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Best and Worst of Super Bowl Marketing Strategy: 2013 Edition

Every year there seems to be another Admeter/Adbowl/Adrank type of contest that lets anyone register and vote for their favourite ads. Sure it’s nice when everyone has an opinion, but as any designer will tell you – opinions are like butts … everyone has one, but usually they stink. If you’re reading this, though, you probably care more about marketing strategy than entertainment value. And so, for you my fellow marketer, here’s a roundup of the best and worst from this year’s Super Bowl Advertisers … all judged from the lens of marketing strategy.

Quick Summary:

  • Best Strategic Ad Overall – Tide: Miracle Stain
  • Best Idea Execution In Real Time – Oreo: Tweets
  • Worst Idea Execution In Real Time – JELLO Pudding
  • Best Strategic Use Of Shock + Awe – Go Daddy Perfect Match
  • Best Strategic Comedy To Make Other Advertisers Look Idiotic – Samsung The Next Big Thing
  • Best Example of Living Up To Pre-Game Hype – Doritos Goat For Sale
  • Worst Example Of NOT Living Up To Pre-Game Hype – M&Ms: Love Ballad
  • Best Use Of Sex Appeal – Calvin Klein Concept 2013
  • Worst Use Of Sex Appeal – Old Spice Irresistable
  • Best Celebrity Spokesperson – Psy Wonderful Pistachios
  • Best Understanding of Target Audience – RAM Farmers
  • Worst Understanding of Target Audience - Gildan Getaway
  • Worst Product Exaggeration – Skechers: Man Vs. Cheetah
  • Worst Example of Brand Trying Too Hard – AXE Lifeguard
  • Worst Ulterior Motive and Stereotyping – Audi Prom + Mercedes Soul

 Best Strategic Ad Overall – Tide: Miracle Stain

The winner this year wasn’t hard to pick. This ad had humor, relevance to the game, a great story line and put the product front and center. What else can you ask for?

Best Idea Execution In Real Time – Oreo: Tweets

Oreo’s in game ad was good, but the execution that had everyone talking online had nothing to do with the TV ad. As New Orleans stadium experienced a power outage, the social media team at Oreo shared this image in real time consoling football fans with the truth that “You can still dunk in the dark” and proving that great timing can really be the most powerful strategy of all.

Worst Idea Execution In Real Time – JELLO Pudding

On the other side of the timing element was JELLO – which had the great creative idea of offering pudding to people in the city of the loser as a consolation. The only problem is the ad came well after the game was over, and therefore might have still reached people in SF in the western time zone … but missed the huge opportunity of reaching more people by announcing this in a more neutral way earlier and following up to customize the message later either through a second ad, or online after.

Best Strategic Use Of Shock + Awe: Go Daddy Perfect Match

Easily the most controversial ad of the night, many people hated this and it finished close to the bottom of the USAToday Admeter poll. Of course it did. But the ad, and the actors starring in it made an appearance on the Today Show last week, the ad has people talking … AND it fits perfectly into Go Daddy’s new messaging about being Sexy and Smart. Not to mention that its Super Bowl ads always correspond with spikes in domain registration purchases. From a marketing strategy point of view, this was a perfect win. Great media, lots of buzz, and a spike in sales.

Best Strategic Comedy To Make Other Advertisers Look Idiotic – Samsung The Next Big Thing

Getting two comedic stars in an ad is enough to get people to pay attention, but this non-ad used the gag of going behind the scenes at the casting meeting for what you imagine would become the ad. As the actors make fun of Super Bowl advertising with one over the top idea after another, it is just a little scary how close they come to describing several of the actual ads from the Super Bowl. With plenty of product cameos and great humor, Samsung scores a winner not just for engagement (by driving people online to see the extended version of the ad), but also for doing what surprisingly no other advertiser did: poke a little bit of fun at the spectacle that is Super Bowl advertising.

Best Example of Living Up To Pre-Game Hype – Doritos Goat For Sale

Say what you want about Doritos consumer generated ad strategy, but after all the hype about “ads by the people” from previous Super Bowl’s, you have to credit Doritos with sticking to the strategy and therefore owning it as a model for their advertising. Not only do they get huge engagement before the game from people submitting ideas and competing – the usually end up with some funny ideas, designed perfectly for their target audience … and this year the creative didn’t disappoint.

Worst Example Of NOT Living Up To Pre-Game Hype – M&Ms: Love Ballad

After huge buzz from last year for their amazing ad – most people expected more creatively from M&M’s and the spot was a huge let down. There’s really not much more to say.

