10 Great Super Bowl Ads

What makes them so effective, and how can credit unions apply those lessons to their own marketing?

The most valuable commodity on television is live sports. And the most watched live sporting event is the Super Bowl. It’s the one event that transcends downward trends in TV viewership.

Last year’s tilt between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks garnered 115 million viewers, or 36% of America. That’s the largest viewership in the history of television. Accordingly, 30-second ad spots for Super Bowl XLIX are going fora record $4-$4.5 million.

That might seem absurd, until you factor in that studies show people like watching Super Bowl ads. A 2013 study from Kantar Media found that more people watch the ads than the actual game; they’ve become an event unto themselves. Accordingly, the television networks have built in more than 45 minutes of ad time into the 60-minute game.

But which Super Bowl ads are the best? Which are not only funny, but memorable, effective, and iconic? Which ad did America watch and say, Next time we’re out, we need to buy Doritos?

Here are my picks for Top 10 Super Bowl Ads, listed in reverse order with accompanying rationale:

No. 10: Career Builder Monkeys

A series of these commercials debuted during Super Bowl XL and exhibit a number of themes you will see yet again this Sunday: animals, mundane office places, unfulfilled potential. We feel bad for this guy. He doesn’t like his job. He clearly deserves better. If only there was a way for him to get a new job.

Why credit unions should take note: It’s funny; but this ad shows us a man with a real problem and offers us a real solution.

No. 9: Bridgestone Reply All

Comedy arises from a recognition of truth. Email is layman’s work, but the difference between reply and reply all can be huge whether annoying or embarrassing. It can also be a problem, as it is here. Good thing his tires have the performance ability necessary for him to find all his co-workers and destroy their electronics.

Why credit unions should take note: Bridgestone provides a solution to a problem we desperately need to solve.

No. 8: Dodge Ram God Made A Farmer

One of last year’s more notable ads, God Made A Farmer is meant to be emphatic and emotional, personal and provoking. It tells a story about religion, commerce, family, and America through callused hands and wrinkled skin. You don’t know until the last 15 seconds that this spot promotes a truck, but once it’s revealed you get it. We’re all farmers. Dodge Ram is for us.

Why credit unions should take note: The message builds unity through a shared experience.

No. 7: Pepsi Your Cheatin’ Heart

Pepsi and Coke have a serious rivalry. The joke here is that the rivalry must extend to the employees of the company once you start working with Coke, Pepsi products are off-limits. It’s hilarious. Mixed with the Hank Williams song we get that this guy shouldn’t drink Pepsi. When he does, both the rows of Pepsi (and probably his job) crashes down.

Why credit unions should take note: It’s one company ribbing another, but it doesn’t seem spiteful or callous. It’s just funny.

No. 6: Volkswagen Darth Vader Kid

A winner from Super Bowl XLV, this commercial shows us the power of remote start from the eyes of a little kid who clearly just watched Star Wars for the first time. The car fulfills the dreams of this kid. But the product is for adults.

Why credit unions should take note: Volkswagen shows the audience how they can feel like kids again.

No. 5: Budweiser Replay

Budweiser plays up the history of its product in just about all of its advertising with the Clydesdale’s. The company used these horses to deliver its beer before cars and trucks. In this ad, Budweiser plays to the sensibilities of the football fan, making a kind of meta joke about the intelligence of referees without letting us forget the brand we’re dealing with the game is being played by the horses after all.

Why credit unions should take note: Budweiser releases the story bit by bit throughout the game, so when we finally see what we’re watching, the joke lands.

No. 4: Monster.com When I Grow Up

Seriously, American’s hate their jobs. According to a recent Gallup study, more than 70% of Americans are not engaged at their work. That’s what makes this ad work. At one point all of us had dreams beyond what we do now.

Why credit unions should take note: The ad provides a kind of tragic comedy that anyone who works will understand, plus a call to action: we can still achieve our dreams.

No. 3: FedEx Desert Island

Around the turn of the millennium, 20th Century Fox released a popular movie starring Tom Hanks as a Fed Ex employee who survives a plane crash and lives on a desert island for years until he eventually makes it home to deliver a single package. This ad picks up at the end of that, embracing as a joke what the film played for drama: why didn’t he just open the package?

Why credit unions should take note: If you’re trying to be topical, it helps to embrace the joke. Especially when that joke’s on you.

No. 2: E-Trade Baby

Babies are, and forever will be, adult Kryptonite. They’re cute and innocent and perfect. E-Trade used that against its audience here, playing against the stereotype. This baby can talk and reason and invest and earn.

Why credit unions should take note: The ad works and is so funny because it just isn’t true.

No. 1: Apple 1984

Sure, this ad looks a little dated. But you miss the point. In 60 seconds, this ad tells the story of Apple. Apple is different. It’s revolutionary. Macintosh blows away literally and metaphorically the status quo, the grayness and bleakness that consumes the rest of humanity. Apple isn’t afraid to take risks. You watched this in 1984 and thought it was interesting. You watched it again in 2015 and realized it was true.

Why credit unions should take note: There’s nothing wrong with bragging a bit about your history.

January 29, 2015

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