The 2nd Annual Big Gamey’s: My Awards for Super Bowl Commercials. Again.

big_gameyWelcome back to the Big Gameys – where the awards are made up and the points don’t matter. For the 2nd year of my awards, I’ve got some repeat categories mixed in with some new ones. Let’s do this.

Oreo Lights Out Award: Totino’s Live Tweeting the Super Bowl…a Day Early

The real time social media engagement inaugurated by this award’s namesake is now common place. It’s harder to have that breakthrough tweet, vine, snap with everyone doing it now (link to monster). So Totino’s delivered their realtime campaign before anyone else could, on the day before the game. The ridiculously #sparts mocking campaign was pretty clever, my only knock was that (gross generalization warning) mostly sports mind males eat Totino’s products, so coming across as not knowing football seems a little off brand. But still, it was unique.

Runner Up: Monster “Congratulations Seattle!

What the Heck Just Happened? Award: Nationwide “Make Safe Happen”

So much has been said already about where they went astray. It wasn’t the message, it was the messenger. We can debate how altruistic Nationwide’s intentions where (Hint: this backlash didn’t surprise them). What they could have done was made a PSA that was a little less sales pitchy or even a little less morbid. Adding a tagline to dead kids is just bad.

Runners Up: Loctite “#WinAtGlue

Troll Award: Chevy “Blackout”

Some may have missed it as it aired right before kickoff, but this was one of the rare ones that tried to sell something – Wi-Fi in a truck. So in a way it is a troll on two counts. Actually trying to sell something during the Super Bowl and making people think their cable just went our right before the game. It was timely, clever and tried to sell me something.

Runner Up: Budweiser bidding other brands keywords on twitter

Bourne Identity Crisis Award: Nationwide

They went from Mindy Kaling being invisible to that dead kid one. It doesn’t get much more polar opposite than that. The Mindy commercial was ok, but was completely overshadowed by the dead kid one.  Mindy’s ad hence became a waste which is unfortunate because it was the only one that delivered the brand message.

The Budweiser Puppy Overrated Award: Budweiser “Lost Dog”

The Budweiser puppy wins 2nd year in a row – first repeat award so I named it after him/her.  The cute, cuddly canine wins this year for the same reasons as last, so I’ll just copy what I said last year:

“I know why people like this commercial – the warm fuzzies. I get that Budweiser was telling a ‘buds’ story utilizing their iconic Clydesdales. But the horse took a back seat to the dog (as cute as it may have been). The ad is receiving attention for reasons other than the product or the brand. In contrast, last year’s [2013] ad featuring the Clydesdale and its trainer told a similar story, but with more brand-centric warm fuzzies.”

Tried Too Hard to be Cool Award: Nissan “With Dad”

Cool this year were emotions and dads. Nissan went heavy on both and whiffed. The commercial had a breakneck pace which made the story hard to get. Only thing help me grasp the story was the song “Cat’s in the Cradle” playing in the background- which as several have pointed out, may not have been the best choice.

Runner Up: Toyota

Newcastle Best Campaign by a Non-Super Bowl Advertiser Award: Newcastle “Band of Brands”

Once again this award’s namesake created an elaborate marketing campaign around the Super Bowl without being an official advertiser. Last year’s target was the hype and epic quality of Super Bowl ads. This year, the target was more specific – Doritos popular “Crash the Super Bowl” ad crowdsourcing campaign. For the “Band of Brands,” the beer brand used Aubrey Plaza to pitch the idea of several brands pulling their money to create an ad with all of them in it. A total of 37 took Newcastle up on their offer. The idea and Plaza both fit Newcastle’s “No Bollucks” brand. See the whole campaign at

Runners up: Totino’s

Best Laugh Award: Snickers “The Brady Bunch”

Not as many to choose from this year’s somber bowl. Snickers took their popular “you’re not you when you’re hungry” ads up a notch with Danny Trejo as Marsha Brady. It was weird, but probably accurate. They then topped it off with a Steve Buscemi as Jan zinger.

Runner up: Fiat “Blue Pill

Haters Gonna Hate Award: GoDaddy “Working”

GoDaddy had to scramble after its original ad had been pulled, and as many critics pointed out, it showed. In a vacuum, it’s a great ad. It empathizes with a key target audience – those small business owners, working when others are partying. While it was a little underwhelming for the spectacle of the Super Bowl, it is still a great ad.

