Super Bowl Ads: Who Won and Who Just Wasted Their Money? (Hint: Most Did)

Super Bowl ads

There’s considerable evidence that the majority of Super Bowl advertising — indeed advertising in general — doesn’t do much for the involved companies and brands. Yet Super Bowl ads have become a form of entertainment.

We anticipate them, discuss them, critique and rate them and watch them on YouTube, Hulu and elsewhere repeatedly. But do they matter? Certainly they matter to NBC, which rakes in huge revenues from each $4.5 million spot. Yet by the end of this week my guess is that the majority of yesterday’s Super Bowl ads will be a dim memory — if they’re remembered at all.

Many people will remember a few of the ads but may not remember the products or companies they promoted. According to digital marketing firm Prime Visibility, 65% of people surveyed thought the commercials were disappointing compared with “35% who thought they were satisfactory or above average.”

While most of the ads will have no impact on long-term brand perception or consumer purchase behavior, some of the ads will have provide a lift or have some measurable impact. Edmunds and for example are reporting that the ads did translate into searches on their sites for more information on specific vehicles shown in some of the ads (e.g., Mercedes and Fiat).

Here’s YouTube’s top ten ads from yesterday in terms of views:

  1. Budweiser: 2015 Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial “Lost Dog”
  2. Bud Light: Bud Light Super Bowl 2015 Commercial – Real Life PacMan
  3. T-Mobile: #KimsDataStash (elsewhere rated as one of the worst ads)
  4. BMW: BMW i3 – “Newfangled Idea”
  5. Snickers: SNICKERS – “The Brady Bunch”
  6. Clash of Clans: Revenge
  7. Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes-Benz “Fable”
  8. (domestic violence)
  9. Hyundai: Welcome to the New Age
  10. Toyota: How Great I Am (Camry)

Social media and brand monitoring tool NetBase said the following ads were the “most buzzed about”:

  1. McDonalds
  2. Nationwide
  3. Budweiser
  4. Always
  5. Coke
  6. Skittles
  7. Nissan
  8. Doritos
  9. Clash of Clans
  10. Microsoft

Here’s the AdAge ranking of the ads and Twitter’s short list (McDonald’s “Pay with Lovin’ won). According to USAToday’s “AdMeter,” the following were the most well-received Super Bowl ads:

  1. Budweiser, “Lost Dog”
  2. Always, “Like a Girl”
  3. Fiat, “Blue Pill”
  4. Microsoft, “Braylon”
  5. Doritos, “Middle Seat”
  6. Dodge, “Wisdom”
  7. Toyota, “My Bold Dad”
  8. Coca-Cola, “Make It Happy”
  9. Nissan, “With Dad”
  10. Doritos, “When Pigs Fly”

There’s considerable disagreement about quality, impact and popularity in the lists above and the scores of other rankings, lists and “buzz metrics” floating around and being pitched today.

Stepping back, Budweiser has some of the best-liked ads of all time and in yesterday’s ad bowl. Three of the top five most shared Super Bowl ads of all time are from Budweiser. Yet the company has seen its actual market share slide consistently for the past decade. The massive marketing spending that Budweiser is doing is: a) either having no impact or b) mitigating the slide at the margins but otherwise ineffective.

I think the movie trailers and, as mentioned, some of the car-related ads (i.e., Fiat) did relatively well for themselves because they brought pure awareness to new products. Some of the ads may have reinforced a brand’s image (e.g., Coke as a “feel good” company; Doritos as an irreverent brand) or helped support a brand image change (e.g., Microsoft as a brand of the people; GoDaddy as a partner to SMBs).

The Nationwide “dead kid” ad was partly “successful” in that it created awareness for the company but it was horribly depressing. Now many people who didn’t know Nationwide Insurance are aware of the company but the association may be very negative and thus may keep people from investigating the company’s coverage plans and options.

Then there’s McDonald’s: its Pay with Lovin’ ad was very successful as a way to introduce a novel promotion. Video analytics firm Ace Metrix said, “The ad achieved an Ace Score of 706, one of the highest Super Bowl Ace Scores of all time and 21 percent above the category norm for Quick Service Restaurants.”

But it won’t help solve any of the company’s long-term “structural” or image problems. It may bring a few more people in during the next two weeks to see if the company will actually live up to the promotion in the ad but the ad’s impact will fizzle quickly if it hasn’t already.

Ultimately I would argue that while we’re all obsessing on social media stats and search query volumes, most of these ads were a waste of money from a brand and advertiser perspective. Disagree?

Which ads do you think “worked” and why? Which ones do you think will bring any “lift” to their brands?

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2 Responses to “Super Bowl Ads: Who Won and Who Just Wasted Their Money? (Hint: Most Did)”

  1. neg norton says at

    I thought as a whole they were underwhelming. Perhaps it’s partly due to the fact that there’s simply so many of them coming at you they all seem to blend together.

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    Agree. There were a couple clever ones but most fell flat. See also:

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