Super Bowl XLI: ads evaluated

Tony_dungy_ii I watched the Super Bowl yesterday, resolving to grade the ads even as I watched the game.  Chicago’s early promise and eventual collapse made it hard to concentrate so it wasn’t until this morning that I went through the ads carefully.   I used 5 categories: 5 (best) to 1 (appalling). 

The question is whether anyone in America is now making ads the way Tony Dungy makes football teams.  Well, yes, the Super Bowl ads showed a few moments of class 5 genius.  And there was work that ranged from the capable (4) to the competent (3).  But there was also quite a lot of bad work (2), proving yet again that the agency world cannot protect itself (or the client) from rank incompetence.  And yesterday, there were a couple of absolute stinkers (1), demonstrating that some agencies are still able to persuade the client to  fund the public destruction of their brand equity.

That there should be good work should not surprise us.  The agency world has always been skilled at the task the corporation is only now attempting to master: how to get everything out of the way of a great idea and then how to get everything out of the way of a great execution of that idea. 

This is spectacularly difficult process at the best of times, but now the agency is tormented by the idea that they must include the consumer in the process, to allow for a process of cocreation of brand meaning and equity.  The secret of agency genius has always been to keep consumers, the corporation and other civilians out of the brainstorm.  Now the question is how to let them in…and still engage in good meaning manufacture.   Yesterday’s experiments prove how tough this is going to be.

That’s the internal challenge.  The external challenge is how to hold one’s own against the proliferation of new media: the internet, social networks, product placement, video in-game advertising, guerrilla marketing, cell phone ads, Google line ads.  But all of this is all little advertising, frequently concept and creativity free.  The Super Bowl, then, comes as an opportunity for an industry to reassert its primacy, to showcase the state of the art, and to stun the competitors into silence.  On the whole, I don’t think yesterday’s effort will have that effect.   

Ok, here are my ratings.   I arrived at them using an incredibly complicated algorithm that weighed spectacle, intelligience, creativity, wit, strategy, execution, theme, and vivacity.  (All of this in my head!!!)  If there is a bias here, and of course there is a bias here, it is an anthropological one.  My real question: with what imagination, intelligence, and economy did the agency use the cultural materials at its disposal.  More precisely, how well did the agency make brand meaning out of cultural meaning?

5 stars (best)

E*TRADE –  One Finger
BBDO New York
for the adcritic replay of this ad, click here

BBDO New York
Chief Creative Officers:
David Lubars, Bill Bruce
Paul Middleditch, HSI Productions / Plaza Films
Production Company:
HSI Productions / Plaza Films
Editorial Company:

Coca-Cola – Happiness Factory
Wieden & Kennedy/Amsterdam

Wieden & Kennedy/Amsterdam
Executive Creative Director:
Al Moseley,
John Norman
Creative Director:
Rick Condos,
Hunter Hindman
Agency Executive Producer:
Tom Dunlap
Agency Producer:
Darryl Hagans
Production Company:
Kylie Matulick,
Todd Mueller
Director of Photography:
Ray Coates
Executive Producer:
Matt Buels,
Tim Nunn
Boo Wong
Sound Design:
Amber Music
Sound Designer:
Bill Chesley
Music Company:
Live Action Production Company:
Hungry Man/NY
Live Action Director:
Peter Lydon
Mix Engineer:
Hillary Kew
Executive Producer (Design):
Justin Booth-Clibborn

Sierra Mist – Karate
BBDO New York

BBDO New York
Chief Creative Officer:
David Lubars
Jim LeMaitre
Executive Producer:
Hyatt Choate
Senior Producer:
Amy Wertheimer
Executive Music Producer:
Loren Parkins
Production Company:
Hungry Man – New York
Hank Perlman
Director of Photography:
Joe DiSalvo
Editorial Company:
Nomad Editing Company, Inc
Tom Muldoon
The Mill
Alexander Lasarenko / Tonal

4 stars (better)

E*Trade – Robbery
BBDO New York

NFL – Hard to say goodbye

Bud Select – Just a Game

Nationwide – Rolling’ VIP
T:M Advertising

Toyota – See – Saw
Saatchi & Saatchi LA

Toyota – Ramp
Saatchi & Saatchi LA

Coca-Cola – Especially Today
Widen Kennedy Portland

Bud Light – Fist Bump
DDB Chicago

Budweiser – Clydesdale Spot
DDB Chicago

Coca-Cola – Videogame
Wieden Kennedy/Portland

Bud Light – But He’s Got Bud Light
DDB Chicago

3 stars (good)

GM – Robot
Deutsch/Los Angeles

Chevrolet – Ain’t We Got Love

Taco Bell – Big Game
Draft FCB/Irvine

T-Mobile – Icon
Publicis West – Seattle

Emerald Nuts – Boogeyman
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

Hewlett-Packard – Orange County Choppers
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners – San Francisco

IZOD – In the Snow

Honda Slalom
RPA – Darts
Cramer-Krasselt – Promotion Pit

Bud Light – Great Apes

Spring – Connectile Dysfunction
Publicis Hal Riney

Doritos – Checkout Girl
Kristin Dehnert

Sierre Mist – Combover
BBDO New York

Pizza Hut – Poparazzi
BBDO New York

2 stars (not so good)

Bud Light – Rock, Papre, Scissors
DDB Chicago

Blockbuster – Mouse Click-Click Away

Bud Light – Classroom
LatinWorks Marketing

King Pharmaceuticals and American Heart Association – Heart Attack

Bud Light – Reception
DDB Chicago

FedEx – Moon office
BBDO New York

Van Heusen – A Man’s Walk

FedEx – Not What It Seems
BBDO New York

Flomax – Biking
Grey Worldwide – Performance Evaluation

Snapple -Wise Man
Cliff Freeman and Partnrs/NY

Honda -Elvis

Budweiser -King Crab
DDB Chicago

FedEx – Not what it seems
BBDO New York

Chevrolet – Car Wash
Campbell-Ewald (consumer created)

GoDaddycom – The office -Marketing

Doritos – Chip Lover’s Dream
Jared Cicon, consumer created

Doritos -Duct Tape
Joe Herbert (consumer created)

Doritos – Live the Flavor
Dale Backus (consumer created)

Pizza Hut – Herd
BBDO New York

1 star (please)

Garmin – Maposaurus

Snickers – Mechanics
TBWAChiatDay New York – Pierce-Bostt
Vinod Gupta

Doritos – Mouse Trap
Billy Federight (consumer created)


Thanks to for the picture of Tony Dungy.

Thanks to and for coverage of the Superbowl ads.

6 thoughts on “Super Bowl XLI: ads evaluated

  1. Joe Grossberg

    I’m glad you gave the Snickers ad one star.

    I haven’t seen such cut-and-dry homophobia in a while.

    It makes you less manly if you kiss another man?

    Give me a break.

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  3. Rich Berger

    I didn’t watch all (or even most) of the commercials, but my first reaction was that they seemed refreshingly non-PC.

  4. John Thacker

    I haven’t seen such cut-and-dry homophobia in a while.

    It makes you less manly if you kiss another man?

    Really? I had more the opposite reaction, that people are supposed to laugh at the guys for being homophobic. Of course, I suppose that it can go either way:

    1) Laugh at the guys for accidentally kissing each other;
    2) Laugh at the guys for their ridiculous reaction.

    1) would be homophobic, 2) rather the reverse. It goes both ways.

  5. Joe Grossberg

    Hmm … maybe the joke was lost on me (or functioned on two levels).

    Rich’s comment is interesting — this, and the one with the immigrants learning English, looked like something that would appeal to the pickup-truck crowd.

  6. Rich Berger

    Alas, I only wish I had a pickup truck. Then Joe’s world would be complete. I had forgotten about the immigrant ad – that was a scream. Thanks, Joe.

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