What criteria are best used to decide what Super Bowl commercials are the best and worst? For me the first factor is humor. After all, the Super Bowl is a celebration and no matter kind of football is being played, we want to laugh. And when companies are spending $2.6 million for 30 seconds you bet they want us to laugh. Not just smile at some mildly amusing commercial, but preferably have a great, loud belly laugh that risks involuntary bodily releases. Humor sells. Funny makes money.
The second factor is whether the commercial has “stickiness.” By that I mean whether it causes viewers to easily know what product or service is being advertised, and also whether it is so creative that it compels us to recall what the company wants us to remember long after the game. The sure test of this is whether – when you talk to people the next day – you not only happily recall what you saw and laughed at, but you also remember and talk about the company’s brand and the specific product or service it was selling.
Third, a great Super Bowl commercial must be attention-grabbing. Virtually all viewers are totally absorbed in the game they are watching, the food and drink they are preparing or consuming, and the conversations they are having with fellow viewers in their presence or, nowadays, on the phone or through many other electronic devices. When a commercial pops up you have your own instinctual pop-up blocker. So that means a commercial must start very strong visually and audibly so that it grabs your attention. There is no time to waste, not when every second costs a fortune – nearly $90,000. Yet keeping viewers’ attention for just 30 seconds requires creative simplicity. Losing viewers is just a blink away.
Great Super Bowl commercials are as exciting, rewarding and memorable as a critical touchdown by your favorite team. Yet the general view in the advertising world is that Super Bowl commercials have declined in quality in recent years. Nevertheless, an embarrassing fraction of Americans may be watching the Super Bowl more for its commercials than the football! According to a Harris Interactive poll, more than half of U.S. adults (56%) watching the Super Bowl do so as much or more for the commercials as for the game itself. Women are more likely to watch the game just for the commercials. It is not a time for political statements or pleas for better citizenship. Commercials must entertain and be part of the collective celebration, not things that we must suffer through, as we all too frequently experience with normal TV.
Based on my three criteria of funniness, stickiness and grabbiness here are the best Super Bowl commercials for 2007:
The Snickers Kiss Super Bowl Ad. I could not get enough of this ad. It was absolutely hilarious. It took a lot of courageous creativity to make this one. You could not possibly escape a strong memory of this Snickers commercial. It truly sells Snickers. The ad did a terrific job of grabbing viewers’ attention and holding it. I would have liked a lot more time with the commercial’s two characters and how they coped with their near-homosexual experience.
The Sprint Connectile Dysfunction Super Bowl Ad. What a terrific play on words. This ad took the well advertised phrase of erectile dysfunction and morphed it into the new disease of connectile dysfunction. Sprint did a mavelous job of portraying a tired, sad-looking business guy that was suffering from connectile dysfunction. But in this 30-second short story he gets cured when some attractive women turn him on to Sprint cellular broadband. It was very funny, sold the Sprint brand and product very well, and mostly through its highly original new phrase grabbed viewers’ attention and held on to it with a good story line.
The Sierra Mist Beard Comb Over Super Bowl Ad. This ad provided a terrific visual story, based on the truly nutty look of a guy that took his long red beard and combed it over his head. In contrast, is his quite normal, dull boss who fires him for poor judgment. The boss is drinking Sierra Mist Free and succinctly explains why it is a great drink. Though the loser quickly is willing to follow the smart choice of his boss, he still is fired. Then the joke is taken to a whole new visual level. When the fired jerk stands up it is revealed that he is wearing short cut-off jeans and he is on roller skates. Very funny. The ad sells the brand and product, and grabs your attention through surprising visual images.
The Budweiser Fake Dalmatian Super Bowl Ad. No matter how tired you may be of both animal and Budweiser commercials during Super Bowl, this one breaks through your defenses to grab you. You cannot help but feel sympathy with the cute white dog that appears hungry and lonely. But then he gets splashed with street muck that gives him black spots. He has become a fake Dalmatian with a new life. That cute real Dalmatian he has seen in a parade winks at him and now he is in the parade. It is a soft sell Budweiser commercial that in a full minute tells a sweet story.
The Bud Light Hitchhiker Super Bowl Ad. I also succumbed to this beer commercial. Through its creative visual images it too grabs your attention. The story is simple. Contrary to the fears of his female companion, the guy in the car driving along a dark road insists on picking up a very scary-looking man with a very big ax. Seems like men will do – or should do – just about any stupid, risky thing to get access to Bud Light. The ad works in that it is funny, makes you remember the brand and the product and definitely holds your attention. Yet it makes men look stupid and women smart.
Though I wanted to focus on the best commercials this year, there were some that utterly failed my test. One was the Van Heusen: A Man’s Walk commercial, showing a man whose clothing changes in various circumstances. It was not funny and it bored me, and sadly for Van Heusen I remember the brand. The commercial for the film Wild Hogs was so bad that I was happy, because fewer people would be inclined to see the movie. Then there was this crazy thing: King Pharmaceuticalsspent more than four million dollars for two mediocre commercials and a five-second banner that advertise an American Heart Association (AHA) website -without even mentioning its own antihypertensive drug, Altace (ramipril)! Then again, what’s really nuts is that all the Super Bowl gluttony probably nudged many viewers into high blood pressure.
Among the 50 or so game commercials, my best picks may not have been your favorites, but perhaps my framework for evaluating Super Bowl commercials has caused you to see things differently – now that all the hoopla has died down and we are stuck with watching ordinary, disappointing TV programs and commercials. Of course we can hope that some of those terrific Super Bowl commercials will now be showing up and giving us another laugh. You might just appreciate some a little more than you first did during the game. Like wonderful movies, odds are you will catch some things in those precious seconds that you missed during your Super Bowl euphoria.
Just go to http://www.ifilm.com/superbowl to watch any Super Bowl commercials at your leisure.