Superbowl ads 2012 – the full Adboardingpass review – and overall thoughts (part 3 of 3)

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

If you missed part 1, click here

For part 2, click here

Scroll to the bottom for the Adboardingpass 2012 TOP 5, as well as our closing thoughts. 

A reminder of the 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 or TV promos, 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.

39. Budweiser – Eternal optimism

First Class Cabin – Fan-fucking-tastic. This is high stakes, high concept, high production values, high entertainment, high relevance advertising for the target audience. In the previous spot Bud staked its rightful claim as part of the fabric of American history. In this one, they leverage that to the hilt, within a message of optimism, happy nostalgia, and easygoing patriotism. Not every brand can get away with this, but for those that can, it’s a crime when they don’t even try. Compare this to the iconic-yet-retarded horse ads they’ve been laying on us all these years. This, I think, is virtuoso advertising given the high stakes environment of the Superbowl. It even makes me want to go and have Bud, dammit, which I haven’t done for a while! This is how it should be done. Hats off to Bud and Anomaly. Man I love it when the work is so good!

40. Honda – Matthew’s Day Off

First Class Cabin – If “Bueller?…Bueller?…Bueller?” means anything to you, you will love this ad. If it doesn’t, you will find it mildly amusing, but not really get what all the fuss is about. I’m in the former camp, so I enjoyed every second of this ad, savoring it for all the little movie references scattered within. It felt modern and it showed off the car nicely enough…but at the same time it was like a warm, cuddly nostalgia trip that left a smile on my face. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it’s the type of ad that will get passed around and talked about. Unlike the Seinfeld ad which was a collection of silly meaningless gags, I think this one rang an emotional note…it resonated for those in the 35+ age bracket. Was the emotion connected to the car? Not really – but sometimes when you create a good enough vibe, the product benefits by osmosis, so I think Honda got their money’s worth. I leave this ad with good feelings for Honda, and with a desire to find a time machine so I can go back to being  15…

41. Bridgestone – Performance Basketball

Coach Class Cabin – This one was not memorable enough to fly business class, but it was MUCH better than the first in the series (#10). Why? For starters because this was the second ad, so there was some familiarity and lots less confusion as to what this product was about. But primarily, because I think they delivered the product benefit quite clearly, and in an interesting manner. From the moment that Tim Duncan bounces the “quiet” ball, you just get it. The touch with Steve Nash and the baby was a nice bonus. Despite all the distractions (and there were many), the benefit came across, and it was a benefit that was compelling. Quite simple, yet so hard.

42. Met Life – Everyone

Coach Class Cabin – There was a lot going on here (talk about a trip down memory lane…thank you Hanna & Barbera!), but even so, I liked this ad for its interesting simplicity. Crisp and appealing visually, the narrated copy was very simple and said just enough for this type of broad stage. I’m not sure it breaks through the Superbowl clutter, but I think it’s a solid effort which I enjoyed.

43. Hyunday – Think fast

Coach Class Cabin – At this stage of the game, when you’ve seen so many ads, things start getting compared on an overall scale. This is an ad that has solid roots: It has a funny gag tied directly to the product benefit. But it just doesn’t feel big enough, does it? You might enjoy this during a break from American Idol, but on this stage I feel you have to aim a little higher. Solid but unimpressive. And unimpressive means forgettable.

44. Bud light – Rescue dog

Coach Class Cabin – Hmmm…I don’t know. Call me harsh, but this would have been a better ad in 30 seconds rather than in 60. It started well – the black guy’s reaction to getting the beer in second 21 is great…but then it just kind of went nowhere, like a joke that keeps going past its expiration date and just gets less funny, until it whimpers away to a lonely end. And call me harsh, but the blatant attempt to buy appeal through the use of pets is a little desperate, isn’t it? I don’t know, compared to the Bud Light Platinum and the Budweiser ads, this one felt pretty pedestrian. Although I admit that it would be cool to have a dog that did that:)

45. Kia Optima – A dream car, for real life

First Class Cabin – Excellent. Interesting premise from the start…but when the fairy trips and dumps the heap of magic dust, it unexpectedly goes to a new level. Motley Crue, Adriana Lima (properly used this time), the fans, the music, the desperation of the fairy…it’s all just a great parody of the male dreamscape, on steroids (actually, is it a parody?). And what’s best is that the car has a real role here – it’s photographed nicely and with ample time, and the roar of the engine and going around the track fits in perfectly as part of that perfect dream. And the ending ties it up nicely, making it appealing for everyone. This one pleasantly surprised me – it’s an example of “throwing everything at it” creative that actually works, because the core idea was strong enough, and enabled by the product to boot. Well done.

