Super Bowl ads 2013 – the 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.

We’re back for year two of our Super Bowl review! No anemic top 5 list here, we’re looking at all of them, in the order they appeared. See for yourself what all the fuss was about! The review will come out in 3 parts, be sure to check out part 3 for a wrap-up including the Adboardingpass favorites.

Ground rules for our 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.
    2. We’re looking at ALL of them, in the order in which they appeared during the game. We celebrate the good ones…and we heap a little bit of disdain on the bad ones! (exception: I’m not going to include movie trailers, it’s a whole different genre of advertising)
    3. The criteria used is mostly 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. Budweiser Black Crown – Coronation

Baggage Cargo Hold – Wtf? Weak opener, Bud! I swear I thought this was some kind of SNL skit (Sprockets, anyone?), everyone dressed in black and trying so painfully hard to seem uber-cool. And the product at the center of it all (including the label) is just so uninspired, which doesn’t help. (this is Budweiser, people – don’t try to be so premium). Anyway, I could have left with just a minor distaste…but then came that toast at the end. Seriously? When people think your ultra-cool ad for your ultra-hip beer is a…comedy sketch – not good.

2. M&M’s – Love Ballad

Coach Class Cabin – Meh. I find this campaign so tired, so uninspiring, so unappetizing, so overly-reliant on a good comedic hook…that I was ready to hate this ad. (the lack of appetite appeal/persuasion is a real killer!) But I’ve got to admit the comedic hook made me smile, and the song was great because it built anticipation. Nice entertainment, but not much more than that.

3. Audi: Prom

Coach Class Cabin – I liked it, it  told an interesting story, and it was beautifully shot (loved the reaction shot on the girl after being kissed). But I don’t think the message “Bravery. It’s what defines us” fully closes the loop in my brain. What exactly does bravery have to do with cars? Bravery in design? Bravery in technology? Bravery in driving 100 miles an hour after a party when you’re 16 years old and just kissed a girl and got your ass kicked? It almost makes sense…but not really.

4. Hyundai: Team

Coach Class Cabin – Ah, music. Such a critical, powerful tool (and all-too-often ignored). This ad had me from second 5 when the Quiet Riot song came on (yes, I’m old enough to know that it was Quiet Riot!). Marry this with some really funny vignettes and you get the sense that we’re really building towards some great, climactic finale. Pity then when it totally fizzles away into nothing. Can you tell me what this had to do with the car? (hint: they do say it, but it’s waaay too subtle, I had to watch it twice.) Can you tell me what car it was for? I didn’t think so. A shame then, all that interest piqued for nothing. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t mean anything for Hyundai. Which I suppose was their intent.

5. – Perfect Match

Business Class Cabin – Wow! I’m kind of stunned, because I actually love this ad! I was prepared to hate it, given Godaddy’s customary, sleazy mediocrity. But…from a technical standpoint this ad was really good. Totally grabs your attention (Bar Rafaeli? Hello!) and delivers the advertising cliche of “the best of both worlds” in a manner that is strikingly clear, and oddly mesmerizing. Gratuitous, yes. Slightly off-putting, ok. But also mind-searing, ballsy in its ambition, sufficiently branded (through use of Danica Patrick), and very clear in its message. Honestly, not bad. Best one so far. Crazy times.

6. Doritos – Goat Sale

Baggage Cargo Hold – I don’t get this at all. I don’t mean that I don’t get the ad…I just don’t get why they would make this and put it on during the Super Bowl. It’s funny in a quirky way, yes. And it has some humorous peaks (the “aieee” upon discovering the empty cupboard). But, really? It seems like something the high school advertising club would come up with, no better. No idea, beyond the idea – no real branding (even though the bags are everywhere), no message, no…nothing. I don’t know. For all the consumption that happened on-screen, this one left me strangely empty. Missed opportunity.

7. Best Buy: Asking Amy

Coach Class Cabin – Who doesn’t love Amy Poehler these days? She’s fantastic, and this ad is 99% her and her zany charisma. Such a shame that there’s only 1% left for Best Buy, then. It’s a bit of a desperate move, and sadly it’s much too common when celebrities are featured. Like the drowning castaway, you latch yourself on to someone else’s appeal and hope to ride out the storm. But in this case it’s much too late. What can you say about Best Buy after viewing this? That it still exists, that it has things, the color blue, helpful people…that’s about it. Not enough! Best Buy needs more from an ad than this, and they weren’t able to get it. Thank you for the Amy mini-comedy clip, though, I enjoyed it.

