By Allison Zullo
It’s been almost a month since the very embarrassing Super Bowl game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. Although Colorado fans are pretty much finished drying their tears and nursing their prides, we PR fanatics are still reliving the best and worst commercials of 2014’s “Ad Bowl.”
In recent years, the National Football League’s championship game has become a live TV event for the entire nation to watch, football fan or not. It features the two best teams in the NFL, a live concert at halftime, and, of course, commercials! This year’s advertisements, which were priced at nearly $4 million for a 30-second timeslot, seemed to be following a new trend: cute and meaningful instead of sexy and laugh-out-loud funny.
Sure, we saw David Beckham in his underwear for H&M and Ellen Degeneres pull out her dance moves for Beats Audio, but the overwhelming majority of the most popular ads shied away from the sexy, funny tone that has prevailed in most ads for the past few years.
Budweiser best exemplified this by far, with their “Puppy Love” commercial, in which an adorable puppy kept returning to his beloved Clydesdale, and their ad showing a real town’s parade to welcome home a soldier from Afghanistan. In addition, Doritos’ advertisements, which were written by the winners of its annual consumer contest, both featured cute little boys stealing Doritos bags using clever means. Cheerios and Coca-Cola highlighted diversity in their commercials, by featuring a biracial family and America the Beautiful sung in many different languages.
However, by the end of the night, Twitter had stolen the show from the commercials. J.C. Penney took control early on with their incoherent posts, causing an uproar of comments suspecting that a drunk intern was running the show. Instead, it turned out to be a planned social media stunt for the “Go USA” mittens JCP was selling in preparation for the upcoming Winter Olympics, complete with a clever hashtag, #TweetingWithMittens.
Yet J.C. Penney’s seemingly odd tweets allowed other companies on social media to chime in, as Oreo did with their “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet after the lights went out at last year’s Super Bowl. Kia Motors tweeted, “Hey @jcpenney, need a designated driver?”, while Snickers replied, “Eat a #SNICKERS, you’re not you when you’re hungry.” These clever retorts actually gave these respective brands just as much attention as J.C. Penney, and gave PR nerds all over yet another reason to geek out over the “Ad Bowl.”
The real winner of the evening, Esurance, appeared very late in the game – well, right after the game: they bought the slot for the first commercial after the Super Bowl, saving them 30%. So, they decided to give away the $1.5 million they saved through a Twitter contest, which was announced by actor John Krasinski. To enter, all you had to do was include #EsuranceSave30 in your tweet. The winner, John Intrater, was announced live on Jimmy Kimmel’s February 5 show. The Esurance contest was the largest sum of money ever given away on Twitter.
Overall, while the Super Bowl commercials were slightly disappointing, they marked a new age of trends in advertising: cute and meaningful are in, sexy and lame jokes are out. The use of social media throughout the game highlighted just how powerful Twitter can be as an advertising resource, and set the bar higher for creating ad content for social media sites.