Best Rip-off of Another Super Bowl Advertiser Award:  Esurance

I liked the concept even though Snickers sorta has done the same thing for awhile now and did it in the Super Bowl. In a vacuum, it’s a great concept that makes a more logical point than the original. It also had pretty good star power. Sorta like Snickers.

Lost in Translation Award: Toyota

It’s hard to translate incredible feats of determined amputees to a car brand. Sorry, can’t do it. The people are inspirational. The shiny new Camry that they drive is not.

Warm Fuzzies Award: Always “Like a Girl”

Unusually large crop of ads this year that made you feel all kinds of feels. Dads. Puppies. Overcoming disabilities. Dead kids. As a dad of a daughter, “Like a Girl” takes the cake. Sure I’m biased, but everyone has different emotional triggers (puppy’s just don’t do it for me). The message is powerfully delivered and made me a little uncomfortable in a good way. Despite my feelings, it still falls into the doesn’t-really-sell-anything trap, but the cause is a natural fit (I don’t think you can get a much more feminine brand).

Best of Show: Mophie “All-Powerless”

It didn’t really strike me at first, but the more I thought about it the more I liked it. I had never heard of the brand before, so that helped its cause here. It captures that feeling – as trivial as it may seem – that everyone gets when their phone dies. THE WORLD IS ENDING. It then introduces its product as a solution to a problem, which as I have said before, is a rarity in the Super Bowl.

Like I said before, my Super Bowl viewing was limited so tell me what I missed.


How Brands Event-Jacked the Super Bowl

Like many brands in the weeks preceding the Super Bowl, Newcastle created a campaign around their Super Bowl ad. They went all out with a dedicated website, teasers and behind the scenes video. The catch was that Newcastle wasn’t a Super Bowl advertiser.

News-jacking is the term used for when an opportunistic marketer or PR professional is able to insert their brand or organization inside the buzz of a breaking news story. The goal is to siphon off some of the news story’s attention and direct it to the brand. When brands like Newcastle apply this principle to a mega event like  the Super Bowl, I call it event-jacking.

The hefty price tag of a Super Bowl ad is an insurmountable obstacle for many brands that covet the millions of eyes watching the big game. This year however, the $4 million barrier to Super Bowl was torn down by social media and the second screen. Oreo’s famous power outage tweet last year opened the imaginations of advertisers on how to reach Super Bowl audiences without an official commercial. While Oreo was a Super Bowl advertiser that year, non-advertisers like Newcastle and JCPenney were able to insert themselves into and event-jack this year’s Super Bowl.

The Build Up

Over the past few years, Super Bowl advertisers have begun building buzz for their ads with leaks and teasers in the weeks preceding the game. Newcastle took advantage of this hype build-up and lampooned it with their “If we made it” campaign which dovetailed nicely with their “No Bullocks” branding. Videos of storyboards, celebrity endorsers, focus groups and the epic b-roll footage they would have used flooded the internet like the leaks and teases of the big game advertisers. A clever interview with Anna Kendrick, the would-be star of the mega huge football game ad, made the most waves.

As the teaser for the ad they would have made says, they didn’t have the money to spend on a Super Bowl ad, so the essentially spent a lot of everyone else’s. They took advantage of the hype that was paid for by the Super Bowl advertisers who were maximizing the exposure of their pricey big game ads. These advertisers pre-conditioned people to look for Super Bowl commercial hype, opening the door for a non-advertiser to oblige.

Newcastle carried over the campaign’s mockery during the game by showing how they would have made some of the night’s ads. However they didn’t quite get the attention that another non-advertising, event-jacking brand did.

During the Game

Many brands prepped for real-time social interaction during the Super Bowl, looking to catch the magic that Oreo did the year before. As the game went on, JCPenney began sending out horrendously typed tweets about the action. It got so bad that people and even other brands began tweeting about it, assuming the account had been hacked or JCPenney’s Twitter manager was partying a little too hard.

jc penny super bowl tweets

About an hour after the first jumbled tweet went out, JCPenney let everyone know that they were tweeting with mittens on. And not just any mittens, these were Olympic -themed mittens exclusively available at JCPenney. They got us and as a result earned 150,000 mentions, 10,000 additional followers on Twitter  and, most importantly, saw sales of those mittens almost double.

