In the Spotlight - 2015 Super Bowl Ad Showdown
Budweiser's main ad verged on parody
Sunday's Super Bowl XLIX was a feast of entertainment, with a late-game 28-24 win for Tom Brady's New England Patriots. Off the field, the action was more subdued, and the much-anticipated Super Bowl ads were widely regarded as a bit of a mixed bag.
Compared to last year, when Sodastream kicked up a fuss with a dig at Big Soda and the Coca-Cola Co caused a Twitter storm (albeit largely amongst slack-jawed idiots) with its multi-lingual rendition of America the Beautiful, 2015's beverage offerings were far more coy, preferring to tug at the heart strings rather than aim for the gut.
Take, for example, Coca-Cola's “Make it Happy” ad. This was brand Coca-Cola as a global force for good, as a spilled bottle of Coke dribbles into circuit boards and ends internet hatred. A few people on social media pointed out that this is not the usual result of knocking a soft drink over your computer, but this is Coca-Cola World and the company once again scores with a strong, and appropriately sticky-sweet, advert that has mass appeal.
Anheuser-Busch's main Budweiser ad, on the other hand, was a check list of past efforts ramped up to all new levels of mawkishness.
Cute puppy? Tick. Clydesdale horses? Tick? Acoustic guitar? Tick. In fact, the the 60-second tale of a lost puppy rescued by his cloven-hoofed friends was so nakedly sentimental it verged on parody. But A-B must know what it is doing, because according to USA Today's Ad Meter rankings for the Super Bowl ads, “Lost Puppy” took top spot amongst viewers, the 13th time in the past 15 years a Budweiser ad has done so. Sentimentality sells, it seems.
The second Budweiser ad was less sentimental. In fact, it was downright hostile. Good to see, though, that A-B is not taking the craft beer threat lying down.
A-B's final offering, for the more youth-oriented Bud Light, was a far pacier affair, featuring an unexpected night out - reality TV-style - for a hip young Bud Light drinker. It was a continuation of last year's “Whatever Happens” ad, and though it included a real-life game of giant Pac Man it wasn't quite up to the standard of 2014's Arnold Schwarzenegger-led effort. As always, Arnie casts a long shadow, especially when he's playing table tennis.
And that was it for beverage commercials. PepsiCo was again the sponsor of the half-time show, which this year saw Katy Perry dance with some waywardly-choreographed sharks.
Some reports suggested that PepsiCo was wise to stay out of the TV ad bearpit, as its sponsorship deal came with the rights to use Super Bowl retail activations in the run-up to the game.
According to research carried in Ad Week, more than half of the purchases made from Super Bowl-themed displays were unplanned, meaning that the consumer changed their mind before buying. That's some powerful marketing, and at a time when people are getting their shopping done, not slumped on the couch watching the game.
Ad space for the Super Bowl still reportedly costs about US$30m per 30 seconds. With research such as the above, and the growing importance of online spots, can broadcasters hope to maintain those sky-high rates?
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