The Super Bowl. No other advertising venue on the planet commands the avid attention of 100 million Americans over the course of 4+ hours. Record revenues were recorded this year as advertisers shelled out up to $4 million for prime 30-second spots.

Given the stakes, non-fans and fans alike often anticipate the advertising and halftime show as much (if not more) than the game itself. Accordingly, these elements are closely scrutinized – and tend to dominate social media feeds and day-after conversations.

After reviewing every ad (right down to the toenail fungus spot) our Director of Integrated Marketing, Andrew Moore, and Senior Brand Strategist, Annette Saggiomo, sat down to discuss which brands hit the mark and which were more painful than Pete Carroll’s final play call.

Best 30 Seconds of a 60-Second Spot

We may be biased by the fact that the source material for this spot – Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel’s total confusion over the Internet – has long been a favorite of Annette’s. Nevertheless, this ad leverages the juxtaposition of the past and present wonderfully, using Couric and Gumbel’s bewilderment to compare the BMW i3 to an invention that has completely changed how most of us live our lives. Where it falls down is that electric cars have been around for several years now, as have green(er) manufacturing practices. Yes, the i3 is an important automobile, but so are the Chevy Volt and Spark, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, Kia Soul EV, Mercedes B-Class – need we go on? Overall, a strong use of celebrities and humor with an ultimately dubious product claim set.

Long-Toothed Rookie of the Year

How about a nice slice of Terrell Owens Humble Pie? Or perhaps a steak from Farvre and Carve? Wix (a do-it-yourself website software company) did a terrific job of showcasing ex-football players as they search for their calling after football. The ad itself starts with Brett Favre talking with his agent about other football opportunities before being told to start a business. What follows is a montage of parodies showcasing other players’ new careers (and their new websites). The true genius is that each Wix website (e.g. contains additional video content, prime viral fodder for social networks to help the campaign last far beyond Sunday.

McLovin Award

McDonald’s got our attention with their hidden camera tease before the game. What is that form of payment, you ask? Are these people real? Yes, this attack of the heart (ahem) does have a happy ending. McDonald’s spread the love by asking people to pay with kindness and joy. And while we were all were moved by the outpouring of emotional currency, we will not be going to McDonald's until after Valentine’s Day for fear of being asked to dance for our dinner. Nice performance by the struggling chain.

Bipolar Brand Award

Nationwide aired two disparate spots during the second quarter. The chuckle-worthy ‘Invisible Mindy Kaling’ with Matt Damon cameo was well produced, albeit benign. The ad that is garnering national media attention, however, is ‘Make Safe Happen’. On one hand, it’s shocking and emotionally intense, which is going to get people to listen. On the other, it has the potential to make the viewer deeply uncomfortable, which is not necessarily what you want, even your brand can make claims related to safety. Here’s a case of an ad being effective when it comes to recall, but not necessarily for the right reasons. The verdict: not as bad as our Twitter feeds suggest, but not right for the Super Bowl.

Shark Jump Award

No Super Bowl is complete without a Budweiser Clydesdale and puppy ad. We thought that this concept was maudlin and overdone …then the slavering wolf made its appearance. In all seriousness, though, while cute and heartwarming does generally play well, Budweiser has been leaning on this theme for a while now, and sooner or later, it’s going to get stale, no matter how many overblown threats you throw in that pup’s way. It almost seemed like a parody of itself. For the record, this award was hotly debated in our offices, but the judgment stands!

The Whaaaaa? Award

Follow along with us here. According to TurboTax, if the British had offered free tax filing, then the American Revolution would not have taken place, right? So, if the American Revolution didn’t take place, then Alexander Hamilton wouldn’t have authored George Washington’s economic policies that founded the nation’s financial system. The same system that Beardsley Ruml is credited with overhauling with the ‘pay-as-you-go’ income tax model that TurboTax has built its business around. Ergo…. if TurboTax saved Americans money then TurboTax could not exist? The ad was well produced anyway.

Rookie Mistake Award

The funny rookie Super Bowl ad from Avocados from Mexico had Andrew wishing that he knew what England drafted in round one. Perhaps Bangers, with Mash as a player to be named later? This fact alone made the ad memorable. We’re sure that many nationals want to know more about the draft, and think that a microsite with additional ‘draft’ content would have extended the reach of their buy. We don’t actually care where avocados come from – but if we were compelled to (by way of a digital discount), we may change our minds. PS: Andrew thinks that England would have either drafted rain or cows – it definitely wasn’t dentists.

WTF Award 

No, jauntily animated toenail fungus is perhaps not something that you want to be looking at when you have a spread of wings and dip in front of you. And we’re sure that the guy with toenail fungus in the room with his buddies as they were mocking and/or gagging over this spot probably feels much worse about his feet now. But the next time he goes to the doctor, he might be more likely to take care of the problem. You win our Secret Success award, Jublia -- good going.

Honorable Mentions

Nissan’s emotionally wrenching fatherhood spot with no obvious connection to the product is represents, Budweiser’s Macro Brew ad that also created an argument in Finchworld, Cure Auto Insurance’s juvenile #balls series, and Katy Perry’s awesome halftime (even with an outfit resembling Blades of Glory or the late great Bam Bam Bigelow).


Andrew Moore, Director of Integrated Marketing

Annette Saggiomo, Senior Brand Strategist