46. – Chimps

Coach Class Cabin – I’m split on this one. god help me but I can’t resist the chimps, they’re just…funny! It seems like a cop-out to use animals like this, but I’m going to allow it. A smile on my face the entire time, that’s why. So the entertainment factor is definitely there, it’s almost more of a short skit than a commercial. And for the Superbowl, you could definitely do worse than that (and many have). Is there a good brand linkage? So-so. And it’s so farcical that it’s only mildly persuasive. Campaignable? I guess. Emotional? No. So there you have it, it’s good enough for the Superbowl, for sure, but will it be forgotten by the next commercial break? (if I told you right now that the ad was for, would you believe me? Case closed).

47. Samsung Tab – Thing Called Love

Coach Class Cabin – In a previous post I had brought up the first of these series of ads by Samsung, and I was impressed. I enjoyed the ribbing of the Apple-bots, and I thought the ad could make an impression among those deciding whether to go the iPhone/IOs route or the Android route. Here it feels less fresh, less edgy, less of a thorn in Apple’s side. High marks for the pyrotechnics and spectacle, which is fitting I guess…but i the previous post I mentioned they needed to transition quickly to giving people a reason to buy, because you can’t sell a product on what it isn’t. Well, if the reason to buy is that you can write on it with a stylus, like a Palm Pilot in 1999, that’s a FAIL. And if the reason is that it’s “something big”, as in the size of a friggin’ kindle that you’ll barely be able to fit in your pocket, that’s another FAIL. I’m sticking to my iPhone. It just goes to show that you need to deliver with the product, or the flashiest advertising in the world won’t save you.

48. Cadillac – Green Hell

Coach Class Cabin – Meh. This is a nice ad for the Nurburgring Tourism Bureau. For the car, I’m not as convinced. There’s really nothing new that’s said here (all cars are developed and tested in circuits), except for the whole thing leading up to the “green hell” tell-off. Pretty weak. Two things stood out in the ad, which saved it from the baggage cargo: a)they mentioned specifically that they built this to go up against BMW 3 series. This is a pretty specific claim, and it gets the attention of car lovers. b)the car actually looks pretty cool, if you’re into the harsh angular lines. This matters, because the product has to back up the language. Either way, it’s a fairly typical (ie boring) car ad. Next.

49. – The cloud

Baggage Cargo Hold – Maybe I’m getting too old, because I feel like I should be enjoying this on some level, but I’m so not. I think it’s the cheapest form of advertising, relying on all sizzle and no-content. And not even that much sizzle, because apart from the celebrity cameo it looks like it was made on a home video cam. It seems like a slightly fancier version of a public access television commercial for your local dealership. Let’s see: desperate grab at attention, good branding, very poor persuasion (what is this service and why choose it? Will it get you laid? Because that’s the takeaway for me, and I don’t buy it), and not much else. Oh, and there’s a very amateurish attempt to create “engagement” through the QR code, or the call to action to go to the site to see more, etc. I just don’t think it will work, because you’re just not offering up anything of value. Not even the girls (you can see more for less effort on the web, trust me). What agency works on this account? I hope this is an in-house job.

50. Jack in the Box – Marry it

Business Class Cabin – Not knowing this was a Superbowl ad, I picked this as the Ad of the Day earlier this week. My thoughts, repeated: “Hell yeah! I love the approach here – take the addictive awesomeness of BACON, and go balls-to-the-wall with a creative idea that brings it to life in the strongest possible way. I think this is going to attract major attention from viewers, how could it not? Much more so than the tired “assembly-of-the-burger” type ads. Sometimes when the category is so tired, you’ve got to have the guts to step out and redefine the game, while still linking strongly and credibly back to your product benefit. This really caught my eye, and made my cholesterol go up by 14 points just by watching it.”

