The 2010 Super Bowl featured some very effective and compelling advertising. This year the challenge for the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review panel was separating the good from the exceptional.
The big story going into the game was the ad by Focus on the Family. As it turned out, the spot was very tame; there was nothing controversial about it.
The most interesting creative theme was the domestication of the American man. Four advertisers tapped into the insight that men in the United States are feeling weak and powerless. We suspect there is some very compelling research backing this up. Certainly the recent unemployment and payroll data suggests that many men are indeed having a tough time.
Below are top and bottom spots in the 2010 Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review, along with our observations.
The Best (A)
Google was the top-rated spot in the Kellogg Review and for good reason. The ad told a story of love and romance through a series of searches.
The branding in this ad was exceptional and the power of Google was very clear. The ad didn’t feature any particular product attribute; it was all about Google’s high order benefits.
Early in the game Snickers ran a very solid spot featuring “Golden Girls” star Betty White. The ad was unexpected and entertaining. Perhaps more importantly, the message was clear: you aren’t yourself when you are hungry, so keep a Snickers bar handy.
One of the most striking spots on the Super Bowl was produced by Chrysler for the Dodge brand. The spot begins with a somewhat depressing list of the tradeoffs men make, and ends with the reward: driving a Dodge Charger. The key line in the ad: Man’s Last Stand.
This is an example of an advertiser with a very clear target and positioning. The Charger isn’t a family car and it isn’t a car for women. It is a fast, powerful car for men.
Chrysler has to get people excited about its cars. This sort of marketing is a good start.
Audi introduced the Green Police in its 2010 Super Bowl ad with a tongue-in-cheek approach at the environmental movement. The payoff: the Audi clean diesel car that has no trouble with the rabid environmentalists featured in the ad. The spot is very engaging and Audi’s brand is prominent.
Volkswagen landed in the top group of ads with a spot that played off the old punch-bug game.
We have mixed feelings about this spot. The branding is strong and linkage is excellent; it is hard to miss the fact that this is a commercial for VW. It is also a cute and charming commercial, very fun to watch.
However, the spot doesn’t really say anything meaningful about the brand. One outstanding question remains: Why should people be motivated to buy a VW? We suppose this spot is reinforcing the uniqueness of the brand. But we don’t really see how this will lead to a purchase.
Denny’s ran three commercials on the Super Bowl, all supporting Denny’s Free Grand Slam Breakfast promotion. The spots all used the same creative theme: nervous chickens. The ads were engaging and clearly delivered a message. Using the same creative for all three ads reinforced the message and built the overall impact.
We suspect there will be a lot of people at Denny’s on Tuesday.
The Good (B)
Vacation home rental Web site Homeaway ran a very engaging commercial featuring the Griswolds, the family from the National Lampoon movies. The spot worked because it made a very clear point that renting a house is cheaper and better than staying in a hotel.
HomeAway clearly decided to focus on growing the category of home rentals, not stealing market share from other vacation home rental sites. This was wise because it would be exceptionally difficult to execute both tasks at the same time. In addition, since HomeAway owns the other leading home rental sites (www.VRBO.com, www.vacationrentals.com and others) stealing share is of little benefit.
Doritos ran four consumer-generated spots on the Super Bowl. All of the spots were well branded and engaging. Doritos fell short in its bid to have the top three spots in the USAToday Super Bowl Ad Meter, and we suspect the brand fell far short of its PR goals. Nonetheless, the spots were good and the overall impact was positive for the brand.
Budweiser once again ran more spots than any other company on the Super Bowl and, overall, the spots worked well.
Bud Light’s deserted island and book club spots were our two favorites. These were engaging and well branded, very true to Bud Light’s brand essence.
After having announced that they would not run a spot featuring the Clydesdales, AB executives changed course. Bud’s Clydesdale spot was a bit formulaic, but engaging enough. More importantly, it reinforced the incredibly strong Budweiser brand equity.
This year, CareerBuilder embraced consumer-generated creative and ended up with a very solid spot. It was funny and interesting and made a point: it may be time to look for a new job. The creative was very consistent with the CareerBuilder brand, linking to CareerBuilder’s 2009 Super Bowl ad.
FloTV did a good job delivering a product focused message: TV on the go.
The U.S. Census ran a very weak spot. The benefit was unclear, the branding was weak and breakthrough was lacking. It was a totally forgettable execution.
There is a general move in the United States toward more government involvement in the economy. Seeing the U.S. Census spot gives us little confidence that this is going to solve our issues.
Focus on the Family
Focus on the Family generated more buzz than any other advertiser in the weeks leading up the game. Many people said it was inappropriate for the organization to be advertising, especially during the Super Bowl.
Focus on the Family didn’t release the spot in advance of the Super Bowl. This decision made for a much-anticipated piece of advertising.
In the end, the spot was not controversial at all. Instead of being a strong anti-abortion message, it was a somewhat odd commercial that featured a mother saying she worried about her son. This isn’t big news.
The spot also lacked impact and a clear call to action, so the Kellogg panel put it at the bottom of the list.
Of course, Focus on the Family generated so much buzz that we suspect the organization is happy overall.
Honda’s spot was hard to follow and lacked impact. The spot mentioned a big innovation but we weren’t clear what it was.
Bridgestone ran two spots that were striking but had fairly weak branding and linkage. We think the core issue was that tires seemed to play a small role in the action.
Other Notable Spots
Teleflora was back again this year with a similar strategy of attacking flowers delivered by mail. The strategy here is clear and makes sense. Teleflora’s 2009 spot was polarizing. The 2010 execution followed a similar creative approach but with a bit less edge.
Emerald Nuts/Pop Secret
Diamond Foods ran a spot that featured both Emerald Nuts and Pop Secret. We can understand why the company decided to include both brands; the two brands can share the media cost and enjoy the benefits.
The problem is that by supporting two brands the message is diluted. What can you say about both Emerald Nuts and Pop Secret? Their solution: awesome and awesomer. This is not a powerful message.
Dove is a wonderful brand. Over the past decade, the folks at Unilever have transformed Dove and turned it into a vibrant, distinctive brand, grounded in the idea of real beauty and focused on the target of real women.
Extending this brand to men is a real challenge. Men are not likely to embrace a woman’s brand. And women may lose their connection with the brand as the message is broadened.
Dove’s Super Bowl ad fell a bit flat. The linkage was weak; the brand seemed a bit tacked on at the end. More than that, the idea that the product is for men who are comfortable in their own skin lacks punch. We may agree with that point but what is the benefit? Why should a man use Dove?
E-Trade ran two spots featuring babies this year. One worked very well; the message was clear and the delivery was charming. One didn’t work too well; the message was hard to follow.
In total, then, E-Trade landed in the middle of the pack.
– Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker