Ad Bowl Winners RadioShack, Bud, Chrysler
1980s Era Entertainers, Bob Dylan and a Puppy Help Brands Score
A team of 1980s-era entertainment personalities helped make struggling electronics-retailer RadioShack Corp. one of the big winners in the Super Bowl advertising contest Sunday night, along with Chrysler Group and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV.
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In the RadioShack spot, crafted by Omnicom Group’s GSD&M, a mob that included Cliff Clavin from “Cheers,” Olympian Mary Lou Retton, wrestler Hulk Hogan and Erik Estrada from “Chips” storm into one of the chain’s stores and dismantle it as a salesman says: “The ’80s called. They want their store back.” Under pressure to improve its sales performance, the retailer is aiming to remodel its stores and shed its stodgy image.
“It’s great to see a brand make fun of itself,” said Dean Crutchfield, a branding expert. He was one of a number of ad executives and consumers surveyed by The Wall Street Journal. “RadioShack was really funny,” said Phil Bauer, a 47-year-old officer in the U.S. Air Force from Henderson, Nev.
The retailers’ success is all the more noteworthy because Chrysler and Anheuser-Busch, the other big winners, frequently score well with their Super Bowl spots.
Chrysler’s two-minute commercial, starring music legend Bob Dylan, “taps into the pride of Detroit and America,” said Sharon Napier, chief executive of Partners + Napier. In the ad, which was created by GlobalHue, Mr. Dylan intones: “Let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car.”
Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser gave viewers a one-two punch, with one ad showing a puppy bonding with the Clydesdale horses regularly featured on Bud’s Super Bowl ads and another spot involving a small town welcoming home a soldier.
The military spot “gave me goose bumps,” said Caitlin Francke, director of social strategy at Publicis Groupe’s Publicis Kaplan Thaler. Bud’s ads were created by Anomaly.
By one measure-pregame publicity-Budweiser had won this year’s ad contest even before the coin toss, thanks to its “Puppy Love” spot. As of 6 p.m. Sunday night, the commercial had received more than 36.2 million online views since it was released Wednesday, according to ad tracker Visible Measures.
Generating pregame buzz, including via consumers watching Big Game spots on the Web, has become critical for marketers advertising on the Super Bowl. The cost of airtime during the telecast has risen more than 70% over the past decade, to roughly $4 million for a 30-second spot this year, or $133,333 a second. That puts pressure on marketers to go to extra lengths to ensure they get a return on their investment.
To be sure, with television audiences fragmenting among an array of traditional TV channels and online video outlets, the game’s appeal to marketers has only increased. The Super Bowl is expected to be seen by more than 100 million viewers this year.
Adding to the game’s appeal as an ad venue is the fact that, for many viewers, watching the ads is as important as the game, a bright spot in today’s media environment, where almost 50% of U.S. homes now have a digital video recorder. Many people with DVRs record a show and then watch it later, skipping through the ads.
Ad executives said this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials was solid overall. Many marketers bypassed using comedic violence and slapstick humor, a typical Super Bowl tactic, instead relying on complex, longer ads that were more emotional.
Indeed, General Motors Co. ‘s spot promotes the American Cancer Society, while Microsoft Corp. , a first-time national Super Bowl advertiser, tries to put a human face on technology with a spot that shows all the good things it can do, such as helping a deaf woman hear and helping a double-amputee walk.
It was a “bit of maturation”; there is “less about sexual objectification,” this year, said Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor New York, a branding firm owned by WPP PLC. “Even Go Daddy showed less cleavage,” he added.
Not all ads were deemed worthy of the Super Bowl stage. Spots for Toyota Motor Corp, H.J. Heinz Co.’s Ketchup and Nestlí©’s Butterfinger, which featured an awkward moment in a couple’s therapy session, fell flat, according to ad executives polled.
Toyota’s spot was a “weak use of the Muppets,” added Mr. Crutchfield. “I expected more.”
Celebrities, a common Super Bowl ad gimmick, were featured heavily this year. But ad executives polled said only a few of those spots managed to shine, including a T-Mobile US Inc. commercial featuring former quarterback Tim Tebow, and a spot for the streaming-service Beats Music, starring Ellen DeGeneres. “Tebow is a better actor than passer,” Mr. Adamson from Landor said. “Ellen did a great job, she was hilarious,” said Dawn Kobee, a 44-year-old from North Tonawanda, N.Y.
Hyundai’s commercial featuring Johnny Galecki from the “Big Bang Theory” was lackluster, ad executives said.
The ad executives applauded an ad from cereal maker General Mills featuring an interracial family in which the dad uses Cheerios as a prop to explain to his daughter that she will soon have a brother.
The same family was featured in a Cheerios ad last year that got attention after some people made nasty comments about it online.
“It’s great when a brand takes a stand,” said Gary Koepke, chief creative officer of North America for SapientNitro.
Also praised was Jaguar Land Rover’s ad featuring British actors such as Ben Kingsley playing villains. “Completely brilliant,” said Mark Wnek, a creative consultant. ” ‘Good to be bad’ is such a great line,” he added.
This year creative accolades will likely go beyond Madison Avenue ad firms. Several commercials created by amateurs as part of a contest for PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay snack unit were expected to score well, particularly a Doritos spot where a young boy builds a time machine.
“They were a ton of fun, “said GianCarlo Nardini, a 44 year old restaurant owner in Chicago Ill. “No one would know that was a cheap knock off,” he added.
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