So, having seen all 50 ads “fresh”, what did I learn?(apart from the fact that it’s a lot of work to watch and write about 50 ads!)

First Class Cabin ads (with the Adboardingpass 2012 top 5, in order):

1. Chrysler – It’s Halftime in America (Wieden + Kennedy) – a lasting masterpiece

2. Budweiser – Eternal Optimism (Anomaly) – an ode to America

3. Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt (Poptent) – Elegant slapstick

4. Honda – Matthew’s Day Off (RPA) – Borrowed Interest in its highest form

5. Fiat 500 Arbath – Seduction (The Richards Group) – Inspired branding

  1. What worked: Having balls. Emotional appeal. Humor. Crisp, singular core idea. Tight, believable and relevant linkage to the brand/product. Animals.
  2. What didn’t work: Lack of ambition. Crass humor. Sex appeal. Too much information. Celebrities without a reason. Lack of connection between the ad and the brand/product. Pets. Animals.
  3. This is indeed a grand showcase of American TV advertising. Everything about it feels big – from the ambition, to the length of the spots, to the production money spent, to the celebrities, to the heights reached by some, and the depths plunged by others. If you love advertising, you owe it to yourself to have a look.
  4. Assuming you have a good core idea, and it links to your product credibly – humor is still the best shortcut to get noticed and liked. But the giants dare to aim higher and place their bet on emotional impact – It’s hard, but when it works the result can be transcendent.
  5. Long-form commercials bring back the magic. Back in the 50s and 60s ads were regularly 60 seconds. That’s since come down to 30, and in many overseas markets the standard unit is 20s and – gasp -15s. With less time, you get what you pay for, which is frequency, and if you’re lucky you may also still get greatness (Actually, I believe this is possible in 30 seconds, at less time you have to lower your ambition to something more functional). Among the very best spots this year we had those that went to a minute and even beyond. Sometimes, you just need the time to weave the story, to bring out the magic. This is expensive and you have to earn it. But I guarantee you that the Chrysler spot or the Budweiser spots, cut down to 30 seconds, are impossible to pull off. Much better to run them fewer times and run them well – quality bubbles up to the top, and in this age of sharing-via-internet, the consumers will do the rest of the work for you.
  6. I was surprised by the lack of attempts at multi-media crossover, like asking you to go to the site and do this or that, or putting a QR code, etc. I think I read that only a third of the ads had urls on them! This merits a different post, but in short people are starting to become more informed and sophisticated about integrated efforts. TV is not all, and multi-pronged efforts are crucial in our world of fragmented media attention. But, a hodge podge is often not the answer (see example), and TV is still king in events such as these.

I’d love to hear your comments, agreements and disagreements. For you non-ad industry readers, does it give you a different perspective on ads? You can post in the comments section below.

I hope you enjoyed this exhaustive recap:) As always, thank you for reading.


8 thoughts on “Superbowl ads 2012 – the full Adboardingpass review – and overall thoughts (part 3 of 3)

  1. Martin-
    Loving your blog, I admit to be reading it regularly. It’s an informed and refreshing retreat from my current bubble where its easy to get caught up in the details and not pay attention to what else is going on in this amazingly fun industry…hope all is well.

    • Thank you so much, Abby:) I may take part of your quote and put it on the “about this blog” page, because that is exactly my aspiration for the blog!

      Keep coming around for more, and let me know your thoughts.


  2. buen laburo, martin! te felicito.
    del top 5 tuyo, me gustan Chrysler y Budweiser.
    no entendí el de Honda.
    El de Dannon está bien.
    y no me gustó el de Fiat (aunque la modelo está buenísima!).
    te mando un abrazo.

    • Gracias Santiago, que placer saber que te diste una vuelta por el blog!

      The Honda ad is a reshoot of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, a much beloved cult movie of the 80s, check out the link below and you’ll see what I mean. It wasn’t a deep message, but for me and most others it was a tremendously enjoyable commercial.

