Super Bowl Ads 2011: The Good, the Bad and the Controversial

A record number of viewers (approx 110 million sets of eyes) watched the Green Bay Packers bring the Lombardi Trophy home last night. And unlike every other event, viewers were conflicted as to when they should use the restroom, refill drinks and make fridge runs, because the ads are just as much a part of this event as the football. And as always, there were spots that we loved, hated, and some just made us feel uncomfortable.

In a surprising twist, the car ads were strong favorites, while beer and soft drinks, normally highlights of the night,  just weren’t that good. (Looking at you Pepsi Max). And despite hearing otherwise, digital integration was non-existent. No asking me to tweet, Facebook, YouTube…nothing. The closest was Chevy informing me that I can now check my Facebook feed via OnStar. If you need your car to read your News Feed to you because you can’t wait until you can check your phone or get to a computer, you may have a Facebook addiction issue. Even I wouldn’t go the far…

The Good:

Volkswagon: The Force

VW released this ad to the masses on Wednesday and it had a strong advantage coming in to the game. Before the ad aired, it had 13 million views on YouTube. The full 60 second spot is incredibly funny, but it held up as an edited down 30 second spot as well. It led VW to the top of BrandBowl2011 rankings, and it’s no surprise. It was something different, and connected to many of our childhoods (Well, I pretended I could use Accio, but that’s a different story). The Force was tied for my favorite commercial of the evening.

Chrysler: Imported from Detroit

Yes, Chrysler is foreign-owned now. But it still comes from the Motor City. And the company, like the city, has struggled these last few years and is determined to make it. This spot highlighted both the city and the car as coming back, stronger and better and a new kind of luxury. It wasn’t just selling the car and the brand…it was selling the city. This seemed to be hit or miss, placing Chrysler in second place in BrandBowl2011, but 44th in the USAToday rankings. I loved it. It made sense for Eminem (unlike the Brisk ad), and I thought it was well shot and edited together. Plus you can’t go wrong with “Lose Yourself” playing underneath it all. Plus, I love the tagline. (There was a nice subtle nod to US Figure Skating in the Detroit-area, with a brief shot of 2009 and 2011 champion Alissa Czisny. )

Doritos: Best Part

This was the only ad of the night where viewers created the commercial that I thought worked. I’ll get to that later though. This was clever and made me laugh out loud.

The Bad:

Pepsi Max: First Date

In contrast you have the Pepsi Max and even the Doritos pug commercial, which were also created by viewers. I thought that they relied too much on what viewers believe to be the “ideal” Super Bowl commercial. There was nothing unique, nothing to make them stand out from the noise. This Pepsi Max commercial was the worst of the worst. It fell into a box of traditional stereotypes both ways and just didn’t work. And to top it off, it reminded me too much of horrible local spots that air during late night. It looks cheaply made, from concept to finished product.

Go Daddy: Joan Rivers

We know they’re going to be horrible. It’s the same shtick every year. Go Daddy does these ads in-house, and it shows. At this point though, I don’t know if outsourcing it to an agency to shake up their image would work. This tweet from ESPN’s Jay Crawford says it all: dear go daddy, joan rivers? really? i don’t even know what your product is, but i don’t need it, thanks.

I’m not even going to bother posting the ad here. Just know that Joan Rivers has a new endorsement deal.

Home Away: Test Baby

Don’t know what the company is. That’s the biggest issue for me (and for the company as well I would guess). Today everyone is talking about the commercial…but not mentioning the brand. Many people on Twitter couldn’t remember who the brand was or even what they were selling moments after the spot aired. None of it worked, and seems like a waste of money and time for everyone.

The Controversial:

Groupon: Tibet

Oh Groupon. I love your quirky humor. I don’t know if this was the best way to showcase it though…

The change in pace first confused me, and then I giggled a little. I blame the confusion. Groupon is actually donating money to all of the issues higlighted in their ads. I don’t know if mentioning that in the ads would have helped the perception. It’s clear that Groupon expected this reaction, saying in their blog “[it] took this approach knowing that, if anything, they would bring more funding and support to the highlighted causes.” They go on to explain

When we think about commercials that offend us, we think of those that glorify antisocial behavior – like the scores of Super Bowl ads that are built around the crass objectification of women. Unlike those ads, no one walks away from our commercials taking the causes we highlighted less seriously. Not a single person watched our ad and concluded that it’s cool to kill whales. In fact – and this is part of the reason we ran them – they have the opposite effect.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Groupon’s brand perception. I saw many customers on Twitter proclaim that they were done with Groupon. Will they jump ship to Living Social? Or is this just an empty threat?

What did you think about the ads? Was this year weaker than in years past?



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2 responses to “Super Bowl Ads 2011: The Good, the Bad and the Controversial

  1. K

    Thanks for the ad redux–I’m currently living abroad, so while I was able to get the game streaming, I kind of missed out on the ad fiasco. Interesting mix.

    • jesslyn8706

      I’m glad I could help out…although I feel that it was a weak year for ads, so you really didn’t miss out on much. Thanks for reading!

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