Few standouts in an underwhelming field of Super Bowl ads

I’ve always enjoyed watching Super Bowl ads, but never before have I sat down with the intention of watching every single one.

I did this year, joined by my wife, and we found it pretty easy to pick out the best ads. This year’s crop was a bit underwhelming, with few absolute clunkers but also relatively few standouts. Our favorites, in no particular order:

• Aged actors Betty White and Abe Vigoda get tackled in a Snickers spot.

• Chubby men in tighty whities infest an office on “casual Friday” for CareerBuilder.com.

• Google facilitates a trip abroad, a courtship, marriage and a baby.

• Brett Favre just might be retiring in 2020, according to Hyundai.

• Coca-Cola brings happiness to the cast of “The Simpsons” (disclaimer: Coke is a marketing client of my agency, but we don’t make their ads).

• Oprah Winfrey, Jay Leno and David Letterman promote Letterman’s “Late Show.”

I also checked in with a heavy hitter in the Twin Cities ad world: Tom Fugleberg, executive creative director of the Minneapolis marketing agency Olson. Fugleberg’s opinions tracked fairly closely with ours, but he also made an important point about the annual adstravaganza.

‘Start of a two-way conversation’
“You’re starting to see a huge change,” Fugleberg said. “The Super Bowl spot is becoming more than just that moment. The ad is part of a bigger movement, the start of a two-way conversation. That’s something we at Olson have been talking about for quite a while now.”

Many of this year’s ads, he noted, served as an entry point for other related marketing activities. Volkswagen’s ad called for people to play an online game. Denny’s announced free breakfasts for everyone. Dockers promoted a contest, while extended versions of GoDaddy’s suggestive ads were continued online.

“There were also some interesting themes developed,” Fugleberg said. “We had back-to-back pantsless people and back-to-back tackled people. We had tiny people, a couple of beavers — and there are always a few ads that make you think you hallucinated them.”

He mentioned the Emerald Nuts/Pop Secret ad with human aquatic tricks and a Taco Bell ad featuring ex-NBA star Charles Barkley doing … something.

“I watched that whole Barkley ad and I’m still not sure what was going on,” Fugleberg laughed.

Focus on the Family
The ad that got the most pregame buildup aired early: a Focus on the Family spot starring Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mom. The ad sparked controversy for its anti-abortion message — but you wouldn’t know that from watching the ad.

If you hadn’t read any of the coverage of the ad, and simply watched the spot itself, there’s no way you’d know what the message was. So give Focus on the Family high marks for effectively using free media to carry a message that its $2.8 million ad didn’t convey.

In past years, as many as three or four Twin Cities agencies have made ads for the Super Bowl. This year, the local presence was much less. I understood that Fallon was making an ad for its new client, Chrysler, but if it ran, it must have been in the pregame or postgame time periods. I didn’t see a Chrysler ad during the four quarters or halftime.

Periscope debuted its new Twins campaign with an ad that ran during one of the game’s regional slots. And local actor and writer Mike Rylander created one of the six Doritos ads that were chosen from among consumer-generated entries. Rylander’s spot, “Snack Attack Samurai,” got the nod from Fugleberg as the best of the consumer-generated Doritos ads.

If you want to catch up on Super Bowl ads you missed, go to cbssports.com/superbowlads.

Which ads did you like — or hate? Let us know in the comments.

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 02/08/2010 - 09:53 am.

    Am I the only one to notice Minnesota Internet sensation Tay Zonday (aka Adam Bahner) in the VIZO ad?

  2. Submitted by Ed Stych on 02/08/2010 - 10:49 am.

    NOW and pro-choicers must be embarrassed this morning. If they would have just kept their mouths shut, no one would have noticed the Tebow ad. Instead, all of their ranting about an ad they hadn’t seen gave Focus on the Family and Tebows $100 million worth of free advertising … at least. And I think a lot of damage was done to NOW and others over the last couple of weeks. The ironic thing is that they did it to themselves.

  3. Submitted by Jason DeRusha on 02/08/2010 - 10:52 am.

    He moved to LA, so I’m not sure we can claim him anymore, Bob. http://cbslocalblogs.prospero.com/wcco_jasonblog?entry=459

  4. Submitted by John Reinan on 02/08/2010 - 11:08 am.

    Several of the Bud Light ads scored highly in USA Today’s annual admeter rating, but none of them really grabbed me.


  5. Submitted by myles spicer on 02/08/2010 - 11:11 am.

    After 45 years (now retired) in the ad business, I am totally dismayed at the direction the industry has taken. They seem more bent on “trying” to be creative than selling benefits. Half the time I have no idea why I should buy the advertised service or product, and the other half the time, I do not even know who the advertiser is! Obscurity and obliqness (and occasional crudeness) seems to prevail.

    I know why this is. It has two reasons. First the desire of creative directors trying to communicate to their peer group how clever they are, in the search for awards; and secondly, a general “dumbing down of America” often seen in other venues such as music and politics.

    Anyway, at 77, I am pleased I lived in what I feel was a better time and better place in my chosen profession, which I dearly loved.

  6. Submitted by Dave Eldred on 02/08/2010 - 02:19 pm.

    I recall one Dodge Charger ad — about a guy whose life is painted to be pretty standard/boring (married, kids; other uninspired shots at a ‘normal’ life) but for his car — perhaps that was Fallon’s entry?

  7. Submitted by Katherine Werner on 02/08/2010 - 02:41 pm.

    No red faces here, Ed! Focus on Family’s super-priced Super Bowl ad ($2.5 million) is actually PRO-choice and many of us are super grateful for its airing. Mrs. Tebow discusses with her son a very personal medical decision she made years ago. She was able to freely weigh medical and moral considerations, consult with family and friends, and ultimately decided what was the her best option – without any government interference. Yea!

    Pro-choicers say this is exactly the way it should be for every woman, every day – women make making own choice. Thank you, Focus on Family and CBS, for airing ad promoting a woman’s right to chose!

    P.S. Twin Cities United Way is another, um, non-profit who can, and does, spend millions (FROM DONATIONS) on advertising.

  8. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 02/08/2010 - 06:05 pm.

    You are correct Dave. There was a Dodge (John, Dodge is part of Chrysler) ad during the second quarter. It was called Man’s Last Stand and featured the thought of four or five guys who really seemed to hate the women in thier lives. It was narated by the guy from Dexter. I mean these guys REALLY didn’t like or have much respect for thier wives and girlfriends.

    If that ad was made by a Minneapolis firm I am very embarassed for us.

  9. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 02/08/2010 - 06:08 pm.

    Oh, and out of all the ads that you could have chosen to link to, you chose the Focus on the Family ad. Why is that?

  10. Submitted by John Reinan on 02/08/2010 - 10:16 pm.

    The MinnPost editors chose the link to the Focus ad.

    I do realize that Dodge is part of Chrysler, but it’s not certain that Fallon made the Dodge ad — sometimes different agencies have the business of different car brands under a corporate umbrella.

    I tried to get clarification from Fallon but they didn’t get back to me in time for my deadline.

  11. Submitted by Katherine Werner on 02/09/2010 - 10:02 am.

    “The MinnPost Editors chose the link to the Focus Ad” is not an answer! I’d like to know why, too, please!

  12. Submitted by Katherine Werner on 02/10/2010 - 07:18 pm.

    Guess it’s a secret.

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