Most Super Bowl Ads Fumble Great Positioning Opportunities

Positioning is how you differentiate a brand. Differentiation provides the reason why someone should buy from you and not another. The job of advertising is to position the brand - that is to get your differentiated idea squarely and firmly staked in the mind of the prospect. Great advertising dramatizes the positioning idea. It does not gratuitously promote itself. As Bill Bernbach wrote many years ago, "Merely to let your imagination run riot, to dream unrelated dreams, to indulge in graphic acrobatics and verbal gymnastics, is not being creative. The creative person has harnessed the imagination. He has disciplined it so that every thought, every idea, every word he puts down, every line he draws, every light and shadow in every photograph he takes, make more vivid, more believable, more persuasive the original theme or product advantage he has decided to convey."

Consistent with Bill Bernbach and our positioning point of view, here are our diggs and dumps from the 2010 Super Bowl offering of advertising.

Overall Rating of 2010 Super Bowl Ads
In a word, "Ordinary." More men acting stupid and hackneyed gender roles leftover from 1950 TV dinners. Only a few ads from this year's offering scored on our positionist meter.

Best Super Bowl Ads
Our diggs have been chosen because of their artful dramatization of their brands' positions found in their most unique advantages.

No. 1: Google - "Parisian Love"
Number one in Search. Number one in Super Bowl advertising. Simple. Whimsical and alluring storytelling. True to the brand. Google shows why it is number one in search and Super Bowl advertising. In contrast to a field of mediocre ads idiofying the American public (especially the American male), Google interrupts all other commercial messages to be both respectful of brand meaning and its audience. It needs no comical hijinks, loud barkers, ear-shattering gongs or over-the-top special effects; Google does what it does best. It demonstrates with relevance its relevant difference.

A surprise entry into the Super Bowl proceedings, and announced by Google's Eric Schmidt via Twitter, it stayed true to its preemptive idea. For Google, search is, always has been, and always will be, about "you." Google is the leader and acts the part. This ad was more refreshing than "Open Happiness."

No. 2: Mars Snickers -"Betty White Plays Football"
BBDO's humor does not fumble the positioning ball - but sends it long for a big score in the memory bank. Its off-beat commercial, featuring older-than-dirt comedians Betty White and Abe Vigoda as unexpected (unwanted) players in a pick-up football game. The humor punctuates and perfectly dramatizes Snicker's well-established position, Snickers "satisfies."

No. 3: Hyundai Sonata - "Industry's Best Warranty"
Brett Favre at winning the MVP after 29 years in football, at age 50 is used as a comedic backdrop to accentuate the constancy of Hyundai's 10-year warranty. "We don't know what things will be like 10 years from now, but we can assure you that your Hyundai will still be covered."

We give this ad high marks for its intelligent (and relevant) commentary on a pop culture phenomenon (the un-retiring of quarterback Brett Favre) without losing the positioning point, Hyundai's Sonata comes with the best warranty in the business.

No. 4: Dr. Pepper - "A Little KISS of Cherry"
Dr. Pepper is a brand that has consistently associated itself with entertainment, specifically music bits, to accentuate (dramatize) its unique flavor. This year's entry is KISS delivering the message about Dr. Pepper Cherry. "It's amazingly smooth because it has a little kiss of cherry," says Dr. Love. The positioning point is well made. KISS and the little KISS', present a strong visual imagery for the brand message. Gimmickry is not wasted. The cherry point is made memorably.

No. 5: "Late Show with David Lettermen"
Perfect timing and use of celebrity cache in character to reposition the battle between the late night kings, David Letterman and Jay Leno. The joke takes a minute to get, but delivers. Late Night wars are back! An intelligently funny way to promote the much-maligned late night time slot.

No. 6: FloTV - "My Generation"
Using a Who and Black Eyed Peas remix of "My Generation," this spot takes a photo journalistic jaunt through current events pop history with subtext about moments you don't want to miss. The clear point is that with FloTV, no matter where you are, or what you are doing, you will be in touch with whatever matters. Nicely done. One problem, however, is that to the unindoctrinated - those who don't know what a FloTV is - the ad is confusing. In new product marketing, FloTV may have done better to take a more direct route: selling the category first, the brand second. This is the route we would have taken.

No. 7: TruTV - "NFL Full Contact New Series Premiere"
In a clever pun on culture, this ad features Troy Polamalu as Punxsutawney Polamalu being pulled from his hole. The town dignitary announces, "Punxsutawney Polamalu has seen his shadow. Six more weeks of football!"

No. 8: Dodge Charger - "Man's Last Stand"
Engaging storytelling leads up to the ultimate point--man's sacrifice in the name of domestication entitles reward. "I will drive the car I want to drive. Charger. Man's Last Stand." The ad hits a strong emotional nerve. Great visual imagery and music. The Dodge Charger explodes on the screen and in the mind as a hot car.

No. 9: Cars.com - "With Knowledge Comes Confidence"
Good storytelling is used to make the positioning point that Cars.com is synonymous with knowledge. From an early age, character Timothy Richmond uses his knowledge to achieve many heroic events, but, "when it came time to buy a new car, he was just as nervous as the rest of us. So Timothy Richmond got his knowledge at Cars.com, regained his confidence and got the perfect car at the perfect price." (While we give this ad strong marks for staying on the positioning point, we acknowledge the story-line borders on hokey).

No. 10: Intel - "Generations"
Not all the super processor's ads were great. But they were consistent. We give the brand tenth place because of its persistent reinforcement of its innovation heritage and its "audio-hook", the Intel "bum bum."

Worst SuperBowl Ads
Chosen for their inane waste of time, money and talent in the pursuit of a non-idea. Advertising for cleverness' sake, not for commerce's sake.

Most Insulting: Bud Light and Budweiser
Budweiser's advertisers march in their ongoing goal to idiofy the American male.

Most Insulting II: Doritos -"The Casket"
Doritos takes a copycat page from the Budweiser game plan.

Most Irrelevant: Boost Mobile
Features the 1985 Chicago Bears "Super Bowl" Shuffle. Who even remembers these guys? What a strange way to introduce a new product.

Most Boring: Mercedes Benz
Yawn. The only thing worse than an entertaining ad that fails to deliver the positioning point is an advertisement that fails to engage at all. Bring on the defibrillator.

Most Cliche: Careerbuilder.com - "Casual Friday"
When all else fails, when you have nothing to say, show people in underwear. This must be the new rule of thumb. In addition to this ad from Careerbuilder.com, we noted an unusual theme this year of showing people in underpants, e.g., the Levi Strauss Dockers ad where men sing. "I wear no pants," and the Bud Light office clothing drive spot where office workers give up clothes piece by piece to earn a Bud Light on the job. Sex might sell. But this is not sex. It is just, as the woman in the Bud Light spot says, "Ick."

Worst Idea: Dove for Men+Care
Dove for men is a dumb idea. See our Positionist View article on this. The advertisement actually made the idea look better than it is. It may make this dumb idea fail faster.

Lorraine Kessler is Innis Maggiore's Principal Client Services & Positioning Strategist.