8. Budweiser Black Crown – Celebration

Baggage Cargo Hold – When you have the privilege of multiple buys in the Super Bowl you get a cumulative, building effect, which can be great. The problem of course if that if your first ad is a clunker (see no.1) then you’re already starting the second with 1 strike against you. And the second one didn’t disappoint. What a bunch of garbage: faked hipster “fun” is so painful to watch and this is no exception. And that guy that says “our kind of beer” at the end once again takes this into SNL parody territory. Really? Is this really your kind of beer? A whole warehouse of uber-cool, multi-racial, urban twenty/thirty somethings, all rocking it out table-top-style to some premium Budweiser? Sorry, but no. People like the ones in this ad haven’t touched a Bud in years. You know it. They know it.

9. Coca-Cola – Security Cameras

Business Class Cabin – This one is not new at all, it was a winner from Argentina at Cannes last year (where it got a strong round of applause when screened in front of hundreds of jaded creatives, so that says a lot). But  most people in the US will not have seen it, so good move by Coke to play it, as I think it’s a borderline classic. Inspiring message,  superb execution (and simply sublime song choice! by the time Roger Hudson sings “see the man with the lonely eyes” I’ve got goosebumps), aptly branded, with emotional impact and a praiseworthy point of view…just a great “manifesto” ad. “First Class Cabin” for sure for any first-time viewers. I did not give it the upgrade only because I had seen it many times before.

10. Oreo – Whisper Fight

Business Class Cabin – A fresh, delightfully quirky take on a brand whose TV advertising is normally quite safe. Not only different and entertaining, but with the product at the very core (a staple of Oreo advertising). I selected it as the Adboardingpass Ad of the Day for February 5, because I think it’s an example of raising the stakes and continuous tinkering that leads to breakthrough ideas. Click on the link for wild speculation on what the creative process for this may have looked like.

11. Toyota RAV4 – Wish Granted

Coach Class Cabin – Thoroughly lean-forward-in-your-seat enjoyable. Funny and imaginative. Yet, much like the Hyundai ad (No.4), it felt unconnected to the car in any meaningful way. What car was it for? And what is special about it? In the Super Bowl, being entertaining gets you far, farther than many actually. But it’s just not enough – you’ve got to persuade me at least a little bit, you’ve got to sell to me, whether it be rationally or emotionally. This ad was a decent attempt, but ultimately a misfire: my one wish would have been a little persuasion thrown into the mix.

12. Doritos – Fashionista Daddy

Baggage Cargo Hold – Like the Bud ads, this one is building on awful…and it did not disappoint the second time around. Amateurish, predictable, poorly executed, poor link to the product…I mean, seriously. I have to check and see if these were user submitted because they look like they were made by stoned college kids, but even if they were, someone had to approve their airing – I don’t get it. When there is nothing left, all that is left is the joke. The first joke (dad) is stupid, the second joke (friends) is stupid, the third joke (wedding dress) is mildly amusing. Not nearly enough.

13. Calvin Klein – Concept

Coach Class Cabin – Calvin Klein has been doing basically the same ad since the 90s: black-and-white, sculpted bodies, sharp angles, etc. And you know what? It worked back then and it still works now, so kudos to them for realizing that “what ain’t broke don’t need fixin'”. I liked this more than the David Beckham ad for H&M last year, because this one sells what it sells (underwear, sex, brand, aesthetics, youth) and does it reasonably well. The H&M ad managed to sell…David Beckham.

14. – Wolf

Coach Class Cabin – Nice. Nothing too fancy…a core product benefit (no-drama sales) wrapped around a joke. Well-executed, it makes you chuckle, register the point, and then you move on. In baseball terms this would be a solid hit to get on base. Nothing too dramatic, no swinging for the fences, and no strike-outs either. Just minding the basics. This is an ad that you just know was focus-group researched to death. Lacking in ambition, but no brand manager or agency will get fired over this. etc. It stands out thanks to the general mediocrity of the other ads so far.

