by telling simply compelling stories. These memorable moments in storytelling felt cohesive and we saw fewer experimental approaches – weird humor, lose social media tie-ins – this year than we have in years past. Perhaps brands are learning to integrate their storytelling and content marketing efforts? This is good news.
A non-commercial to one-up real commercials. Super Bowl commercials have traditionally included many beer spots, so when Newcastle featured Anna Kendrick in “beer commercial babe hot” and took a “non-Super Bowl ad” approach to target beer-drinking audiences … it won the beer category. By choosing Anna Kendrick as a spokesperson, they appealed to 20-something guys (cute-and-funny-girl factor) and 20-something girls (best-friend-but-not-supermodel-annoying factor). The fact that one LPPers Super Bowl party took the time to pause the game and watch this non-aired commercial online seems like a big win (and cost savings) for the brand, undoubtedly one-upping their competitors’ million dollar budgets and cute-puppy factor.
Out with the old branding, in with a new story. Radio Shack used the perception that they are outdated to their benefit in a clever way. Many viewers likely thought to themselves, “who even shops at Radio Shack anymore?” upon seeing this commercial. However, Radio Shack was going after viewers who are nostalgic about the 80ies, who could empathize with the company, and who would follow along with the company’s updated message without feeling like they were out of style.
Double-takes and shameless plugs that work. After Rob Riggle starred in a 30-second commercial promoting the Ford Fusion Hybrid’s nearly double the full economy of the average vehicle, James Franco starred in a 90-second, more epic commercial to ensure that the nearly double message would really sink in with audiences. This was the first of two great “double-take” commercials that demonstrated that the “repetition, repetition, repetition” tactic can help make a point. The second commercial came to us via Wonderful Pistachios, who featured Stephen Colbert (and an American Bald Eagle) in two 15-seconds ads shamelessly promoting the product – the kind of thing Colbert Report viewers know only Stephen Colbert can get away with. While the first part cleverly leveraged the fact that Colbert and Pistachios are generally known for being one-of-a-kind and nothing more really needs to be said as they sell themselves on their own merits, the second part was even better -- with classic Colbert energy, enthusiasm and “over-the-topness.” Colbert made it clear that branding was the key to selling the product. His eagle looked dashing in Pistachio green, and cracking his head open like a Pistachio was just dumb enough to be brilliant.
Best storytelling refresh. T-Mobile wins for best integrated campaign that featured a branding/storytelling refresh. With the ironic humor of Tim Tebow, the brand made a push to get out of its second-tier mobile provider position and push to the forefront. The commercial series was funny and the call to action changed the conversation a bit in terms of what mobile providers can offer customers with a provocative direct attack at competitors.
Social media win. Funny guy John Krasinski stole the show (and Twitterverse) with the first post-Super Bowl commercial and possibly greatest integration of social media into an ad campaign ever. Budget friendly ad? Check. Post-viewing engagement via social media? Check. Storytelling win – save money with our brand, and we’ll make it worthwhile for you. Check out the conversation around #EsuranceSave30.
Bend it like Beckham. For a good, old-fashioned brand that knows who its customers are, and the obvious things that appeal to them … look no further than H&M and their commercial featuring David Beckham.
Crowdsourcing for the win. Doritos time travel ad was not only funny, but managed to use humor that appealed to both children and adults who might get late night munchies. Worth noting that this ad was part of the brand’s “Crash the Super Bowl” contest, which lets fans be the creators behind the brand’s memorable spots during the show. This year’s winner took home $1 million – a small price to pay for Doritos to position itself as an innovative, open-minded, consumer-focused, social-savvy brand.
The human side of technology. We at LPP were fans of Microsoft’s first-ever Super Bowl commercial, which captivated us with a beautifully told story about the impact of technology on people’s lives. With every frame, the company built up to a very touching moment between Steve Gleason, a former NFL player currently living with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, communicating with his son through technology.
Beer, horse, puppy. This commercial did a compelling job at charmingly incorporating visuals and elements of middle America (i.e. working farm) while also promoting the product by implying that Budweiser is America’s best friend. And also, can we say CUTE?!?! Who doesn’t love puppies and horses? Editor’s Note: While this commercial made our “favorites” list, it seems that not all of Budweiswer’s work during the Super Bowl this year was worthy of admiration. Read on!
OUR LEAST FAVORITES
Is there anything more American than America? Bob Dylan is an American icon and maybe that’s what Chrysler had in mind when they tapped him to star in their Super Bowl commercial. However, Bob Dylan is an American icon for his folk music and lyrics that are strongly anti-establishment. To see him doing commercials at this point seemed sad. We weren’t impressed by Chrysler for their American Made message and felt sad that they bought Bob Dylan.
Heartbreaking/warming ad, copy-edit fail. Budweiser pulled at our heartstrings from a storytelling perspective with a nice tribute to a real American hero in the “A Hero’s Welcome” ad. Classic Budweiser messaging playbook to incorporate the Clydesdales, patriotism and beer for a feel good moment, especially when the featured solider was shown in the stands at the game. However, attention to detail failed Budweiser on this one when the final shot in the commercial included an incorrect hashtag, by a multi-billion dollar brand no less – #Salute A Soldier (with spaces) versus #SaluteASoldier. Copy-edit that ad spot or hire a social media intern next time, please.
Misaligned brand and storytelling message. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a wonderful, beautifully thought out and powerful movie. So are Maserati’s. But Maserati’s cost a whole heck of a lot more than a rigged up river raft, and even though this ad was for an “affordable” Maserati, it still costs over $60k and has nothing to do with the struggles of the impoverished Bayou residents the film was about. Shame on Maserati for trying to make a connection here, and shame on the filmmakers for selling out to an ultra-luxury car maker. If it was an ad for almost anything else, I’d applaud them for making a pop-culture and emotional connection, but this was laughable.
Social media annoyance. JC Penney planned “drunk” tweeting during the Super Bowl was dumb, annoying and a bad look for the brand. We did enjoy how other brands responded, which led us to read this AdAge article about real-time marketing/social media engagement during the Super Bowl. Very cool to see how some brands made big splashes or tanked due to some simple social etiquette and engagement rather than billion dollar ad budgets.
The Matrix? That is so last decade, Kia. If Kia wanted to tell a story about how futuristic their cars are, it should not have aligned itself with a movie brand that is over a decade old. Huge miss.