News & Views

Super Bowl XLVII / Round Up

by Contagious Team

The lights went out in the Big Easy, and brands chimed in. Plus, hits and misses from big game ads

Where were you when the lights went out? Early in the third quarter, after Beyoncé's halftime show, the lights of the New Orleans' Superdome flicked off, sending Super Bowl XLVII from blowout to blackout. During the over half-hour power outage, questions abounded: Would people keep watching? What effect would the outage have on advertisers? And who forgot to pay the Superdome's electricity bill? 

Brands were quick to newsjack the blackout, with Twitter serving as the medium of choice for electricity-themed witticisms. According to Twitter's advertising department, it took just four minutes of darkness until advertisers bid on 'power outage' as a search term. 

Buffalo Wild Wings was one of the brands that used the blackout best, referencing a previous ad campaign in which restaurant branches purposely delayed games so people could keep eating wings and watching football. 'We just really don't want the football season to end. Can you blame us?' the brand tweeted. 

Advertisers who were already running spots during the game also chimed in. 'We can't get your blackout. But we can get your stains out,' read the copy of an ad tweeted by laundry detergent brand Tide. Meanwhile cookie brand Oreo, working with 360i, took the opportunity to note that, 'You can still dunk in the dark,' and garnered 14,000+ retweets in the process, a behavior that already netted the brand more than a million Facebook Likes in its Daily Twist campaign this summer. And Calvin Klein, whose musclebound Baron & Baron spot showed the most skin during the game, added a little more gratuitous beef with a 6-second Vine video of a shirtless male model doing sit-ups to entertain the masses, 'Since the lights are still out...' 

Mercedes-Benz, which reportedly paid over $100 million in 2011 for ten-year naming rights to the Superdome, probably wasn't happy to have its name splashed on the side of the dark stadium. Audi used the blackout to take a direct shot at its competition: 'Sending some LEDs to the @MBUSA Superdome right now...' the brand tweeted, in a message that has been retweeted more than 9,000 times in the hours since. 

But in the end the lights came back on, and Twitter went back to being a second screen diversion rather than a primary attraction. The action on the gridiron held up its end of the bargain, with the San Francisco 49ers coming back from a 22-6 deficit to make the game close, although the Baltimore Ravens held on to win the game 34-31. The ads (which, after all, 39% of people prefer to the game itself, according to a survey by market research company Lab42) ran the gamut from pitch perfect to puzzling. 

Heartstrings were a big play this year, with ads for Dodge Ram, Budweiser, and Jeep all taking sentimental routes to get through to audiences. 

Ram's Farmer commercial is a long, hearty piece of Americana that stood out amongst the 30-second jokes and jingles, yet has already been taking Adland criticism for its adaptation from an online video for Budweiser's best spot, Brotherhoodfollowed a Clydesdale foal (which the brand names via Twitter) through separation and then reunion with its trainer. According to Unruly, that spot, by Anomaly, USA, has already become the third-most shared Super Bowl ad of all time, with more than 1.5 million shares.

Funnier ads had their place as well. Samsung and 72andSunny, LA struck gold with a meta bit featuring Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd auditioning to be the stars of its Super Bowl ad (and consequently the 'Next Big Thing'), spitballing ideas for the spot. Oreo served up a new twist on the 'More Taste, Less Filling' trope, with a whispered fight in a library over whether the cookie or the cream part of its cookie is better. Axe and BBH London's cheeky Nothing Beats An Astronaut ad, though a bit predictable, hit well too. 

Volkswagen, whose 2011 The Force ad is the most shared all time, didn't find quite the same social success with this year's Deutsch, LA-produced Get Happy spot. But the company did dominate the lead-up to the big game, nearly doubling social media mentions of the next most talked about brand, according to Radian6. The VW ad features a white office worker speaking in a Jamaican patois and raised questions as to whether the spot was insensitive, likely fueling the conversation. 

As has been the trend, more and more of the advertising action took place before the opening kickoff, with brands releasing their Super Bowl spots sometimes as early as two weeks in advance online. Coke, whose Wieden+Kennedy, Portland-made Chase ad invited viewers to vote on which ending would be shown after the game, learned that early release may not be the best strategy. Pepsi piggybacked on its competitor's creative to release an online video (part of its partnership with Funny Or Die) that showed Coke's characters - showgirls, cowboys, and badlanders - lining up to fix a broken Pepsi Next vending machine, while a working Coke vending machine was completely ignored. Coke tried to strike back with a rebuttal ad of its own, but that - like the original Mirage spot - fell a bit flat. 

With the big hits, of course, came the big misses. M&Ms, usually a Super Bowl stalwart, aired one of its least inspired spots in years, produced by BBDOSkechers and Siltanen & Partners failed to follow last year's Mr. Quiggly ad with a similarly compelling race. While Best Buy and Crispin Porter & Bogusky produced an entertaining half minute, it seemed more an endorsement of Amy Poehler that its superstores. And let's not even talk about Mother's bizarre Beck's Sapphire ad featuring a black singing fish serenading a ruby-red gem. 

Like the game itself, 2013's Super Bowl ads seem to be characterised by a lack of power. Even ads that tried to break out from the box and engage viewers - from Doritos' continuation of its Crash The Superbowl campaign to Pepsi's crowdsourced countdown - felt like old news, things we've seen before. Though the statistic that 36%of Super Bowl viewers were set to watch the game with a second screen device in hand (via a survey by Century 21 Real Estate) was widely publicised prior to the game, few brands capitalised on that fact. Even winners like Oreo and Audi were content to merely join the conversation rather than control it. That seems like a missed opportunity.