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Monday, February 14, 2005

The Top 10 Superbowl Ads

    Posted by Adam Crouch

Source: CareerBuilder.comAs a business blogger, I'm pretty much obligated to comment on the biggest advertising event of the year, the Superbowl. There was a lot of ruckus this year about ads being pulled in order to avoid controversy, but a lot of great ads still made it.

Here is my take on the top 10 ads of the Superbowl. How did I evaluate them? Effectiveness. My standard was, "if I were the CEO, how pleased would I be with the agency/employees that created this ad?"

Without further ado, here they are, with links to their video clips:

1. - TV Censors Hearing (full "web only" version here) is a domain name registration and hosting service. They had two primary objectives with this ad: 1. Achieve some name recognition, and 2. Drive people to their website.

How did they do it? They created an ad that really stood out from the crowd, and created a bit of controversy. The "wardrobe malfunction" during last year's Superbowl caused Fox and their advertisers to be hypersensitive, and the result was a bunch of highly sanitized ads.

There's a reason that ads during prior Superbowls often featured crotch-biting dogs and farting horses... that's the kind of humor that goes over well with the Superbowl's core audience: male sports fans in their 20s and 30s, gathering with friends to watch the big game. But after the Janet Jackson mishap last year, Fox and their advertisers made sure that none of the commercials would offend an 80-year-old grandmother. This ad was like an oasis for the Superbowl's core viewing audience.

Fox managed to let this one slip through, but it was not smooth sailing for this commercial. actually paid for two 30-second spots. After this first one ran, officials at the NFL called Fox to express their anger and "urge" Fox to pull the second ad. While GoDaddy missed out on a second spot, this action brought even more press coverage. Their ad had been all over the news in the week leading up to the Superbowl, and then this guaranteed more coverage for a week or two afterwards. They're still working on getting a refund, but even if they don't, definitely got its money's worth.

They are now the only domain name registration service with big name recognition. If anyone in America thinks, "I'm going to start a website... where do I go to get" you KNOW that is the name that will come to mind.

The other thing I really liked about the ad was how they used it to drive people to their website. That's much more important for than most other advertisers, simply because their website is where the sale takes place. The commercial focuses on a tank top that starts to fall off of a dancing model, and then at the end it says, "see more coverage at". The result: their website traffic increased 378%. And in case you weren't paying any attention to what the actress was saying, you're greeted with a big, eye-catching "Domains for only $3.99!" when you visit the site. This also happened to be the most replayed commercial of the Superbowl, according to TiVo.

What a coup.

2. Ameriquest Mortgages - Cat and spaghetti sauce, Robbed

Not only were these ads the funniest of the Superbowl (in my opinion), they were also very effective at promoting Ameriquest's product. "Don't judge too quickly. We won't" is great message for a mortgage company looking to attract applicants. The ads portray Ameriquest as a company that looks at the "whole picture" of a customer, rather than being scared away by initial warning signs.

3. Anheuser-Busch - Hero Salute

This commercial did not make people laugh, and it didn't even allude to the product at all. But yet it was very effective.

As a public service ad, it was great. It was emotional, and evoked a sense of pride. Up until the very end, I actually thought this was an Army recruiting ad. Those who put their lives on the line deserve to be honored, and this spot did a great job of that.

And yet it still managed to help sell Anheuser-Busch products. American beer doesn't exactly have a great reputation (in many cases for good reason). It's a pure public service ad, but it also helps to turn country-of-origin into a net plus for many beer consumers, by subtly linking patriotism and drinking American beer. And I'm sure many people in the armed forces will knock back a Bud or two to thank Anheuser-Busch for putting this ad during the most expensive broadcast of the year.

I wonder how many people know that Anheuser-Busch gives free admission to its theme parks to military personnel and their families? They could have easily mentioned this in the ad, but they consciously chose to avoid any commercialism in the spot. Wise choice.

4. Volvo - My other rocket is a Volvo

Giving away a trip to space? Prizes don't come much bigger than that, folks. Wow. The ad itself wasn't that remarkable, it's the contest that gets high marks... very memorable. The contest website is also very well-done. In order to sign up for the contest, you have to affirm a few statements about the XC90 SUV. The statements are pretty surprising and attention getting, and they do a great job of getting people interested in learning more about the product. Bravo.

I also like that it portrays the XC90 as a "rocket". Volvos are percieved as very safe, but very boring. I believe that one of the primary reasons that SUVs have done so well is that they are essentially minivans that dads aren't embarrassed to drive. A Volvo SUV could be in danger of being thought of as more like a minivan than a truck, because Volvo's brand image is so tied to ultra-safety-conscious soccer moms. Hyping the fact that it has a V8 and is like a "rocket" definitely helps. It's not as effective as Dodge's decision to use Hemi engines, but it still helps. Bonus points for hiring a firm to monitor the online buzz around the ad.

Also great exposure for Virgin. One of Virgin's big challenges over the next few years is to build up its brand identity in the US. They've succeeded in being one of the most recognized brands in the UK and Australia, but they're not too well known in the US. It's a big market, and one that should be extremely receptive to Virgin. Virgin Galactic has the potential to create a very shiny halo for the rest of the Virgin companies, helping boost the company's innovative image around the world. I think promoting it in this way during the Superbowl is a superb move, even though it's not exactly a mass-market product.

5. Olympus - m:robe groove

Very funky, very unique. Olympus was trying to portray the m:robe as cooler than the iPod, and they suceeded. Hits at were up 363%

6. Cadillac - Under 5

Cadillac is going after BMW head-on with their new V-series high-performance luxury cars. A bunch of excellent shots of the car's beautiful design, as it travels backwards into a tunnel, and then is shot out like a bullet. Does a great job of portraying the V-series (and by extension Cadillac) as a high-performance brand, rather than an old man's car. The ad was a bit slow at times, but still well done. Visits to Cadillac's website were up 171%

7. - Monkeys - The Boss, Phone call, Meeting

Captures many people's frustrations with their workplaces. Bonus points for the monkeys in human clothes

8. Nationwide - Life comes at you fast - Science project, Draft, MC Hammer

Many people don't carry non-vital insurance like renter's/homeowner's insurance, even when the cost is very low, because they assume that it won't happen to them. This ad does a good job of reminding people that, well, "shit happens".

9. Pepsi - iTunes - #1 #2

I think the Pepsi-iTunes linkup is great, and this ad reminds people of it. Why drink Coke, when you get a free song for drinking Pepsi? Portrays people's attachment to music, and the role it plays in their lives.

10. Bud Light - Skydiving

Many people's favorite ad... it even scored #1 on USA Today's Ad Meter. It's definitely funny, but I don't really see it selling any more beer. We've come to expect this from beer ads in the US, and any benefit that Bud and Miller got from these kinds of ads was captured long ago, and new ads aren't really increasing marketshare. I could see this working well for a different industry, or even a smaller beer company, but I don't see it selling more Bud Light. How many people even remembered it was for Bud Light 5 minutes after the ad?

Honorable Mention: Diet Pepsi - P. Diddy's Diet Pepsi truck (Extended version)

Like the Bud Light ad, I don't really see this selling more Diet Pepsi. But it's really funny, so it deserves an honorable mention.

Further Reading
- USA Today's Ad Meter ratings - They measure how much people liked the ad, not how effective the ad was at attracting customers. Still very interesting though

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