Which Ads Won Super Bowl XXVIII?

jerismith-communicusBy guest columnist Jeri Smith, president and chief executive of Communicus.

With the actual game being a near-blowout, this year’s Super Bowl commercials were more needed than ever to add some entertainment to the event. The good news: This year’s ads seemed a bit better than in years past, both at delighting and persuading.

So which ads may have managed both to entertain and convince people to buy (or consider buying) the brand?

  • Budweiser did it again. The combination of Lab puppies with the brand’s iconic Clydesdales in an all-American setting was bound to make millions of viewers want to run out and hug a pack of Bud. The spot received massive pre-game publicity, with 33 million YouTube views, but would have stood out during the game regardless.
  • SodaStream fielded a strong commercial that deployed celebrity Scarlett Johansson in a way that was consistent with her persona, but also put the product and its benefits in a starring role. SodaStream’s execution was much improved from last year, when their spot more focused on trashing the competition than telling viewers why they need a SodaStream.
  • Cheerios did a fantastic job of reminding viewers about Cheerios and the role it plays in American family breakfast moments with an effective, heartstrings-tugging commercial that wove the brand inextricably into an engaging story. This commercial is very consistent with the brand voice, successfully reminding viewers of why they’ve always loved Cheerios, and why they ought to go buy some.
  • The David Beckham persona, and his line for H&M, is effective at raising the profile of the retailer and getting people to shop there. Becks has become well-linked with the H&M brand since his first Super Bowl appearance in 2012, thus raising the effectiveness of these spots beyond the many commercials that simply rented a celebrity (or three) for the day.
  • Beats Music made impeccable use of Ellen DeGeneres, capturing her personality and transferring that onto the brand. Crucially, the ad also clearly told the viewer why they need Beats. The Super Bowl, with its broad and attentive audience, can be the perfect venue to introduce a new product if you do it right. This commercial nailed it.

Other commercials that were less engaging in the tough, cluttered Super Bowl environment, but perhaps persuaded a somewhat smaller group:

  • Squarespace, an unknown brand, produced a commercial that effectively communicated what they do and why this might be relevant to you.
  • Sonos, another lesser-known brand, aired a spot that effectively depicted the brand benefits.
  • Axe, though not as breakthrough as some of the top-tier commercials, was more effective than their 2013 “Apollo” spot at building to the product name.

Ads with interesting creative strategies that were entertaining and might prove to be successful at producing impact on the brand:

  • Volkswagen’s “Wings” commercial, focusing on the durability of the cars and their German engineering.
  • GoDaddy’s new small business positioning, particularly with the “Bodybuilder” spot that featured Danica Patrick in a cameo role, stood out.

One caveat: Denver fans will be joined by some major brands in feeling disappointed today. The fact that the game was almost a total shutout could mean that advertisers whose spots appeared late in the game could find themselves severely weakened as a result. Only time — and post-game consumer research — will tell.

Jeri Smith is president and chief executive of Communicus, an advertising research firm that specializes in isolating the impact of advertising and integrated communications campaigns on brands. Ms. Smith has focused her career on helping clients more intimately understand how their advertising is working, having spent more than 20 years at Communicus and another 15 years at DDB, leading consumer research, planning, and marketing information services units.

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