In a season where some Super Bowl advertisers spent millions on deliberately amateur-looking commercials -- including a handful that were actually made by consumers, and others inspired by realty TV -- more upscale, high-style production spots stood their ground, according to this year's Inc.com panel of advertising and marketing executives.
Their picks for the best ads of Super Bowl XLI tend to lean more towards Madison Avenue than YouTube, whether it was Coca-Cola's 60-second digitally animated "Give a Little Love" spot, or celebrity divorcee Kevin Federline daydreaming of rap stardom for Nationwide Insurance.
The panel this year included Alesya Opelt, senior marketing director of Pleasant Ridge, Mich.-based ePrize; John Moore, the founder of Austin, Tex.-based Brand Autopsy; Scott Brubaker, the CMO of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based BrightSpot Media; and Francisco Dao, founder of San Francisco-based StrategyandPerformance.com.
Here are some of their picks for the best and worst commercials of Super Bowl XLI.
The best use of $2.6 million?
Alesya Opelt: Lady and the Tramp have nothing on the Snickers kissing mechanics. With a catchy concept and URL -- afterthekiss.com -- Snickers found a way to justify the $2.6 million spend. Web users will find three alternate endings, a simple interface to e-mail the video, and a way to easily vote on their favorite. A follow-up spot scheduled during the Daytona 500 allows Snickers to satisfy its advertising goals.
John Moore: The Nationwide Insurance name is now more well-known thanks to their $2.6 million spend. Nationwide was able to extend their spend by generating a lot of chatter before the game from all the attention their K-Fed spot received. And the inane response from the National Restaurant Association that the ad was offensive to folks who work in the restaurant industry only helped.
Scott Brubaker: Kind of a dark-horse pick, but from a pure branding perspective, the Van Heusen spot was exceptional. They took advantage of the incredibly large and diverse audience and made a brand that is not typically categorized as "upscale" and, in my opinion, made it that way. Very well-cast, very well-shot. The product line was effectively integrated into great creative and it shined!
Francisco Dao: ETrade's "One Finger" commercial. This continues a growing line of hilarious and memorable ads starting with the "Money coming out of the wazoo" commercial in 2000. Many commercials that go for humor fail to leave a memorable impression of the company. For example, I thought the Kevin Federline spot was funny, but I have no recollection of the company that was actually advertising. ETrade's piece was funny and still clearly promoted their brand.
What was the biggest flop?
Alesya Opelt: The only job seekers on CareerBuilder.com after the Super Bowl will be the team who created the commercials. Did CBS offer a discount if they used the "Survivor" theme? Are the chimpanzees on strike? Did their servers crash with all the extra Web traffic last year? Whatever the reason it wasn't good enough. Cough up the extra bananas and BRING BACK THE CHIMPS!
John Moore: So many flops from Garmin's obtuse Mapasaurus spot to the amateurish Salesgenie.com ads to the "what was that?" commercial promoting the American Heart Association's high blood pressure website. But the biggest flop to me was the Chevy HHR ad. You hardly saw the car -- just men stripping and dancing around the car. Sadly, viewers will only remember the commercial's idea and nothing about the HHR car.
Scott Brubaker: This was a tough one, but have to give it to Salesgenie.com. I thought I was watching some strange spoof of "The Office," but, instead, it was just a very cheesy commercial that should be on cable overnights. I was very disappointed in CareerBuilder’s follow up from last year, and GoDaddy whiffed again!
Francisco Dao: The Budweiser Dalmation. I had no clue who or what they were advertising until nearly the end of the commercial and I couldn't see any connection between a dirty dog and drinking Budweiser, or was it Bud Light? Who knows, it was just plain worthless.
What was your personal favorite?
Alesya Opelt: Starting on Monday, technically frustrated wireless users will be complaining about their "connectial dysfunction" and Sprint will be ready with the cure. Mark it on your pop culture calendars -- this was the birth of the next great catch phrase
Oprah + Super Bowl = 15 seconds of pure genius for the "The Late Show" and David Letterman. Oprah's team lost the game, but it seems Letterman has finally won her over.
Last year they went prehistoric, this year they went futuristic, and both years FedEx came up a winner. Humor, clear messaging, and every Detroit Pistons fan's favorite theme song -- "The Final Countdown" -- successfully launched the shipper's message to viewers from here to the moon.
John Moore: Bud Light's "Rock, Paper, Scissors" ad. This spot was a simple idea executed in an unexpected and funny way. Better yet, it's one of the few ads where I actually remembered the advertised product -- Bud Light.
Scott Brubaker: Coca Cola's "Give a Little Love" spot was epic. I rewound it and watched it 5 times. It was 60 seconds and well worth the extra cost. Really made me feel good about the brand. They followed it up with another winner with their "Celebrate Black History" spot. Coca Cola was my MVP this year.
Francisco Dao: Emerald Nuts and Robert Goulet. It didn't make me want to buy more nuts, but the idea of Robert Goulet as an office Gremlin still has me smiling.