Super Bowl Ads 2017: The Good, The Bad & What Were They Thinking?

While the confetti is still settling to Super Bowl LI, I thought I would provide a few instant reactions to the commercials from the big game. Even though the Patriots overcame a 25 point third quarter deficit to force the first-ever Super Bowl overtime, many of the 110+ million viewers were also glued to the television set to see the commercials.

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

As a marketer, the Super Bowl is one of the top events I look forward to each year. The anticipation is, if you are going to spend a reported $5.5 Million per 30 second television spot, the most creative minds will provide the best commercials.

But… as Howard Cosell said regarding the best laid plans in football, “That’s why they play the game.”

Here are my instant observations. More analysis will come in a future blog.

The Good: T-Mobile, Mr. Clean, Febreeze, Squarespace and Tide get high marks.

T-Mobile ruled the night with several different campaigns all focused on the unlimited service they offer. Whether it was Justin Bieber, Gronk and T.O. depicting the history of the celebration dance, the unlikely pairing of Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg, or Kristen Schaal getting turned on by being punished by the other company’s overage charges, T-Mobile caught our attention and delivered their message loud and clear.

Perhaps no ad made the room stop and stare at the screen more than the surprisingly sexy cartoon character of Mr. Clean strutting his stuff while cleaning the house. Kudos to the creative team that came up with this clever commercial, including a laugh-out-loud moment at the end where Mr. Clean was actually a real-life, less-than-ordinary man, being passionately attacked with the line, “Ya gotta love a man who cleans.”

Speaking of commercials that made us laugh out loud, Febreeze bluntly came out and announced what their product is really being used for. Part of an overall campaign, this commercial specifically tied into the Super Bowl halftime break and challenged us if our bathroom was ready to handle what was coming.

The Bad: GoDaddy, Lexus and Honda missed the boat.

While it was appreciated GoDaddy didn’t try to use sex to sell their website hosting services this year, the concept of taking various elements of what is popular on the internet was poorly executed and fell flat.

I understand Lexus is trying to target a younger demographic and attempted to do so using dancer Charles Lil’ Buck Riley. But, is that really the right target audience for this $90,000 automobile?

I liked the Honda “Yearbook” commercial for its cleverness, creativity and use of star power. But what was Honda trying to sell here? “Here’s to chasing dreams…” The Honda CR-V? There was little to no connection between the message and the product, leaving me wondering how many Gen Xers were going to be motivated by this commercial.

What were they thinking?: 84 Lumber, Audi, Michelob Ultra have different reasons for being considered flops this year.

84 Lumber got political with a country already divided on the subject of immigration and a wall. Gutsy, but not smart. They made a six minute commercial where the ending (featuring a wall to keep out immigrants) was turned down for being too controversial with Fox. So, they left out the ending and sent viewers to the internet to see the rest. Only problem was the website crashed.

Another political message was Audi‘s tasteful commercial featuring a young girl winning a soapbox derby, only to have her father worry she won’t be valued as much as a man in the workplace. While the car manufacturer should be commended for speaking up for equal wages for women, does it really drive the viewer to purchase an Audi? Many felt the ad was in poor taste, and even drew some controversy since Audi has no women on their board.

And finally… What was Michelob Ultra thinking using the beloved theme song to Cheers, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” for low-carb beer aimed at health-conscious fitness buffs? Something tells me Norm isn’t their target audience and the rest of us have a hard time disassociating. In one of the Cheers episodes, Norm was asked, “What’s shakin’ Norm?” to which the portly bar regular replied, “What isn’t?”

I will be back with analysis in a future blog, but wanted to share my initial thoughts before heading off to sleep. What were your favorites from this year’s Super Bowl? Post below!

Your Guerrilla Marketer,
Rick Verbanas

Rick Verbanas has brought his passion for marketing to Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and not-for-profits. He strives to stay current in the latest marketing best practices, and provides a weekly roundup for your news and enjoyment. To subscribe to future blogs, please enter your email address on the left hand side of the home page.

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