Local advertising pros especially liked the Super Bowl ads for Budweiser and Chrysler, commercials that told poignant stories without overtly pitching products.
For people in the advertising business, the event is a chance to size up what their peers have created for television’s biggest sports spectacle, this year at a rate of up to $4 million for 30 seconds of airtime.
They gave a thumbs-up to a touching Budweiser ad featuring a Clydesdale reunited with its trainer, which ranked No. 1 in USA Today’s annual survey. They also were impressed with “The Farmer,” an unconventional, captivating ad that turned out to be for Dodge Ram trucks.
“They really gave you warm, fuzzy feelings inside and made an emotional connection with the viewer,” said Jillian D. Benedict, senior copywriter with Eric Mower + Associates.
The Budweiser ad said nothing about how the beer tastes, and the Chrysler ad didn’t hail the truck’s performance. But John D. Cimperman Jr., principal of Cenergy Communications, said commercials such as those succeed in a different way, by burnishing the brand. “You want to buy a product from a company that shares your likes, shares your values.”
“The Farmer” kept viewers guessing about its sponsor until the very end, with powerful images of farmers and narration by the late radio broadcaster Paul Harvey.
William M. Collins, a principal with Travers Collins & Co., called the spot “riveting.”
“It was so simple,” he said. “It was emotional. It struck a chord. You couldn’t help but get caught up in it.”
Benedict was watching the game with a group of people and saw the ad’s effect on them.
“That quieted the whole room,” she said. “That was a 2-minute ad and was just showing [photographic] stills. It just had the stopping power it needed.”
Benedict praised the subtle style. “One thing I liked about it was, when they showed the truck, it wasn’t all in your face. It was just there.”
Collins appreciated the patriotic tone of Jeep’s ad, narrated by Oprah Winfrey and focused on people waiting for family members in the military to come home.
Benedict had mixed feelings about Chrysler’s approach to that one: “It felt like they were using the military to boost their own brand.” It might have come across better, she said, if Chrysler had used the ad to thank the troops and put a small company logo at the end.
While the Super Bowl remains center stage for TV ads, many of the spots are now released before the game, a practice unheard of years ago. The strategy generates debate in the advertising world, over whether to keep the surprise or reveal the whole thing in order to get people talking before the ad is aired during the game.
Benedict said that if she were working on an ad to run during the Super Bowl, she would understand the urge to release it in advance. But as a viewer? “I think it’s like looking at your presents before Christmas,” she said.
Benedict wonders if releasing ads early lessens the impact with viewers on game day. “A lot of the time because we’ve seen them,” she said, “they’re totally tuned out.”
Cimperman thinks revealing an entire Super Bowl ad ahead of time is a mistake. “One point of the impact of a commercial is to catch people by surprise, catch them off-guard.” He favors a nuanced approach, like releasing a “teaser” of an ad before the game, or a “behind-the-scenes” glimpse of a spot to build interest.
Collins sees both sides of the issue. Some may favor the payoff from a surprise, but what if the game is a dud and the audience dwindles before your ad debuts? “You roll the dice a little bit,” Collins said. Revealing an ad ahead of time, he said, takes greater of advantage of the money poured into producing and paying for it. “You want to maximize your investment and amortize your costs,” he said.
Interactive trends have taken root. Viewers voted online for how ads for Coca-Cola and Audi should end, as well as helping choose a Doritos ad to air during the game. Meanwhile, there are some constants, such as racy GoDaddy.com ads that spark controversy – and have people still talking about them after the game.
What makes a Super Bowl ad effective? “To me,” Cimperman said, “it’s not the amount of money you spend on production. It’s the simplicity; it’s the clarity of the idea.”