While this tactic may cause an eye roll, JCPenney was able to steal second screen attention from the event (the game) and the event within the event (the commercials). In talking to Ad Age about the stunt, Sean Ryan, J.C. Penney’s director-social and mobile, said the company was looking create their own moment, rather than wait for the right tweet at the right time.

Where Oreo found that moment and showed the potential real-time social interaction last year, JCPenney successfully manufactured a moment and steered that real-time social interaction to their brand. All of the eyes that advertisers were paying $4 million to reach, JCPenney essentially stole for free by inserting itself into the Super Bowl conversation.

What’s next?

Super Bowl advertisers are already challenged to get the most out of their investment with additional engagement leading up to the game. Newcastle, JCPenney, several other brands spent significantly less to reach the same audience that advertisers spent millions on. As a result of this year’s event-jackers, both Super Bowl advertisers and non-advertisers will likely take more proactive steps to be a larger part of the “event” next year.

While brands will continue focus on grabbing the eyeballs of Super Bowl viewers, the lower barrier to entry will make it interesting see how this year’s event-jackers affect the decisions of fringe advertisers. Do they make the big splash again or do something a little different? Starting $4 million in the hole is difficult and some may chose to have someone else pay for it.

Super Bowl Splash or Consistent Current?

Super Bowl Splash or Consistent Current?The Super Bowl is an opportunity to make a big splash, tying your brand event with one of the most watched telecasts of the year. This year, advertisers are busy leaking and teasing their Super Bowl ads. However, a study was released just prior to the Super Bowl run up stating that 80% of Super Bowl ads are ineffective. Talk about a buzzkill.

At $4 million a spot, attaching “ineffective” to Super Bowl ads should not be taken lightly. However the study relies too much one singular ad appearance to move someone to buy. The problem with big splashes like the Super Bowl is they rely on one broad stroke and hope that a majority of the audience wants what you have to offer right then and there. Most buying decisions take long-term influence – a consistent current of brand activity.

A sustained presence in the mind of the customer means that when they are ready to buy, you are the one that they call. But, sometimes a brand-jolt like a Super Bowl ad is need to grab their attention. Both approaches have their pros and cons.

Super Bowl Splashes

Pro: Super Bowl splashes grab attention
The brand takes center stage in front of a captive audience that’s excited to be there. It’s an opportunity to do something memorable, make an impact and build momentum. The Super Bowl splash is best when you have something new to share. However, to take advantage of this momentum a follow up plan is needed.

Con: Short and ever-shrinking shelf life
Without looking it up, name one Super Bowl ad from last year. Super Bowl ads have shifted from selling to entertainment. Viewers are just not in a buying state of mind when watching them so the message is easy to ignore. Big splashes are becoming more ineffective with ever increasing amount of information and entertainment being consumed today. Super Bowl advertisers have been combating this over the past few years with mini campaigns for their ads to create additional touches.

Consistent Currents

Pro: Consistency breeds familiarity.
All things being equal, people will buy from brands they know and trust. To build a brand or community or loyal fans, persistence is the better option. GEICO, for example, has done such a great job of consistently using their “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance” tagline, that in their current campaign, they don’t have to finish it.

Con: Becomes white noise
Familiarity can turn into background noise and become common place. It can easily fall victim to the increasing consumption of information and entertainment that Super Bowl splashes do. GEICO has used several campaigns and characters including a gecko, Dikembe Mutombo and a pig to deliver the message over the years. While the message needs to be consistent, changing up the delivery or creative keep it fresh and interesting.

Best Case Scenario

Beyoncé’s much discussed surprise album drop was heralded as a game changer in marketing. However, it was a result of “old” marketing tactics that combined the consistent current and Super Bowl splash. Beyoncé consistently delivered a brand experience her fans wanted and left them craving more. So when she goes for the Super Bowl splash, the response is mind boggling-record sales.

Super Bowl splashes keep the brand fresh. A consistent current builds loyal followings that anticipate big splashes. The best plan is a combination of the two, allowing them to feed off of each other.

photo credit: Steve and Sara via photopin cc