The Best and Worst "Positioning" Ads of the Super Bowl

The big game is over, but ratings, rankings and commentary on which Super Bowl advertisements and positivists fared the best and worst (fueled by the churn of Internet and social media, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, news.coms, and blogs) is larger than ever. In the wake of residual PR, the worst creative spots receive as much notoriety as the most-celebrated spots. Proving the adage, for good or ill, "there is no such thing as bad publicity."

The call to question, of course, is what makes an advertising spot great? Is it entertainment value? Is it artistic value? Is it notoriety? If greatness is not found in these measures, then in what? A good positionist ponders all this.

Google or Bing your way around the Internet and you will see that most Super Bowl spots are ranked on the basis of their entertainment or art value. In other words, the judging is based on what the spot is, rather than on what it exists to do -- convincingly convey the advertiser's selling idea, which is what the positionist looks to do.

As we wrote last year, advertising as art for art's sake, or entertainment for entertainment's sake, is fool's gold. Global brand strategist Jonathan Salem Baskin goes so far as to call it a "creative curse" (see the Feb. 7Advertising Age article, For Brands, Super Bowl Ads Are Just a Distraction: Why Creative Can Be a Curse). At around $3 million for a 30-second Super Bowl spot, this curse can be costly.

So here, you have found your way to another ranking, another commentary, and another list of Super Bowl worst and best ads. Only this list is different. Here, we rate our best and worst on the only basis that makes a difference: effectiveness. How well does the information provided in the commercial help to position the advertiser's brand for ultimate competitive success? That's our benchmark. And living by it produces very different results than those you may have already seen or heard.

Our Positioning Winners:
No. 1. Verizon: "Apple iPhone"
No argument. The world's best smartphone can now be heard on the nation's largest and most reliable network, Verizon. Simple and true to both Apple and iPhone, the selling message comes through as loud and clear as the iPhone on the Verizon network.

No. 2. Audi: "Release the Hounds"
Audi's ad is positioning/repositioning at its best. Elaborate storytelling, great art direction, and entertainment combine to deliver the point across the positioning plate -- Audi A8 is "new luxury," Mercedes S-Class is "old luxury." It's a new generation twist on the old Pepsi/Coke rivalry. The intrusion of Kenny G in the spot as a suppressor for people who want to break out of the jail of old luxury is not gratuitous. The self-deprecating humor accentuates the point that Mercedes is passé and Audi is hip. Choose your car!

No. 3. The Daily: "Tablet"
"America get ready to meet The Daily, the world's first daily tablet newspaper ... The Daily is about to make the way you get your news wonderful." This feature-rich ad delivers the positioning idea without hysteria. The Daily is the first daily tablet newspaper, reinventing how you get news. The ad delivers. Will the product (at 99 cents per week) do the same? Time will tell.

No. 4. Volkswagen: "Black Beetle"
The coolest bug in the jungle, the "black beetle" moves and shakes like no other. The ad delivers on its sole purpose -- create anticipation and awareness for the 21st century black Beetle due out this fall.

Our Positioning Losers:
No. 1. Pepsi MAX
Zero calories, great taste applies only to the product, not the advertising. Crotch slamming, men who can't think beyond the same lower half ... substitute other crotch mentality brands, Doritos or Bud Lite, it's all the same.

No. 2. BMW X3: "Defying Logic"
"Does it make sense that a German car company would break ground in Spartanburg, South Carolina ... and find their latest design in California? ... The all-new BMW X3. Designed in America. Built in America." We are as patriotic as anyone, and all for the job growth BMW has brought to Americans, but from a positioning standpoint, not all news makes for smart brand marketing. Places and countries create borrowed equity for brands. Japan is known for autos and electronics. France for wine. Switzerland for chocolate. Russia for vodka. Germany for automotive engineering. Heritage is thrown overboard with this ad, along with the credential for the brand position -- the idea that a BMW is worth paying more for because of superior German engineering.

No. 3. Chrysler: "Imported From Detroit"
We agree with commentator Joe LaPointe, "Overall, the ad is an astonishing work of art and one of the best television commercials ever made, a mini-documentary about the history and current personality of a region." A work of art it is. And, on this score we enjoyed it. But, it doesn't do a thing to sell the Chrysler 200. Heritage location (as talked about above) is a great way to position a brand, but only when the place pluses the credentials for the brand. Sell the Chrysler and bring back Detroit. Sell Detroit and bring back the Chrysler? Not sure it works this way.

That's enough. Weigh in with your own thoughts and join the Super Bowl discussion with other Positionists® on Facebook.

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