Superbowl ads 2012 – the full Adboardingpass review (part 1 of 3)

Every one of the ads. If it was awesome, it’s here. If it sucked, it’s also here.

So what did you think? About the advertising, I mean! Below you will find the review you’ve been waiting for, and we’re looking at ALL the ads, not just the best or the worst. At Adboardingpass it’s no nonsense, no compromise!

In the US advertising world, the Superbowl is the ultimate extravagant showcase. It’s the only time throughout the year when you’re guaranteed the most massive audience, and (more importantly) a captive audience. Far from being the time when people go to the bathroom, during these 3 hours ads are waited for, looked at, discussed and critiqued by absolutely everyone. So we felt it was sort of a must for us to have a look and see what all the fuss it about!

Ground rules for this review:

    1. I did not watch any of them live, and I have not seen any of them until right now. I will only view them once, as it would be in the game. I have also not read any of the reviews or “top 5 lists” articles from around the web. So the opinions are completely fresh and spontaneous. Kind of like a consumer at home:)
    2. We’re looking at ALL of them. If you make a good one it can be a career maker, and we should celebrate it. But if you make a bad one, we shouldn’t sweep it under the rug – let’s learn from it. (exception: I’m not going to include movie trailers, as that’s a different ballgame altogether)
    3. The criteria used is based on my “crapy…good…or sublime advertising” post.
    4. As a rating, we will be assigning the following types of boarding passes, from best to worst: First Class Cabin, Business Class Cabin, Coach Class Cabin, Baggage Cargo Hold.

1. Bud Light Platinum – Work

Business Class Cabin – Music can be such a difference maker. This one had me from the first note of the Kanye West tune. The whole thing was atmospheric, techy, and sophisticated. Seemed like a car commercial, so a real break from the Bud Light expectation. This caught my eye as a product, so really well done. Off to a good start.

2. Audi: Vampire Party

Coach Class Cabin – Meh. I’m unimpressed. A whole minute spent to payoff the headlights on such a fine car? And is the demographic for this car really into that whole vampire thing? Don’t think so. Funny gag, but not worth the 7 million.

3. Pepsi: King’s Court

Coach Class Cabin – On the positive side, Elton John probably provided his own wardrobe for this shoot so they saved money on that! On the negative side, this seemed like a typical super bowl over-extravaganza. Through enough money and sparkle at it and see if the magic happens. I think this ad was ok, but the notion of pepsi=music was not conveyed to me.

4. Hyundai: Cheetah

Business Class Cabin – Thank you for breaking away from the expected. These car commercials can be so formulaic at times. And I love that the cheetah actually catches the guy. Nice:) Best of all, I get the message about the performance, and the beauty shot of the car stuck with me. Nicely done in a very challenging category to pull off.

5. Bud Light Platinum: Factory

Business Class Cabin – It felt hip, trendy and fun. Nice bottle design, nice lighting, great music, good writing, good casting. Far from the usual frat boy antics of the category. Two out of two for bud light, I’m impressed (and the cumulative effect definitely does count.)

6. M&Ms – It’s that kind of party

Coach Class Cabin – I couldn’t get behind this one, although it almost reeled me back in during the “wiggle wiggle wiggle” part. I don’t know if the product news wasn’t interesting enough, or if the animated candy is too childish, or what. But this was one where you can get up to fetch another beer.

7. Best Buy: Mobile phone game changer

Coach Class Cabin – I wrote before about balance. It’s a tricky thing, but this is an example of an ad where the payoff just does not live up to the buildup. I really loved the first 20 seconds or so, with the visionaries behind the daily tools we take for granted. This should have been an ad for something major. But…Best Buy selling mobile phones?  Nah, I don’t buy it. The link is just not evident or credible. This must have sounded like a great idea and I commend them on the ambition. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

8. Coca Cola – Superstition

Coach Class Cabin – This is nicely done, but for a Superbowl ad from Coke, I expect more. This would be a decent ad while you’re watching American Idol…but among the competition here I fear it will pass like a ship in the night – it’s mildly entertaining, but doesn’t build on a big idea.

9. Chevy Silverado – 2012

Business Class Cabin – Loved this. Here’s an example of throwing millions at the production of an ad and having it come out nicely. And even the dig at Ford was done with humor, a “dig” more than a “slam”. The product benefit of toughness and reliability was delivered in an unusual fashion, so it sticks better. And despite the mega production, what sticks to my mind the most are the “real” moments, such as the offer of the Twinkie at the end – which was just awesome (how happy were the Twinkie folks for the free ad time?). Well done!

10. Bridgestone – Performance football

Coach Class Cabin – The ad was visually interesting, but I found it confusing. Between tires, the football, the celebrities…I swear for a second I thought the ball was an actual real product. Too much going on. This is an example of an idea that is somewhat tied into a not, and you hope the consumer will be able to untie it (because at the agency, after having seen the script 15 times it’s totally obvious to you). You even throw in a couple of celebrities to pump up the recall factor. Then it comes to game time…and the audience does not untie it during the 30 seconds…and it is promptly forgotten. Shame.

11. – Body paint

Baggage Cargo Hold – Huh? Trust me, I’m a target audience when it comes to using hot women to sell a product, but…wtf? Complete waste of time, and an insult to the intelligence. And sure, not everyone is going to look at this through an intellectual lens…but put yourself in the shoes of the average joe…can you really say that you would remember the message about the “.co”, instead of “.com”? Just terrible.

12. Lexus – Beast

Coach Class Cabin – I’m giving this a coach class boarding pass because the ad is fairly forgettable, and that’s not what you’re hoping for. But I actually liked this ad. Cool atmospherics, a build up of tension…and then what’s absolutely critical here is that the car has to look cool…and it did! So I liked it. And then forgot about it.

