The Super Bowl is over for 2010, and that means it's now time for the debate to begin about which ads were winners and losers. I had a great time seeing comments from some of my fellow advertising/public relations folks on Twitter during the game, and I definitely see an opportunity for a live-blogging exercise in the future for events relevant to our industry. Check out Twitter feeds for @joshuadelung, @rlaermer and @accessus for last night's tweets.
I'll say up front that none of this year's ads were phenomenal, and none of them really made an effort to break the rules, do something relevant with a target audience or provide a true call to action. However, I've rewatched all the ads one last time before making my judgments, and here are my top five Super Bowl ads for this year, followed by a couple of honorable (and not-so-honorable) mentions.
1) Google: Search On — It wasn't flashy. Heck, I could've made this ad in my living room. But the narrative that played out just by watching someone perform searches from falling in love to building a crib was a cute and genius way to show off Google's usefulness. This is a simple ad that shows people what to do and how to do it with a product, which is sorta the point. The other advertisers should take note.
2) Doritos: House Rules — A cute kid, tasty chips and hilarious dialogue. Is it going to make me run out and buy more Doritos? Probably not. Is it going to make me smile each time I walk past a bag of Doritos in the store for the next few months? Absolutely.
3) Mars' Snickers: You're Not You When You're Hungry — Who doesn't love Betty White? Seeing Betty White get tackled? Well, that's pretty funny, too. While the eat-a-Snickers-bar-to-transform-into-a-lean-mean-football-player trick was highly predictable, that doesn't mean we weren't still laughing when the screen faded to black.
4) Motorola: Megan Fox Photo — No, I didn't put this in the top five because Megan Fox is one of the hottest (if not also trashiest) stars out there. But the idea of her sending a viral pic of herself in the bathtub out via cellphone is not only tantalizing, it's also relevant in our Internet age, and the resulting distraction among American men shown in the ad probably isn't far from what would actually happen.
5) Volkswagen: PunchDub —I wasn't aware that the "Punch Buggy [Color], No Punch Back" game had now extended to all VWs, so I'm glad they decided to let us in on the secret while also getting people to talk about their cars more often when they see them out on the road. Genius. The whole Stevie Wonder thing is sorta played out, especially for Gen-Xers (and probably not even relevant for Millenials), but the addition of Tracy Morgan helped make that part of the ad at least slightly humorous.
Chrysler: Dodge Charger — This is perhaps the most well-written ad from the entire Super Bowl in 2010. It wasn't all THAT interesting, but if you listen to the dialogue, it definitely connects with the target audience in a way that no other ad did this year. Watch it.
Best Production Value
Coke: Sleepwalker — Coca-Cola's ads are always very shiny and fun to watch, even if they aren't all that memorable in the long run. Crisp, clear, great settings, music, and on and on... these were some well-produced ads and not much more. Watch it.
Most Worth Going Online For
HomeAway's "Hotel Hell Vacation" (Full Version: 13:52) — I think everyone was super-excited to see Chevy Chase reprise his role as Clark Griswold from those hilarious National Lampoon's "Vacation" films. And while the stand-alone ad was funny and a cool idea, it didn't quite deliver enough to make me remember to use HomeAway instead of one of the more well-known hotel rental sites. All that being said, the full version of the ad is available online and runs almost a full 14 minutes. It plays just exactly like a scene out of a brand-new Griswolds movie and offers plenty of laughs and familiar memes. Watch it.
Dockers: Free Pants — The ad wasn't original, as it was one of three pantless ads that ran during the Super Bowl from various companies. Then, it saved itself by mentioning a "free pants" giveaway online. It was sort of a form of bait-and-switch tactics, though, as visitors to the Web site could actually just enter for a CHANCE to win free pants. That is, if those visitors could get the Web site to work. For a good hour after the ad aired, the Twitterverse was alive with "Dockers Fail" tweets because the servers crashed. Even after the site finally loaded, then the entry form seemed broken. I finally got registered for my chance at some pants after many ill-fated attempts. But all this ad really proved is that Dockers is an aging brand that's out of touch in a technology-driven world. Watch it.
Biggest Waste of Taxpayer Money
U.S. Census Bureau: Preproduction Meeting — I am absolutely outraged by this ad. Just in case you don't realize it, YOU paid for this ad. Almost $3 million in taxpayer money was used for this spot that played out more like a sitcom preview than a government call to action. You should know that even if about one percent of the estimated 100 million people who were supposed to watch the Super Bowl this year mail back their Census forms, it will save taxpayers $30 million that would otherwise be spent sending workers door-to-door, according to U.S. Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner. My question is: Why the heck didn't they just say that in the ad? Be direct already! As we recover from an economic crisis, saving taxpayer money is a hot topic to which people will pay attention. If you had just mentioned that little detail about how people mailing their forms back equals loads of saved money and preventing the inconvenience of Census workers knocking at your door, I imagine that this ad may not have been such a waste. Watch it.