If you read our “How to Critique Super Bowl Commercials” PositionistView article last week, you know we have a fairly critical eye when judging the commercials. Along with a crazy overtime Chiefs’ win, the ads also provided plenty of chatter at our watch party.
With the growing trend to release the commercials well in advance of the Super Bowl, many of our friends had not seen any of them, so it was fun to gather their opinions. Without a doubt, the favorite was Kia’s “Ice Skating for Grandpa” ad with a close second going to State Farm (Agent State Farm/Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito). From the online chatter, it appears that Dove, Oreos, and Reese’s garnered honorable mentions.
We crowned our champions based on a combination of an ad’s Creativity (did the ad get your attention?), the Idea (was there a position/differentiating idea?), and Connection (did the Creativity do the best job at conveying the Idea). Some of our judges used a Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorable Mention scale. No matter how they were scored, here’s a peek and an explanation of how a few of us scored the commercials:
Here’s a scorecard for BMW:
- Creativity: 10
- Idea: 10
- Connection: 10
And another for TurboTax:
- Creativity: 4
- Idea: 5
- Connection: 3
And the corresponding commentary:
- BMW: Christopher Walken’s frustration grows as the commercial unfolds, making the viewer understand there is no substitute for Walken’s classic lines and unique delivery. Using an iconic celebrity combined with other celebrities, such as Usher, the ad scored high points on the Creativity scale and gained the attention of our judges. The spot was neither overstated nor understated. It fit Walken’s personality and made the point. Walken is an ONLY. A perfect score for Creativity. The Idea? BMW is the ONLY ultimate driving machine. It has been for 51 years (the line debuted in 1973). Another perfect score for Idea. Finally, do these connect? Absolutely. Two ONLY elements. Perfect Connection, and thus, a perfect score of 30.
- TurboTax: The “TurboTax File” fell flat with our judges. The acting was meh, the script was even meh-er, and the only idea was a promotion to win $1 million. Their teasers didn’t help because they focused on “making your moves count,” which isn’t a simple message and only impacts about 2% of all tax-filers. The main idea of “maximizing your refund” isn’t differentiating – H&R Block, TaxSlayer, TaxAct, and all the major tax preparers promote the same idea. So, there was a non-differentiated idea that didn’t connect with the Creative. Sorry, TurboTax, but you need to be about your name in a more connected fashion: Turbo connotes fast.
And the winners are …
We already mentioned BMW and why we gave them a great score. There were a couple other perfect or near-perfect scores (or Golds for those using a different scoring system):
- State Farm was our overall winner. Using Arnold’s accent to emphasize the word “neighbor” was both genius and a great dramatization of State Farm’s position, which is being in your neighborhood/local. For all the other insurance companies chasing low price, State Farm has done a great job sticking to its “we’re local” position.
- CrowdStrike had some amazing creative. The CGI graphics were extremely well done, setting the stage for a peaceful, futuristic old west town when the bad guys arrive. Holographs, robots, and cyborgs set the tone for a future with unknown good guys and bad guys. Despite devastating odds, the protagonist in the ad (played appropriately by a prototypical IT personality) easily undresses the bad guys with a few clicks of her holographic interface. Attention-getting creative, a differentiated idea (advanced cyber protection), and the perfect marriage of creative and position.
- e.l.f. leveraged the resurgence of several TV series such as Suits and Judge Judy with perhaps the largest gathering of celebrities of all the spots. The ad captured the attention and held it as the spot unfolded for the final declaration that the prosecutor played by Rick Hoffman is a putz. The idea that there is an affordable luxury cosmetic was conveyed. And the connection of overpaying for cosmetics when there is an affordable alternative made it easy for our judges to award another perfect score.
- Oreo’s creativity was a delightful surprise. The teaser did little to get us excited about it, as Kris Jenner turned in a flat performance. The Creativity to take the traditional “Oreo twist” we all know and love and make it mean something to world history was brilliant. It had the nostalgic flower petal “she loves me, she loves me not…” vibe. The Idea that this is a unique treat was executed flawlessly, and the Connection from the Creative to the Idea was “quite the twist!” Kudos to Oreos.
- Reese’s creativity wasn’t as high on our list because people shouting NOOOOO! and jumping out windows isn’t our idea of a novel idea. But it did get our attention and the plot twists from having a new flavor to not having enough were bold enough to keep our attention. Another unique sweet treat, Reese’s new flavor launch, was an Idea well executed. The traditional flavor still exists, but a new option is available. Just the right not-too-far product stretch and done in a way that Connected the Creative execution with the Idea. Not a perfect score, but high enough to award Reese’s winner status.
New Entry Winner
It might surprise you that we’re awarding a new entry into Super Bowl ads as one of the best positioned ads in this year’s lineup. Poppi broke into the cola wars that haven’t had a battle since 7-Up’s disruption in 1968 as the uncola. Poppi’s “future of soda” as the “good-for-you-soda” re-positioned all other colas as bad for you and outdated. Welcome, Poppi. Congratulations on an ad well done.
