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Super Bowl Ads- My Rankings

February 8, 2010

The Super Bowl is exciting for me, primarily because of the game itself.  Unless it’s a Steelers-Seahawks game or some other ungodly match-up, I tune in attentively for about 2-3 hours of pregame coverage, as well as the full game itself.  This year was of particular interest to me because my beloved Colts were gunning for their 2nd title in 4 years.  Obviously, they came up short, but I am happy for New Orleans, Drew Brees, Sean Payton, and the prisoners at the Louisiana state lockup.

I’m also grateful that the commercials were fantastic (except for those aired in the 4th quarter, during which I was pretty much inconsolable).  Here are my rankings of the commercials across three categories: Best, Worst, and Funniest.


1. Google: Parisian Love

Google is known for being clean, simple, and non-obtrusive.  For these reasons, making it’s initial foray into advertising during advertising’s biggest stage was risky.  After all, Super Bowl advertising is the realm of beer jokes, hot babes, cute babies, and talking animals- which all fly in the face of Google’s no-nonsense simplicity.  One might expect Google’s entry into advertising to be a trendy, clever, viral campaign, not a mass TV ad during a 100M+ viewer broadcast.  Additionally, Google needed to worry about an ad on such a grand scale looking defensive.  After all, Google’s squeaky clean veneer has been under fire (albeit mild fire) recently due to competition from Bing (which I think is a fantastic search engine, by the way) and its controversial struggles with privacy in China.  Google claims the ad was not defensive, since it had been playing on Youtube for months prior to the Super Bowl.  I have my suspicions that the ad was a defensive maneuver, but this misses the point: the ad was a sweet, but not too sweet, sentimental reminder of how inextricably linked our lives are with Google.  The ad was Googly in all possible ways: clean, simple, clever, and with just enough of a twist (“how to assemble a crib”) to make you fall in love.  My only problem with the commercial was that it focused entirely on the search feature.  Although this is Google’s most well-known and widely-used feature, I am sure there is a way to integrate Gmail, Google docs, or some other feature without mussing the message too much.  But alas, the simplicity of the ad lies at the core of its appeal, so perhaps adding other features would have diluted the message.

2. Doritos: Play Nice

For all the hoopla surrounding PepsiCo’s withdrawal from Super Bowl advertising for the first time in 23 years, this amateur Doritos commercial was nearly perfect.  The difficult thing to do when it comes to marketing products targeted toward 16-35 year old males (Doritos, Axe, etc.) is that you need to capture the attention of both the consumer (the video game-playing, football-watching, DiligentOne blog-reading guy that will actually eat/drink/use the product) and the customer (who is often the consumer’s mom or girlfriend).  Therefore, even though you can always get the attention of guys using slapstick humor or T&A, it’s tougher to wrangle the guy while also making an impression on the girl.  This commercial hits both the consumer and the customer.  The consumer is drawn in by the honey dip, the videogames, and the slap of the face.  The customer is drawn in by the cute kid, the chivalrous dude, and the maternal instincts (“Jalen, are you playing nice?”).  Overall, a home run of a commercial in a category (beer, chips, soda) that can get stale easily.

3. Snickers: Betty White

You play ball like a girl!” Enough said- great commercial.

Honorable Mention: Kia Sorento: Joy Ride, VW: Bug Punching


1. Dr. Pepper: Mini Kiss

Mini-Me was hilarious in the Austin Powers movies.  The munchkins were adorably creepy in the Wizard of Oz.  Sometimes, I even watch five minutes of “Little People, Big World” after I’m done watching Millionaire Matchmaker.  However, the little people in this Kiss commercial are not funny, nor do they tie well to the message of the product.  Dr. Pepper’s Cherry’s message is that it’s “amazingly smooth“.  The secondary message is that there is a “little kiss” of cherry flavor in the product.  However, for a commercial to be smooth, it needs a certain “ha- I never would have thought of that” element, which this ad lacks- big time.  Little Kiss= little people playing Kiss songs in full Kiss gear?  Not very smooth.

2. Dockers: Free Pants

This commercial could claim that it suffered from poor timing.  Seriously, who the hell decided to air this commercial immediately after the Career Builder casual Friday commercial (which also featured pants-less people)?  Probably Jim Nance.  But even without the tighty-whitey-filled precursor, this commercial was dead-in-the-water.  The concept is kind of funny, but it needed something else to link the bottomless guys to the final message of the commercial (“it’s time for men to wear the pants”).  Side note: I did love the guy in the commercial with his shirt tucked into his underwear.

3. Budweiser: Fences and Friends

Everyone looks forward to the Budweiser Clydesdale ad during the Super Bowl.  While there have been some great ones in the past (horses playing football, horses and dogs playing together, etc.), this latest edition was awkward.  The commercial begins innocently enough and offers some cute shots of a calf and a baby horse frolicking together.  Then, predictably, they get older and reunite.  As the horse runs along their old route, the bull joins in and crashes through the fence that held him back in the old days.  Fair enough.  However, the corny/out-of-place/confusing final line of the commercial (shared between two ranchers) ruins the whole scene: “Nothing comes between friends”.  “Even fences”  Are we supposed to laugh?  Tear up?  Go buy Budweiser?  I haven’t a clue.


1. TruTV: Punxsatawney Polamalu

I have no idea what TruTV is or what they do, but this commercial is a riot.

2. Audi: Green Police

We’re all getting tired of Al Gore, and this commercial captures that sentiment perfectly.

3. E-trade: Jealous Girlfriend

Great laugh-out-loud commercial, but limited by the lack of originality.

Honorable Mention: Hotels, Bud Light: Voicebox

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