Super Bowl Ads 2012: The Good, The Bad & What Were They Thinking?

Some Super Bowls ads outshine the game. This year? Not so much. Part was due to a tight game that went down to the final play (NBC’s prayers to the football gods were answered!). Part was due to a fairly lackluster batch of 30 second, 60 second and, yes, even two minute pitches. Overall, the reaction I got was most people were disappointed in the commercials this year. Like Madonna’s Half Time Show, there were some who enjoyed it, some who didn’t like it and some who were just plain indifferent – which is an advertiser’s nightmare.

Didn’t get a chance to see the ads? Watch them here.

The Good: Doritos, Go Daddy, TaxAct, Kia, Bud Light Weego, Honda CRV, Dannon Oikos get high marks.

The Bad: Bud Light Platinum, Coca-Cola missed the boat.

What were they thinking? Hulu, Audi, Samsung… yikes!

Throughout my next several blogs, I’ll get in to my reasoning for above. If you agree or disagree, please feel free to comment below.

As a former advertising account executive, I know first hand, sometimes… despite your better judgment, despite your advice, the client will let ego get the best of them and run an advertisement not in their best interest. This past Super Bowl, there were some pretty big egos.

As every good Guerrilla Marketer knows, it is all about ROI – return on your investment. As one of my first mentors taught me: do you want the ad that makes you laugh, or do you want the ad that makes you act? While some may argue, “Any press is good press,” at $3-4M per 30 second spot… you better make darn sure you are getting nothing but the absolute best press.

So, while watching the Super Bowl at a party like so many others, I paid attention to the commercials this year pretty closely. I wanted to see people’s reaction, and quizzed friends and colleagues that evening and the next day. I re-watched all the commercials and this is what I was looking for:

  • Trends & Observations (Today’s topic)
  • Social Media (Thursday’s topic)
  • Strategy (Friday’s topic)

Here are some stats I noted (these are unofficial and only counted once – please, don’t make me watch them again!):

69 advertisements (not including local and NBC house ads)

40 minutes of commercials (this was from kickoff to end of game)

The break down:

Automobile Manufacturer 22 spots / 14.5 minutes
Other (Retail, Products, etc.) 14 spots / 7.5 minutes
Dot Coms (companies primarily doing business online) 9 spots / 4.5 minutes
Movies 8 spots / 4.5 minutes
Beer 6 spots / 3 minutes
Soda 5 spots / 3.5 minutes
Food 5 spots / 2.5 minutes


So, notice any trends?

If you take from the Dot Com category and place it in the Auto category, exactly 1/3 of the spots were devoted to swaying you, the viewer, to buy a new vehicle this year. A whopping 15 of the 40 minutes (37.5%) were about why you need to consider the heated steering wheel, the sunbeam headlights, the ability to bungee, and being faster (not really) than a Cheetah before making the second biggest purchase of your adult lives.

What trend does this suggest? While one could argue, at $3-4M per 30 second spot (plus $$$ in production), the $25 billion industry can afford to dominate the Super Bowl. While 2011 brought the most auto sales since 2008, they expect a 6% increase this year.

What does this mean for all of us? Well, when you compare to advertisements of recent Super Bowls, it sure looks like they are banking – and I mean putting money where their mouth is kind of banking – on the economy improving this year. From Madison Avenue to God’s ears… (never thought I’d say that!)

While the Soda War came down to Coke (3 spots, 2 minutes) versus Pepsi (2 spots / 1.5 min), the Beer War came down to Bud versus… Bud Light?!? Interestingly, Miller Lite, Coors, Corona, Heineken… were all absent. Anheuser-Busch paid out for six spots, dominating the night, including introducing a new “Platinum” version of Bud Light (really?). While the factory ads were boring and seriously lacking – does any beer drinker really make their decision based on where and how the process takes place – the “Weego” ad featuring an overworked dog seemed to get a good reaction from the crowds I polled.

This Thursday, look for my take on how Social Media was used both effectively and ineffectively, turning some branding ads in to “call-to-action” tools.

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Your Guerrilla Marketer,
Rick Verbanas






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