This year, we’ve added the category of Celebrity Winner. With the dozens of celebrities involved in the spots, it only made sense to crown one of them as the most effective. The winner is … Addison Rae. Not because of her teaser, or for that matter, her performance eating Nerds on a couch. But her 88 million TikTok followers and 30 million Instagram followers resulted in over 600 million (twice the population of the U.S.!) impressions just from the teaser. The number will likely surge higher now that the Nerds Super Bowl spot ran. Rae’s own post was seen 4 million times, with 232,200 likes, and 500+ comments. Nerds’ post, by comparison, has only 8,700 views, 600 likes, and 30 comments. That proves the principle that people follow people, not companies. As mentioned, this is a trophy for partnering with the right influencer. The commercial was meh, as was her performance, but who can argue with 600-million-plus impressions?!?
Celebrity Malfeasance Winner
If we have a Celebrity Winner, we must have an award for misusing a great collection of star power. That winner is UberEats. The Creative was disappointing. The combo of talent was odd, even as much as we like Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer and the other celebrities in the spot. And the Idea – ordering from UberEats when you forget – was the worst. Uber already has an identity crisis. Uber is the new kind of taxi service. UberEats is a stretch we can live with to keep the drivers busy, but now we’re the all-things-to-all-people-taxi-and-delivery-service-when-you-forget brand. If that’s the case, our recommendation is to get back to being Uber and trying to re-position yourself to something broader (like “last-mile delivery”) rather than being the generic for the new kind of taxi service.
We were pretty satisfied with the advertising this year. There were more good ads than duds. Our honorable mentions include:
- Dorito’s Dinamita: Great creative but the viewers seemed to lose the Idea that they were introducing new flavors.
- Kia: While a popular crowd favorite, the “power within” idea is not differentiating. The storytelling (Creative) was great, and the Connection to this idea was good, but the “power within” doesn’t providing a compelling reason to buy a Kia.
- Etsy: A little less great creative but still hit the emotional voltage. The Connection to the “easy unique gift button” was made but Etsy has way more innovative gifts to promote than cheese boards.
- Lindt: This was a feel-good spot. We’re not sure why we should care about chocolate in the shape of ball, but the connection to “life is a ball” (Perry Como) was great creative execution and one of the best of the feel-good spots.
- Paramount+: Great collection of celebrities and anime, but the dialog was slow, and it took too long for a payoff that was pretty lame. Still, the connection to a “mountain of entertainment” was made. A worthy effort.
Yes, even we can’t always agree on great advertising, and since we’re only handing out virtual trophies, it’s worth noting where we split on the decision and why:
- SquareSpace: Martin Scorcese directed this one and while the cinematography was amazing, a few of us didn’t make the connection of aliens trying to get the attention of earthlings with building a website. Even those on our panel who judged it a winner indicated they had to watch it a few times to get the connection. The rest of us didn’t give it more than two views, and that’s probably why we rated it a loser. Great ideas should be obvious (with a nod to our friend, the late great Jack Trout). Plus, our watch party let out a collective “Huh?!?” after the ad.
- Popeyes: Late to the game? Or it was worth the wait? Those were the two questions that plagued our panel. Those who rated it a winner felt that the Creative pointing out that it was worth the wait did a great job of that and of course, who doesn’t like Ken Jeong? The rest of us asked, “Why are you focusing on how long it took you to get in the wings game?”
- E*Trade: Two questions plagued this decision as well… are you advertising the category? Or E*Trade? The Creative is fun and attention-getting (and babies are cute), and none of us thought that was the problem. But the dialog, especially from the Grant Hill look-alike, distracted from the Idea. Getting into the investing game came across as the primary message, instead of how E*asy it is to use E*Trade. Yes, even babies can play pickleball, apparently, but again, the dialog wasn’t as clean as past E*Trade babies spots. Another split decision.
Heart Strings Awards
- Dove: A hearty nod to building the confidence of young ladies! Kudos.
- Google Pixel 8: Accessibility angle was genius. For those with accessibility issues like impaired vision, you couldn’t have made a better commercial!
- The Foundation to Combat Antisemitism – Can’t we all just get along?!? Loved it.
Of course, we have our list the judges deemed un-Super-Bowl-worthy. We won’t harp on them, but there were some duds. All other spots (there were almost 60 brands in total) will fade into oblivion with neither a good or bad critique, and that’s the nature of the Super Bowl Commercial Test™!
- TurboTax: Already mentioned above. Meh.
- Starry: This might take home the worst ad award.
- Mountain Dew: We like the celebs from Parks and Recreation, but not the ad. Blast this one into the trash can.
- Microsoft Copilot: AI takes the fun out of everything. Where’s the cyborg apocalypse?
- Kawasaki: Business in the front and party in the back? Not believable. However, the mullet got some hearty laughs at our watch party. We applied the Super Bowl Commercial Test™ five minutes later and guess what, not one of our friends could remember the brand connected to the “mullet ad.”
- Bud Light: A genie who gives you everything? AB’s wish is to avoid talking about the beer and its recent PR nightmare.
- Toyota Tacoma: Toyota has reliably boring ads. They screamed boring this time.
- Kennedy for President: This ad. Yikes!?!
We’d love to hear from you with your takes on the Super Ads and whether the Super Bowl Commercial Test™ worked for you! Send your comments to Mark+SuperBowlAds@innismaggiore.com. Or, if you want to make your advertising Super-Bowl-worthy, contact Innis Maggiore today!