A Less Than Super Sunday

Did you know there was a football game played Sunday night in New Orleans? The Super Bowl matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the winning Baltimore Ravens turned out to be highly competitive and compelling until the end, keeping 200 million televisions locked on CBS’ well-managed but unremarkable broadcast. But notwithstanding the action on the field, there were plenty of other highs and lows for viewers along the way. The great deal of buzz surrounding the pre-game, halftime show, and especially the beloved blocks of advertisements overwhelmed the stature of the contest this year.

The #BrandBowl, originated four years ago by advertising agency Mullen and now managed by boston.com, tracks positive and negative feedback across social media in real time when a new advertisement airs – a reasonable measure of an advertiser’s overall success or failure for their million-dollar budgeted works. Here is how the feedback of millions of social citizens breaks down:

As usual, humor was the focus of a majority of the ads. Winning ads from Taco Bell (Viva Young), Audi (Prom), and Hyundai (Team) hit the mark, as did Doritos (Goat 4 Sale) a fan-sourced creation from the snack maker’s annual Crash the Super Bowl competition. These ads struck the right tone and injected the right level of humor into the lineup to connect with the audience at home. Volkswagen’s (mildly controversial) feel-good ‘Get In, Get Happy’ spot was also a big hit, accomplishing just that; it made audiences feel good, propelling it to the top of the BrandBowl rankings.

Unfortunately, there was more than the usual share of disappointments this year. M&Ms fell short of last year’s triumphs, Budweiser focused too much attention, including the coveted first advertisement, on a new, not-so-exciting product offering (although the King of Beers was redeemed by a terrific addition to its Clydesdales canon, more on that in a moment), and even Coca-Cola, arguably the world’s most beloved brand, failed to deliver with its social media-driven ‘Chase’ campaign, which didn’t really engage the masses at all.

GoDaddy.com’s first ad was a disaster, toeing (and likely crossing) the line of decency, turning the large majority of viewers off. GoDaddy’s ‘uncensored’ ideas have certainly brought the site a lot of attention over the years, even if it has been largely negative. This year’s efforts definitely made a negative impact on the brand. It felt as if this was the nail in the coffin for this campaign, and hopefully, it is time to close the door on this chapter in advertising.

Instead, we would love to see more ‘serious’ efforts – like those from Dodge (Farmer), Jeep (Coming Home), and Budweiser (the aforementioned ‘‘Brotherhood’) that stole the show and really won the day. Humor is a good thing, and has carried Super Bowl advertising for a generation, but these rare and powerful ads we have seen over the past few years have shown that injecting some gravity can go a long way (consider the timeliness and impact of ‘Halftime in America’ last year). Not every brand can pull these ads off, but we are clearly witnessing a shift in tone as viewer attitudes dictate the direction of our advertising culture.

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