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Monday, February 4, 2013

My Day As A USA Today Expert Super Bowl Ad Panelist


Eric Schulz
Eric Schulz
My Super Bowl Sunday is usually spent watching the game and eating some nachos and cheesesteaks. All that changed last week when I was invited to participate as a member on the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Panel, rating each and every Super Bowl ad for the paper’s annual Ad Meter Ranking.  See:  http://admeter.usatoday.com

It was a very interesting experience having to focus and evaluate every ad.  I kept getting emails from a USA Today staffer asking my thoughts and opinions on different ads as we progressed through the night.  For the most part, my rankings pretty much agreed with the consumer polling. I ranked the Budweiser Clydesdale “Horse and Trainer Reunited” as the top ad, followed by Tide’s “Montana Miracle Stain”, and Kia’s “Space Babies." 

One place where I differed from the poll was on the evaluation of Dodge Ram’s “God Made A Farmer” (USA Today - 3rd place; My Rank - 9th) and Jeep’s “Families Waiting/Troops” (USA Today - 5th place; My Rank - 10th). Both of those ads were touching, poignant, and terrific pieces of art — Norman Rockwell paintings on video — which stirred patriotism and pride in the USA.  But where I had a problem with the ads was they didn’t relate at all to their brands.  Either could have been produced by any American company (McDonalds, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Ford, Chevrolet, etc.).  

Don’t get me wrong, both ads were fantastic, but I’m not sure that they will drive sales.  In my days back at Coca-Cola there were several ads that consumers really liked, particularly “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” and “Mean Joe Greene”. Both increased the number of consumers who said Coke was their favorite soft drink, but as the “favorite soft drink” rating increased, actual sales volume was flat or slightly declining.  The gap between these two numbers we came to term as “virtual consumption." Companies don’t like it when advertising creates virtual consumption, they want real consumption. I think the Dodge and Jeep ads will both increase consumers “liking” perception of the brands, but I don’t think it will translate into increased sales – they will create “virtual consumption”. 

Here are some of the notes I made while watching the commercials: 

Budweiser Clydesdales:  It was as brilliantly produced as a Hallmark special. It's hard to strike that emotional chord, but Budweiser nailed it. We all enjoy a good love story, and Budweiser pulled it off in just 60 seconds. The ad was sweet and heartfelt. It was the only commercial that made me cry.

Tide “Montana Miracle Stain”: Brilliant. Topical, fun, and the product is the hero, getting rid of the Montana stain!

Doritos: Eating Doritos was clearly the hero, and both ads told the story in humorous, relevant yet unexpected ways.  

Go-Daddy “Kissing”: The ad was intentionally designed to create “water cooler talk” after the game. Go-Daddy regularly tries to offend people’s sensibilities with their Super Bowl ads to get attention. “Say whatever you want about me, just spell my name right” is the strategy. It works. Their entire brand has been built on titillating Super Bowl advertising.

In the Super Bowl, creativity and entertainment value often get in the way of marketing effectiveness. Agencies consider a great spot to be wildly creative and entertaining. But creativity and entertainment doesn't always equal brand communication effectiveness.

Great advertising should show creativity, entertain, and be relevant yet unexpected — making your product the hero.  Tide’s “Montana Miracle Stain”, Milk's " The Rock - Morning Run" where our superhero can't save the world until he's had his milk; KIA's "Space Babies" where the car has an answer for everything — each of these were winners from a brand communication standpoint.  They were fun to watch and made their product standout as the superhero of the day.

Some of the worst ads, those that did nothing to showcase their products, included Cars.com "Wolf", Axe "Lifeguard", and Lincoln's "Jimmy Falllon - Steer the Script."  While creative, their products were secondary, and got lost in the spots. Budweiser disappointed me and made me feel inferior with their whole “Black Dressed Cool People” the “Black Crown party”, and “Coronation”.

And one other thing, the E-Trade baby is tired and needs to be retired. Several Super Bowls ago, E-Trade had one of the best Super Bowl commercials ever, entitled "Money Coming Out The Wazzoo," where a man being rushed to the hospital ER was being hospitalized because he had "money coming out his wazzoo."  They need to find that mojo again.

Here were my ratings of the commercials, along with the overall scores each ad achieved on the USA Today Ad Meter:


Top Ten



USA Today
Company
Description
My Score

Ad Meter Score
Anheuser-Busch
Horse and trainer reunited
10

7.76
Tide
Miracle Stain
10

7.75
Kia
Space Babies
10

6.74
Doritos
Fashionista Dad
10

7.27
NFL
Deion Sanders returns
10

6.68
Mercedes-Benz
Deal with the devil
10

6.11
Doritos
Goat 4 Sale
10

6.71
M&Ms
Love ballad
10

6.34
RAM
God Made A Farmer
9

7.43
JEEP
Families waiting
9

7.2





11-20



USA Today
Company
Description
My Score

Ad Meter Score
Coke
Mirage
9

5.54
MILK
The Rock - Superhero
9

5.98
Anheuser-Busch
Bud Light Voodoo Doll
9

6.01 (tie)
Walt Disney
Oz trailer
9

5.48
Kia
Hot Bots
8

5.51
Wonderful Pistachios
PSY Gangnam Style
8

5.58
SodaStream
The effect of SodaStream
7

5.39
Best Buy
Asking Amy Poehler
7

6.23
Hyundai
Kid assembles team
7

6.65
Audi
Prom
7

6.64





21-30



USA Today
Company
Description
My Score

Ad Meter Score
VW
Get Happy office guy
7

6.19
Toyota
Rav4 wish granted
7

6.16 (tie)
Samsung
Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan
7

6.06
NFL
Thank you
7

6.14
Paramount Pictures
Star Trek trailer
7

5.4
GoDaddy.co
Danica Patrick pilots plane
7

4.8
Speed Stick
Guy doing laundry
7

5.97
Anheuser-Busch
Bud Light lucky chair
6

5.55
Universal Pictures
Fast & Furious 6 trailer
6

5.11
Century 21
Wedding faints
5

4.98 (tie)





31-44



USA Today
Company
Description
My Score

Ad Meter Score
Oreo
Whispering in the library
5

5.88
Walt Disney
Iron Man 3 trailer
4

5.6
Cars.com
Puppy is a wolf
3

5.52
Coke
Security Camera
3

6.38
Pepsi Next
Parents like to party
3

4.81
Subway
Jocks love Jared
3

4.86
Skechers
Cheetah race
3

6.16 (tie)
MiO Fit
Tracy Morgan anthem
2

4.45
Pepsi
Halftime show countdown
2

4.63
Subway
Jocks can’t say Februany
2

4.07The Bottom 5
Hyundai
Passing obstacles
2

6.01 (tie)
E*Trade
Baby getting wealthy
2

5.93
Hyundai
Epic play date
2

5.42
Lincoln
MKZ Phoenix
2

4.66





BOTTOM TEN



USA Today
Company
Description
My Score

Ad Meter Score
Blackberry
My new Blackberry
2

5.16
Gildan
Guy needs his t-shirt
2

4.98 (tie)
Axe
Lifeguard
2

4.33
Lincoln
Jimmy Fallon - Road Trip Story
1

4.19
Calvin Klein
Guy in underwear
1

3.88
Anheuser-Busch
Black Crown party
1

3.73
Anheuser-Busch
Beck’s Sapphire fish singing
1

3.66
Anheuser-Busch
Black Crown “coronation”
1

3.64
Taco Bell
Viva Young
1

6.55
GoDaddy.co
Bar Refaeli  "Kiss"
1

3.3



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