Monday, February 2, 2009

Best-Branded Superbowl Ads

2009 brought us an exciting Steelers-Cardinals football game, decided only in the last moments by a “must deliver” play. It also brought the expected bevy of hopped-up television commercials, all vying for our attention.

Instead of being satisfied to look at the edgy creativity, special effects (3-D anyone?), irreverent humor and entertainment value, each year I like to focus on how well the spots deliver on branding.

Considering the big dollars that were spent to produce and air these commercials, marketers have a right to expect that their brands break through the clutter, not just their spots. How many times have you recalled every detail of a TV commercial but couldn’t remember the brand? At $3 million a 30-second pop, even one time may be too many!

My criteria

Branding matters because branding creates value. For the businesses that market them. For the consumers that love them.

So I ask…How well does the spot convey the brand essence? Does it deliver on the brand promise? How quickly does it connect with brand imagery? What associations will we make in our minds about the brand after having seen the commercials. How well does it build, reinforce or change our perceptions about the brand? Does it increase our sense of connection with the brand? Will we feel great about our brand choice?

Again, it’s not just how memorable the commercial. It’s how memorable and desirable the brand as a result of the advertising. Will the ad drive preference? Will it drive sales? Will it create or stir brand passion?

Watch all the ads at Fanhouse. Or see what Bob Garfield of AdAge has to say about this year’s crop.

My top 3 best-branded spots

Budweiser “Fetch” From the opening instant, you know this is a Bud commercial. All the elements are there, the red Budweiser cap, the Clydesdale, the dalmatian, the red wagon stacked with cases of America’s lager, the music. The story has Budweiser warmth and charm. A Bud worker tosses a stick for the dalmatian to fetch. “Good boy.” The Clydesdale, not to be outdone, races off only to return with an immense tree branch in his mouth. “Showoff,” the man tells the Clydesdale. Bravo.

Coca-Cola “Picnic” The spot opens on a lazily snoozing picnicker, basket to one side, Coca-Cola to the other. Switch to a lady bug’s perspective on the distinctive bottle. Instant brand recognition creates anticipation and expectations for the story, formed from a history of well-branded ads. Bumble bees, grasshoppers, dragonflies and more work together to abscond with the picnicker’s beverage. Knocking it over. Rolling it downhill. Floating it downstream. A powerful beetle uses its giant horn to open the bottle and share Coca-Cola with his insect friends. “Open happiness.” “Alec Baldwin” This spot opens on the Hollywoodland sign and the highly recognizable Alec Baldwin, looking very “30 Rock.” Alec plays an alien who spoofs television’s ability to rot our brains. “TV only softens your brains.” he smirks. Now, thanks to hulu—which brings TV to your computer—turning your brains to mush is even easier. “What are you going to do, turn off both your TV and your computer?” Tagline spikes the brand connection. “Hulu. An evil plot to destroy the world. Enjoy.”

Best-branded campaign

  • Budweiser. In addition to “Fetch,” Bud’s advertising included 60-second spots, “Clydsdale Generations,” (a “story of strength, triumph and oats” for a horse that found its true calling) and “Horse Love” (“Ain’t no mountain high enough” to keep this Clydsdale from his girl, Daisy).

Notable mentions

These spots were still very strong. Very creative. Broke rules. Made a statement. Broke through. And earned a notable mention. “Moose” We fly in through the window of a lavish executive office. The camera circles around to the sounds of opera music. We see the boss, relaxing with feet up at his desk reading the paper. Centered behind him on the dark wood paneled wall is a giant moose head. As the camera continues to circle we see the plain white office on opposite side. Suddenly we realize the rest of the moose is literally sticking through the wall and an employee is hard at work at a cheap metal desk directly beneath the “business end” of the moose. “Need a new job. We can help.” Monster of a spot. Creates the tension. And the resolution.

Bridgestone “Moon Dancers” This spot takes us to the Moon where two astronauts race their dune buggy around the Lunar landscape to hip hop music. They head off to collect rocks, and dance a bit, only to return to find their vehicle in a more common urban situation, up on blocks—tires stolen. Could have used a bit a brand reinforcement up front, but the performance message comes on strong.

Agree or disagree with my selections. As a brand marketer, however, take heart in my method. Look at your brand advertising. And your competition. In addition to creative excellence, examine how well your ads connect with your customer on branding. And win the strategic fight for customer mindshare—and business.

Photo credit: screen grabs from TV commercials watched on Fanhouse.


Paul Hydzik grows brand value. As a brand marketer and award-winning creative leader, Paul has more than 15 years of experience driving business success from start-ups to blue chips. His strategic resume covers all aspects of B2B and B2C branding from go-to-market to consumer insight to identity development and all forms of marketing communication.

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