Lending Club Blog

Super Bowl Commercials: An Average Consumer’s Analysis

In the Super Bowl battle between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers came out on top by the slimmest of margins. The battle between the game and the commercials was not nearly as close.

For millions of fans watching the Super Bowl from the comfort of their couch, the game is as much about the commercials as it is about the football. There are people who enjoy the game despite not knowing any names, players, or even teams. Their satisfaction comes from monkeys selling online investment banking and from the universal appeal of broad physical humor.

And most times, they get to see a better show than the football fans.

But Super Bowl XLIII was different. A great game overshadowed a merely solid lineup of ads – one that would have outshone Buffalo Bills blowouts of years past but couldn’t top the thrill of Cards-Steelers. Immediately after the game, the impact of Pittsburgh’s last-second touchdown could be felt across the country. Santonio Holmes’ touchdown provided a clear winner. As for the commercials’ best? Time will tell.

There were several good spots, several mediocre ones, and several bad ones involving Clydesdale horses. For a closer look at just how effective the Super Bowl ads were, you would need to ask the average consumer which ads really struck a chord. Fortunately for the purposes of this article, I am an average consumer. Here then is my analysis of some of the Super Bowl’s biggest and most memorable commercials. (To see the ads, visit hulu.com.)

Budget meeting by Bud Light: Batting leadoff for Super Bowl commercials is no easy task, but at least Budweiser didn’t strike out. On the contrary, to carry on the baseball metaphor to unnecessary lengths, they drew a walk or reached base on an error or had an infield single. In other words, they did their job in entertaining the audience (throwing a man out the window), surprising viewers (throwing a man out the window), and making their point (being a teetotaler gets you thrown out of windows). But it didn’t really “wow.”

Car chase through the decades with the Audi A6: If I am anything like millions of other people who watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, then there were millions of people who are not friends with Jason Statham and who could not afford to buy an Audi A6 for the sole purpose of tooling around in a sports car. Never mind the fact that this commercial, with Crank star Statham hitting the streets in classic/modern wheels, makes me want to be that type of person. I’m not. So I’ll just be admiring Audi A6’s from a distance for the foreseeable future.

Generational movie clips by Pepsi: I thought the production of this piece was well-done, but I’m a Coke guy. Seeing will.i.am sing/rap will not change that. But thanks for spending $3 million anyway.

Baby investment analysts by E*Trade: The concept for these advertisements has always gone over my head. I never have got them, which is why I so appreciated this year’s version with the kids singing campy oldies. That I can get behind. Perhaps the initial shock value of baby animation has worn off on me, too, and I can finally appreciate these ads for what they’re trying to say. Message received: E*Trade can help out in tough times like these. And singing babies are effective.

Confident man by Cars.com: This commercial was destined for great things, much like its subject who rescued animals, performed open heart surgery with a pen, etc. But when the climax was our hero, sitting in his care, doing price comparisons on his smart phone, I felt betrayed. I guess cars.com was trying to say, “If this man can’t buy a car with confidence, then no one can!” Thanks for believing in me, cars.com. I’m going to console myself at autotrader.com.

Alec Baldwin for Hulu.com: Confession: I love Hulu, and I love Alec Baldwin. But after seeing this commercial, I kind of love both a little less. Something about it just came across as creepy. Maybe it was Baldwin’s insanely red lips or the fact that he was encouraging brain mushing or the Men in Black vibe that came out with the alien reveal at the end. It won’t stop me from watching Arrested Development on Hulu, but it did stop me from admitting to my friends that I use the service.

Pigeon attack by Cheetos: That Chester Cheetah sure has turned into a dirty old man. In this spot, he encourages a Cheeto eater to incur the wrath of pigeondom on a rude cellphone-talking diner. Hilarity ensues? Is that what that was? I couldn’t tell because my moral compass was compromised trying to determine whether Chester was a puppet, a cartoon, CGI, or claymation.

3D dancing players and lizards by Sobe: This 3D commercial came with all sorts of anticipation. Pepsi and Sobe had been pushing it for weeks leading up to the big game. Did it disappoint? To some, it did – mainly the ones who were expecting things thrown at them so they could go “ooh” and “aah.” I was impressed simply with the depth and feel of the 3D experience, and it made me forget for a minute that Sobe Life Water tastes like a super weak juice box. I imagine that this was Sobe’s strategy all along: distraction.

Any of the Clydesdale ads by Budweiser: I found them tedious and pointless. Every girl at my party found them adorable. Coincidence?

Moose head by Monster.com: The simplicity of this ad was what I appreciated the most. Monster nailed the joke: a boss with a moose head mounted in his office and the plebe worker with the moose’s backend mounted over his cubicle next door. If Monster had wanted, it could have Super Bowled us over with the moose relieving himself, monkeys invading the scene for no particular reason, or a celebrity being the fauna-afflicted employee. Their restraint was admirable. I’ll remember this next time I get laid off.

Mob breakfast by Denny’s: Here is my Super Bowl winner. The Denny’s spot really took the cake for me above and beyond any other commercial. First off, it was entertaining. I’m a sucker for spoof humor, so seeing a send-up of mob shows that I never really understood the popularity of in the first place was too much. Plus, it included a whipped cream pancake face. Does it get any better than that?

The real clincher, though, was Denny’s free breakfast offer at the end of the clip (a free Grand Slam to everyone in America from 6:00am to 2:00pm on Tuesday). What greater call to action can there be? I appreciated this because it showed that Denny’s wasn’t wasting my time by giving away a free orange juice or something needless. They were giving away their signature breakfast, and you’d better believe I’ll take them up on the offer.

Even better, as far as Denny’s is concerned, if I like it enough, I’ll come back for more. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes a great Super Bowl commercial.

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 at 11:57 am

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