2011 Superbowl Ad Breakdown


The Superbowl is just about the only time of year I get to use my Latin.

Another year, another Superbowl probably with two teams that you don’t normally root for. Do you even remember who played in last year’s game? The commercials and the camaraderie are why most Americans watch the Superbowl and this year was no different.

The game turned out to be a good one and it was nice to see Green Bay take advantage of Pittsburgh’s mistakes to hang on for the win. Back to the Commercial rundown.  All the usual suspects were present – beer ads, car ads, movie ads, snack food ads, soda ads and a lot of  Fox TV and NFL promo ads. 

Maybe the expectations of the audience have outgrown the medium - they are just television commercials after all and normally we avoid them if at all possible. But the last few years it seems like most Ad agencies are choking under the pressure of the big game and simply phoning it in. Nothing really innovative or interesting, no real surprises and nothing that makes me want to rush out and hand over my hard earned money or hard-earned time.

The worst Ad of the night is tough to call. So many choices. Both Bud and Budlight commercials continued their lackluster uninspired campaigns bringing nothing new to the table beyond adolescent humor aimed at audience members too young to buy beer. GoDaddy was as tasteless and irritating as ever – although Joan Rivers was a surprise so I’ll give them credit for that . But for me the tasteless faux issue Groupon Ad about Tibet takes the cake. The political issues in Tibet are real and complex, so I’ll leave them for another venue. Groupon’s choice to attach themselves to the issue solely for shock value is classless and makes a statement about their brand in more ways than one. Living Social did a much better job with their commercial – both interesting and it reinforces the message of Living Social.

Although there really wasn’t a clear-cut best choice, the best ad was probably Motorola’s Android Tablet commercial. If only because it was tweaked the competition by running an ad that hearkened back to Apple’s famous 1984 Ad. Of course this time it was Apple being skewered as the establishment company and not IBM. Points were also given because Motorola showed Teleflora how to send flowers to a women tastefully. The honorable mention is the Stella Artois Adrien Brody ad. Very tasteful and one of the few commercials to acknowledge that much of the audience is female.

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Maybe we don’t watch enough commercials, or TV for that matter, but many of the commercials really offended the women in the room watching the game with me. It wasn’t just Go Daddy, which was its usually offensive self, but the Teleflora Ad’s use of the word “Rack” made for an interesting conversation with my five year-old daughter – one I’d rather not have had. Good idea, but why did the word chosen have to be so offensive? Pepsi’s cartoonish violence was also offensive because the humor was obvious and puerile.

Not sure when it happened, but apparently somebody in Hollywood sent out a memo that said all big-budget movies have to be advertised at the Super Bowl. Not sure whether I’ve got the right number but I think I saw at least 13 movie promos, maybe more, after a while they all started to blend together. Let’s see there was: KungFu Panda 2, Transformers, Fast Five, Super8, Thor, Battle Los Angeles, Cowboys vs. Aliens, Captain America, Rango, Rio, Pirates of the Caribbean ON Stranger Tides, Limitless, Mars Needs Moms.  I guess $3 million for 30 seconds of airtime is a rounding error when you have budgets over $100 million. Am I  the only person for whom all the animated kid movie promos started to blend into one movie – Was it the parrots in the Wild West heading to Mars? Or was a lizard battling a Panda in Brazil?

My best of selections for this year.

Best Beer Commercial – Stella Artois. The only beer commercial to acknowledge the fact that women make up a large portion of the TV audience. While I don’t think the beer is worth the hype it was a really nice long form commerical.  Here it is:

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Best Car Commercial – Tie between the Audi Prison Break commercial and the Mini “Cram it in the Boot” commercial. Audi’s ad was long but the production values were good – Kenny G’s guest appearance nailed it. Mini’s ad was a borderline double entendre with their “cram it in the boot” highlighting Mini’s British heritage and the quirky British vocabulary. Honorable mention goes to Chevy for their Silverado pickup “Lassie” commercial. Best pickup commercial in recent memory. 

The VW Darth Vader ad was funny and cute but since it was released before the game and the game version was shortened I can’t say it was the best ad – it would have been the clear winner if it had been a surprise. VW’s new Beetle ad was interesting for that very reason. Two good commercials from VW – well done. Overall the economy must be getting better because it seemed like the car commercials had the most variety. Well done, except for the fact that Audi took some time before posting their video on Youtube. A missed opportunity. 

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Best Soda Commercial – By default, Coke’s Lord of the Rings inspired happy Dragon ad. Pepsi’s cartoon violence wasn’t needed and wasn’t that interesting. In fact several women watching were offended by the cartoon violence. Maybe there are only so many ways to push sugar soda. Who knows.

Best Movie Commercial – who knows the 13 plus movie promos all blended together although the premise of Cowboys vs. Aliens might be the winner. All I remember from every movie promo was that they all had special effects or were animated. Oh and I think I heard Johnny Dep twice.

Best Snack Food Commercial – no award given. The decent ad award goes to the Snickers Ad with Richard Lewis and Rosanne was funny but it’s just the lastest installment in a campaign and wasn’t especially interesting. Last year’s was funny because it was surprising. If I never have to sit through another Doritos Ad again it’ll be too soon. They just aren’t that interesting any more.

Best In-House Promo – the House TV show ad referencing former Steeler great Mean Joe Green’s Coke commercial was well done. But the NFL’s compilation of various sitcom clips was pitch perfect and very well done. NFL wins by a field goal.

Overall observations. Special effects may look cool, but the Kia ad is a perfect example of what happens when the effects budget is bigger than the thought budget. Poseidon and Mayan priests in the same ad? Way too much. When every ad or movie trailer is loaded to the gills with computerized tricks, they start to blend together which is why simple ads can be effective – the VW Darth Vader is a good example of this. Juvenile humor wears thin pretty quickly. My advice for advertisers is to try and class it up a bit next year.

Despite the mostly weak commercials, the game was enjoyable because for the second year in a row the football game turned out to be a good one and the commercials were just good enough for me not to switch channels. What do you think? Which commercial was your favorite?

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  1. #1 by Michael on 2011/02/07 - 12:32

    The Super Bowl adds were weak, I do not think there was a memorable add in the bunch. Like you mentioned either the advertisers are out of ideas or the big money has moved on becuase the Super Bowl isn’t the cash cow it used to be.

  2. #2 by television commercials on 2012/03/10 - 15:29

    My favorite of 2011 is the Darth Vader ad, and I agree they shouldn’t have shortened it. Those extra seconds count. Thank you for this post, very interesting. Check out my twitter account at @JackrabbitMedia

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