13. Budweiser – Return of the King

Business Class Cabin – Thank you, Bud, for ending this ridiculous focus on the Clydesdale horses, and telling a story about people, at last! I was prepared to hate it, and I loved it. It felt true, it was emotional without being exploitative, it was interesting, it carved out a place for Bud in the history of the US, etc. Overall, one of the better ones for Bud I’ve seen in a looong time. Thank you for ending the horse madness!

14. Dorito’s – Man’s best friend

Coach Class Cabin – This brought a smile to my face, and I guess that’s as much as you can ask from Dorito’s here. A little dark, edgy humor, and good casting and execution. This was a user-generated commercial, and I think Dorito’s picked well. Plus, it’s an old rule that you can’t go wrong with having a dog in your ad (although this one is a little more menacing than a puppy…)

15. Chevy Camaro – Happy grad

Business Class Cabin – I actually saw this one before the Superbowl, and I love it. The idea is not original…but the execution is just inspired. For a user submission, supposedly shot on the cheap, I think they got their money’s worth. Mind you: this says nothing about the car, you could substitute it with any car…so this is normally a bad thing. But in the context of the Superbowl I’m going to allow it just this once, since I think Chevy will get good buzz and “virality” from this ad.

16. General Electric – Louisville, KY

First Class Cabin – Anyone who is from the US or is following the economic story that has played out the last few years can see why this ad is a total winner. I’m sure it will play extremely well. It humanizes the company, and it connects it to the viewer no matter where they are. It’s a great corporate message at a time when corporations are in the crosshairs, and it touches very gently on the patriotic instinct for great effect.  What more can you ask for from 30 seconds? Very inspired work, loved it.

17. TaxACT – Free to Pee

Baggage Cargo Hold – Wow, the ad was pretty good, pretty relatable…but what the hell was the product? No idea whatsoever. A governmental program? A tax preparation service? Honestly, no idea. And for 30 seconds with a massive audience watching you, that’s inexcusable.

18. VW – The dog strikes back

Coach Class Cabin – How boy…I wanted so much to like this ad…it had so much positive equity in the bank from last year’s masterful “The Force” ad…but this one is a total letdown. Where to begin. There’s almost no car in it. And it’s a pretty sweet car, so to make the whole cute dog story and then have the weak link up at the end is inexcusable. They tried nicely with the music and the montage, and I guess dog lovers will like it, but for me the nicest part of the whole ad was the 2 seconds when the dog overlapped with the car – that was a masterful shot…but alas all to brief. And the Tatooine Cantina part at the end? Meh. Good Superbowl entertainment factor, and I guess it helps connect it with that positive equity I mentioned before, but to me it smacked of last-minute desperation. Once you reach the top, it’s hard to stay up there, indeed. From VW, I expected more.

19. H&M – Beckham bodywear

Coach Class Cabin – Wow, so underwhelming! I was actually prepared to love this ad…I like black and white, fashion-y, celebrity ads. But this was just so…ordinary, much like Beckham’s football playing these days:) A better ad for a tattoo parlor than for bodywear (which was almost not shown at all). Again, I am the target here, and I was ready to like it, but it ended up just being eye candy, and not even that good candy (Calvin Klein does this type of ad 1,000 times better – as far back as the “Marky Mark” days. Nothing comes between me and my Calvins!)

20. Coca Cola: Catch

Business Class Cabin – Better than the first by far (#8) above. This one had a very clear connection with the game of football (fummblleeeeee!), had some humor, and due to the execution and editing you could not help but being drawn in. Something inside tells me we should expect more from Coke (emotional uplift perhaps?), but as a short entertaining snippet, I think this one will be recalled and well liked.

Check in tomorrow for part 2 of 2, along with our conclusions!

5 thoughts on “Superbowl ads 2012 – the full Adboardingpass review (part 1 of 3)

  1. Pingback: Ad of the Day – February 8 (Stockholm) | adboardingpass

  2. Pingback: Superbowl ads 2012 – the full Adboardingpass review (part 2 of 3) | adboardingpass

  3. Great review Martin – enjoy your “super bowl Monday” review. I’m giving a shout out to M&Ms – loved that ad. it had humor that appealed to a broad audience and had cross-cultural insights infused into the ad, making this a smart investment for M&M.
    On the Beckham ad, although you might be the target who WEARS that product, i think H&M was thinking about who BUYS the product. about 50% of NFL viewers are female. Among those women I’m sure there is a decent percentage who shop at H&M (more than men), and a lot more who will now consider going there. Bottom line, a lot of husbands/boyfriends will be getting those Beckham briefs for valentine’s day from their ladies who saw that ad.

    On to part two..!

    • Thanks for reading Feeney, and (more importantly) thanks for posting your differing views – this is when it gets interesting:)

      On the M&M ad, I see what you’re saying and I can see the appeal, but I’m not convinced, it felt flat to me even though I “get it”.

      On H&M however, I totally take your point. I get it that this will appeal to women, and, but I’m skeptical on the notion that it’s the women that buy the underwear…I’m not sure that will be a driver. However, the really intriguing point (which I had not considered), is that it will get women to have H&M on their mind for their own shopping. And that’s when the whole thing seems to make economic sense. That being said – my central point was not so much about targeting, it was that they could have done the same thing, just BETTER, but failed to. I had much higher expectations for the Beckham ad, and I think on the execution they could learn a thing or two from Armani or CK.


  4. Pingback: Superbowl ads 2012 – the full Adboardingpass review – and overall thoughts (part 3 of 3) | adboardingpass

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