Best Use Of Sex Appeal – Calvin Klein Concept 2013

Using sex to sell a product isn’t a new concept – but Calvin Klein took a departure from the normal method in two ways and both paid off. The first was to make a guy the sex object – one of the few ads this year that objectified a guy instead of the other way around. The second was to use an almost naked model to sell the only thing he was actually wearing: underwear. Anyone can use a hot girl to try and sell deodorant … but when you’re showcasing your product AND showing a hot model … that’s what anyone might call a win-win.

Worst Use Of Sex Appeal – Old Spice Irresistable

Speaking of gratuitiously using sex appeal to sell deodorant – we’ve seen this “turn women on with your great smell” concept so many times before from AXE that it’s become a huge cliche. So when Old Spice jumps squarely onto the me-too-bandwagon with this spot and makes the ridiculous analogy that its products smell like having fierce wolves on your shoulder – not only does it fall flat, but it achieves the opposite effect – creating an ad that’s sure to repel women and probably men too.

Best Celebrity Spokesperson: Psy Wonderful Pistachios

Before you start hating on Psy, or criticizing him for blatantly selling out – remember that Gangnam Style is pretty much the anthem for the last 6 months and he has only recently become a mainstream sensation that almost everyone has heard. Pair his over the top ridiculous style with the brand personality that Wonderful Pistachios has been cultivating for years and it’s really a perfect match. Hey … crack your nuts now! Pistachio Style.

Best Understanding of Target Audience: RAM Farmers

Everything about this ad was written to be a new national anthem for farmers. The powerful still imagery. The deep poetic voice speaking about what it means to be a farmer. Even the reference to “God made a farmer” was all perfectly scripted for an audience that probably matches pretty closely to the people who most often buy a Dodge RAM. Instead of putting Brett Farve in a pair of jeans and overlaying some country music to try and appeal to men aged 35-45, RAM took a stand beside the farmer … and effectively made an emotional connection to “the farmer in all of us.” And just in case you can’t connect that farmer soul deep inside, the ad is probably not for you anyway.

Worst Understanding of Target Audience: Gildan Getaway

There’s an inconvenient little fact that the team behind this ad may have forgotten: women wear t-shirts too. In this “guys do anything for their stuff” cliche, the unbelievable scenario of a guy waking up with leopard printed handcuffs (can you imagine reading that prop description in the script?) continues to its’cringe-worthy end of him trying to get his favourite t-shirt back. Even the ad title – “Getaway” – is awful.

Worst Product Exaggeration – Skechers: Man Vs. Cheetah

Here’s the hard way to promote a new type of footwear: test it in labs, use real technology and get elite athletes to actually use it in competitions and tell you what it’s like. Here’s the easy way: spend a couple of million bucks to create an ad that promises you’ll run as fast as a cheetah if you wear them. Skechers made a lot of customer enemies when they chose to rip off the beloved Tom’s Shoes with their own misguided CSR program http://www.fastcompany.com/1696887/toms-vs-bobs-how-skechers-shot-themselves-foot, and this latest campaign offers the same bottom line lesson: you still can’t buy love … even if you did help a guy save a gazelle from a cheetah.

Worst Example of Brand Trying Too Hard – AXE Lifeguard

Ok, Red Bull had the space jump and now AXE is trying to one-up them by promising to send someone to space. It used to be enough for any guy to just use AXE to drive women wild. Now you have to be an astronaut. Either AXE women are getting more demanding, or a brand is forgetting what made it popular in the first place.

Worst Ulterior Motive and Stereotyping – Audi Prom + Mercedes Soul

It’s an old stereotype in movies that the biggest bully in school always has a nice car and often drives it around just to prove his manliness. Ironically, in the movies that guy always loses the girl … but Audi and Mercedes brought back the stereotype this year again in an attempt to tell that same story to a new generation. Promising that a car can make you a man is the masculine equivalent of using photoshopped super models to make you feel incomplete without [insert product here]. It may work, but it’s ultimately kind of evil.

Best Strategic Use of Music – Taco Bell: Viva Young

Sure it’s nice to see older people having a good time, but what made this ad stand out was the great choice of taking a recognizable melody and pairing it with spanish language lyrics. The result was a very creative celebration of the mix of the latin and western culture that always made Taco Bell stand out in the fast food industry sea of sameness. Thinking outside the bun has clearly become a marketing principle as well as an old tagline.

You can watch all of the Super Bowl Ads from 2013 on YouTube here >>

Want more strategy? Read my recap from last year’s Super Bowl ads >>