      What I loved about the Dannon ad was that it did not self-censor, they really went for it. Can you imagine the client presentation meeting for that? Although it has since been accused off ripping off a Canadian 7Up ad from 2000 (check out the editors blog at Lurzer’s archive).

      Un fuerte abrazo, y gracias por ayudar a correr la voz.


  3. Pingback: Ad of the Day – February 13 (New York) | adboardingpass

  4. Pingback: Ad of the Day – February 14 (Toronto) | adboardingpass

  5. Hi Martin,

    Trust things are well with you.

    Incredible work here and a great way to review the ads; we don’t even want to know what time you had to adapt to watch it all over there.

    Very surprised Budweiser ‘Eternal Optimism’ made it to #2. We like to think we are not missing the patriotism thing – that we’re happy to get on board with. The ad is perfectly nice, but the message seems in isolation; it doesn’t exclusively say ‘Bud’ and it feels as though they are trying too hard to get something rooted as a brand truth with the music. Is it meant to highlight American achievement? If so, surely there is a lot more they could have done? Instead of focussing on music, focus on the subject at hand – Football. Maybe a quasi take on ‘America’s Game’ chronicling the journey and dedication a fan makes during a season; circumstances may chance on any given Sunday, but what’s constant, what don’t you have to worry about – Budweiser.

    What are your thoughts around Anheuser-Busch’s general spend during the game? Are we right in saying six ads would be circa $18m?

    We see you noted ‘animal inclusion’ as a driver for making the ads work here. You might want to check out what DDBUK and Bakers did with a pet food ad. Nothing Super Bowl related but a refreshing take on the ‘end’ consumer.


    • Hi guys!

      Thanks for writing such a thoughtful comment, this kind of back-and-forth is what makes things really interesting!

      I haven’t seen the Bud ad since the I wrote about it, so I went back to it with a critical eye, expecting not to like it as much perhaps after reading your comment. Nope! I loved it! I had a great time for a whole minute:)

      Here’s how I see it: this ad is not so overtly about patriotism, it’s a more cinematic stroll through US history, in the style of Forrest Gump. Sure there is a little patriotic glow there, but more than anything it’s just a lot of FUN. It’s very well realized, and I think that Bud is credibly placed right in the middle of this flowing historical collage. Sometimes overtly (as when we see the bottle) sometimes subtly (as when they’re breakdancing on a carboard Budweiser box). But the fact that so much changes and Bud remains the constant…while that’s PRECISELY the point! Bud is making a claim to being some kind of historical glue through the pinnacles of US recent history…I think that’s a big statement and I think it works (only a few brands could pull this off, think Levi’s, Coke, etc.)

      And let’s not forget the soundtrack – this is hard to predict and pretty subjective, but this sampling of the Cult’s “She sells sanctuary” had me from the first lick. Loved it, and the mix of old and new was right on cue.

      I think your suggested approach linking to football is a fine one – it’s a strong contextual linkage to what is gong on (kind of like Chrysler’s “halftime in America” ad going on at halftime of the game!). Perhaps that was one of the ideas that were rejected during the creative process?

      As for the media spend – I don’t object to the amount, and clearly Bud can afford it. If the advertising is crappy for a given brand, multiple showings will not help it make a big difference. But if it’s good, I talked a lot about the cumulative effect, and I think it pays huge dividend. I loved the Budweiser ad that played before this one (Prohibition ends!), and it set the stage perfectly, because it allowed us to catch on right away – as good as the previous one was, it was only the set up for this grand finally. Well played. For their other products, I thought the Platinum ads were really well realized – the Bud Light ones, not so much. But to answer your question – for the big brands, I think multiple showings helps, and ultimately pays off.

      With regards to pets – note that I listed it at part of what worked…and also didn’t work – it just depends. I checked out the Bakers Meaty meats ad – nice. Not sure about the dog sounds, but good job on DDB to come up with something to add buzz and interest. I’m not much of a pet guy, so I guess these don’t talk to me as strongly as they would to dog lovers:)

      That’s all for now – keep up the great work on your blog, and I hope to see you guys again around here.


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