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Super Bowl: Mediocre Games, Great Ads

by Susan Morgan on January 30, 2009

Let me admit right off the bat, that while I’m a football fan, neither the Pittsburgh Steelers nor theArizona Cardinals are my team of choice to be in the biggest game of the year — Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIII. Though I’ll admit, grudgingly, to a bit of admiration for the story of Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, and a purely female approval of the red and white uniforms over the harsh, bad-guy colors of the Steelers.

What I watch the Super Bowl for, as do most of the growing female audience I’ll wager, is the commercials. Shunned as useless hawking during any other program, the spots that air during the game are an entirely different animal. These are not boring… repetitive or annoying re-hashes of messages we’ve heard a zillion times before… these ads are actually good. They show us what could be if only corporate America would always try for greatness… for humor and creativity. Developing these ads takes no small effort to be sure, and offers the tantalizing, though elusive, potential to deliver a knockout advertising punch in front of a huge audience.

Or to fail miserably in front of many millions of potential customers.

Not all the spots all can be winners, and there are more than a few SuperBowl ads that are eminently forgettable. Cleaning products and dot com ads spring immediately to mind. The reason these ads didn’t do well was because the people behind those commercials forgot that the audience is mostly male football fans — interested in trucks, auto parts, beer and snacks. Speak to them and your ad stands not only a chance of getting through, but more importantly, of being remembered.

Maybe even after the game is over too.

In case you’ve forgotten, last year’s favorite ad was produced by the NFL, FedEx had the ad most people remembered, and beer giant Anheuser-Bush had three of the top ten best liked ads, and four of the top ten most remembered ads. 

This year ad spots are going for a reported $3 million for 30 seconds, and will feature car markers, insurance carries, movies, dog food, chips, beer and soda, as well as career sites and florists — presented to an audience estimated to be between 130 and 140 million. Last year, the Super Bowl on FOX attracted a record 97.5 million viewers, making it the most watched TV broadcast of the entire year. Clearly NBC is hoping for a repeat.

One thing to watch for is a 90 second spot just before halftime that’s the first ever 3D ad to air during the Super Bowl — a trailer for the upcoming Monsters verses Aliens movie. You can pick up glasses, for free, in local grocery and convenience stores. Advertisers are making an effort to produce spots that walk a fine line this year… respectful of the economy, but still able to entertain. You’ll notice two commercials, for Denny’s and Universal Orlando Resort, doing something out of character for Super Bowl ads — rather than reinforcing image or announcing products, these ads will make some very special offers.

Another of the more unique ads this year is from Miller High Life. In the face of the tough economic times, Miller is running a one second ad instead, making a point of not spending the big bucks on advertising during these tough economic times so it can continue to deliver an affordable product. Blink… or get up for a snack and you’ll probably miss it altogether. Still the approach is unique enough to distinguish the adult beverage from its free spending competitors, and perhaps further position the brand in the minds of beer drinkers everywhere.

One ad that you won’t be seeing, thanks to the sensibilities of the network, is the pro vegetarian spotsponsored by PETA showing lingerie clad models getting… familiar with asparagus, pumpkins and cauliflower. Apparently the ad “depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards” according to a statement by NBC. If you’re wondering how those who bring us blood and guts murder and mayhem programming can claim the moral high ground with a straight face… you’re not alone. 

According to Nielsen Company ratings, the attention and outstanding creative efforts behind Super Bowl commercials have generated effectiveness levels that are well above average. Compared to the typical TV ad, the “big game” ads generate an average of 31% break through and 93% higher likeability. Of course, regular readers to this blog know that promotional products are far more effective and affordable than overpriced TV ads.

As for me, I’ll be comfortably settled on my friend’s couch, with snacks and drinks and kids everywhere, enjoying the commercials… I mean, the game.

Susan Morgan on sabtwitterSusan Morgan on sabfacebook
Susan Morgan
Creative, passionate and detailed, Susan brings 25-plus years professional writing experience to a variety of projects — get-noticed direct mail pieces, full line print catalogs, eye-catching color brochures and totally original. search engine friendly company blogs, web pages and online articles.

A lifelong love of storytelling has also produced a full-length novel (Out of the Ordinary published by booklocker in 2007). Susan continues to indulge her passion for fiction with a growing number of short stories (one an award winner in 2004, another in 2008) and finalizing a second novel.

In her spare time Susan enjoys gardening, studying astrology and tarot, being with family and friends and keeping up with politics and current events.


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