Feb. 6, 2006--A guy in a locker room gets repeatedly pelted at the head with a cell phone. A female player gets taken out by a crushing tackle in a friendly game of touch football. Jackie Chan and a Diet Pepsi can take on a street gang before a Diet Coke "stand-in" gets flattened.
For those who missed it, most of the commercials that ran during the Super Bowl -- one of the most watched and expensive broadcasts of the year -- went for violent, physical comedy to create instant marketplace buzz.
Yet the ads that made a lasting impression were those that tugged at the heartstrings for both tears and laughs, according to our Inc.com panel of ad executives.
The panel included Daryl Warner, a Boston-based freelance producer; Meredith Schwinder, art director at Boston-based Connelly Partners; Loren McDonald, vice president of marketing at Menlo Park, Calif.-based EmailLabs; Alesya Opelt, senior marketing director of Pleasant Ridge, Mich.-based ePrize; Larry Andersen, owner of Boston-based spot Editorial; and Adam Hanft, Inc. columnist and the founder and CEO of New York-based Hanft Unlimited.
For them, the image of two love-struck city-destroying monsters -- a Godzilla-like creature and a giant robot -- raising a "little monster" Hummer stole the show. Others, like Dove, they said, also struck a more tender tone with a plaintive message for teenage girls about the importance of self-esteem.
Here are some of their picks for the best and worst commercials of Super Bowl 2006.
The best use of $2.5 million?
Daryl Warner: The Dove "self esteem" spot. Emotional, connected -- there needs to be more positive messages like this out there.
Alesya Opelt: Anheuser-Busch was the clear and consistent winner for the evening. While the "I won't tell if you don't" ad was my favorite (how many beer commercials can pull at your heartstrings?) their "touch football" and "stadium poor" ads will certainly find their way into today's water-cooler conversation.
Larry Anderson: Bud Light. Several ads -- the "hospital fly, " the "secret refrigerator" and the "rooftop husbands" were probably funniest. Not the best ads, not breakthrough, but they were funny, hit exactly the right audience, and gosh darn it, felt like they belonged there.
Adam Hanft: Hummer. Because it was primal. Because it was both a wordless send-up of our movie archetypes and a brilliant introduction of a new model that was masterfully economical. Because its seeming indirectness resolved at the end of the spot in a powerful coming together of the story, as opposed to so much other advertising (Ameriquest comes to mind) where a desperate attempt to catch and snatch opinion resulted in a gratuitous story line that told you nothing -- and made you feel nothing -- about the product.
What was the biggest flop?
Daryl Warner: There were many bad spots. Burger King -- had nothing to do with food. It would never entice me to eat there. A waste of time and money. Also, GoDaddy.com. Insults my intelligence, gratuitous, and hard to know exactly what they're selling.
Meredith Schwinder: I'd say the GoDaddy.com spot. I think it just confused people.
Loren McDonald: GoDaddy.com. Dumb, tasteless, and I still don't know what they do -- and I'm in the Internet industry. Emerald Nuts was also very poor.
Alesya Opelt: Once again, both Emerald Nuts and GoDaddy.com wasted their time and ours. Perhaps next year they should save their money and our time by running a combined "Go Nutty" commercial instead.
Larry Andersen: Gillette spent crazy money on their futuristic crap, so they are a good candidate. Pepsi's star-laced bombs were even worse. Brown and bubbly? Try to come up with a worse tag line. And GoDaddy.com -- stupid, stupid, stupid.
Adam Hanft: Burger King. Because they fell victim to the Anything Retro Is Cool Syndrome.
What was your personal favorite?
Daryl Warner: Bud Light's "secret refrigerator." I'd never drink the stuff. Most of their ads are sophomoric, but this one makes me laugh. What does that say about my sense of humor? Also, Hummer's "little monster." Strong concept and good execution, animation and music.
Meredith Schwinder: I really liked the Hummer spot. It was creative and intriguing with a great payoff. I also really like the Ameriquest sports -- a nice follow up to last year's Super Bowl showing.
Alesya Opelt: FedEx's "caveman" spot hit the mark. Combining humor, on point messaging, and the unexpected kept you watching. As one of the first commercial, it remained a benchmark for the rest of the evening.
Loren McDonald: FedEx.
Larry Andersen: I loved the H3 (Hummer) ad with the city-destroying creatures. I'd like to thank them for bringing something clever to the generally pathetic car category.
Adam Hanft: Dove self-esteem. Because it was a sensitive -- but not soppy -- break in an otherwise testosterone-fueled environment.