15. Bud Light – Journey

Baggage Cargo Hold – I’m a little stunned by how bad the Budweiser ads have been so far, considering they were some of my favorites last year. It’s hard for me to not get too snarky here, but when I see probably 1 million dollars in production and many more in media spent on…nothing…well it’s just kind of a downer. What is the story? What is the point?Journey to what? What does Bud Light have to do with this? And…Stevie Wonder, seriously? He stopped being cool in the early 80s, which is a really long time ago – who is Bud Light trying to appeal to here, exactly? I’m genuinely mystified at how ads like these don’t get killed along the way, when so many good ideas do.

16. –

Business Class Cabin – Love it! A fresh, creative idea, with the product offering/promise right at the core of the action, and a delightful execution full of those little touches that make the funny into funnier: from the accents, to the over-the-top set design, to the zany dialogue at the end. Just great. For those not familiar with Godaddy, they’ve been making some pretty awful Super Bowl ads in the past years, so it’s a shock to the system to see such a solid effort, not to mention two in a row. It fills one with hope – the very next ad you do could be “the one”!

17. Milk PEP – Morning Run

Baggage Cargo Hold – Not to get too highbrow, but a line from Shakespeare popped into my head as this ad concluded: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player…That struts and frets his hour upon the stage…And then is heard no more: it is a tale…Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,…Signifying nothing. I’m all for mindless entertainment, especially during the Super Bowl. But I also feel like when you throw so many millions at it (celebrity, CGI, 1 min duration, soundtrack, media, etc.), there’s got to be a little more than that. After this ad has passed, what remains for Milk PEP is…nothing.

18. Hyundai Sonata – Stuck

Business Class Cabin – Fab. The Adboardingpass Ad of the Day for Feb 4, before we knew it was going to be in the Super Bowl. A lovely and entertaining display of creativity that succeeds on all the right fronts: first and foremost by standing out from all the automotive clichés through the use of humor. The product benefit (acceleration) is then illustrated in a way that is completely clear and easy to relate to: no RPM counts and performance demos here…just the everyday unhappy feeling of being stuck behind something. It all ads up to an ad that has a good chance to be remembered, to inform, and to persuade. Easier said than done, believe me!

19. VW – Get Happy

Coach Class Cabin – Get happy? Umm no. I’m not happy about this ad. VW has a superb pedigree in the last years when it comes to advertising, including the “big Super Bowl ad”. But last year, and this one, I think they just missed the mark. Kudos for the courage to throw an “attention grenade” with the whole white-guy-talking-Jamaican thing, but alas I’d guess 50% were offended, 30% felt somewhat strange about it for the first 30 seconds, and 20% liked it and went with it. Not good enough payoff for the attention you generate. Congrats on the  lovely red happy car, but alas I think it arrives too late into the proceedings. Congrats on the catchy and pop-culture infused song, but alas it also was too little, too late. As you can see, I give them credit, and give them the benefit of the doubt. But it wasn’t their best effort, not anywhere close to it. Too bad, because they’ve led us to expect more.

20. Coca-Cola: Chase

Baggage Cargo Hold – Oh boy. [shakes his head slowly] I have to honestly say that I didn’t much care for this ad (full disclosure: I wasn’t involved with this nor know anyone that was – but I do work on Coca-Cola company brands). There are a few brands and agencies (eg: Coca-Cola, VW, W+K, Ogilvy, BBH, Fred&Farid) that have earned a benefit of the doubt with me. As such, I guess we should wait and see how this adventure turns out, since this minute long ad is clearly just a set-up for a conclusion dictated via social media. But it’s going to have to be something epic to make up for a “wasted” minute. Looks very cinematic…but boy is it boring, despite their best efforts with the glitter cannon(!) And the social media “you vote and decide the end” would be so interesting and breakthrough…if it were 2008. I want to like it as a consumer, especially after the grand “Security Cam” ad (No.9). But they’re not making it easy for me.

**We’ve come to the end of part 1. Kind of odd, with Bestdaddy standing out in a good way, Budweiser sinking, and no First Class boarding passes being issued.**

Click here for part 2 of 3!

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.


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!