Welcome to my irreverent review of this year’s Super Bowl Commercials.   I started this review 19 years ago to challenge some of the conventional wisdom about what makes great advertising.  The chatter across the nation this morning will focus on the most creative commercials last night.  The ones that broke through the clutter will be remembered.  However, for five million dollars for 30 seconds, remembering the commercial is not good enough.  If consumers don’t remember the product and brand being advertised, then simply put, the agency who created the ad was entertaining themselves in public at the expense of the client.  What makes the Super Bowl advertising so exciting is the advertiser has to both break through the clutter and be remembered.  With the best creative minds in the industry focused on this challenge, anything short of amazing is a disappointing disaster.

Here is how I saw the winners and losers in the Super Bowl of Advertising.  Below is a my commentary on each commercial with links (if available) in case you missed any or would like to watch one again.  Be aware that in some cases, YouTube placed an ad in front of the featured ad.

Toyota ParaOlympics – If anyone is looking for a lesson in bringing emotion into a commercial, just watch what Toyota did in this 60 seconds.  It says nothing about their cars, but everything about their brand.  Congratulations 8 time Paralympic Gold Medalist Lauren Woolstencroft and the Toyota creative team.

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Sprint Twice as Much – Facts are much more credible than claims as it allows the viewer to self-discover.  Somehow, Sprint managed to turn a claim into a fact with a “third party” endorsement provided by artificial intelligence.  Driverless cars are not too far behind.

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Turkish Airlines –  Doctor Oz narrates an image ad for Turkish Airlines about exploring your senses by traveling all over the world.  I am not sure Turkish Airlines has a large enough share to encourage the world to travel.  They need a more specific message.

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Danny DeVito is perfectly cast for an M&M turned human in a ridiculously funny commercial about candy.  Sweet ad and you can’t miss the brand.

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Ram Truck Vikings  –  This is a fun idea that ties nicely into the Ram Truck Tough brand.  The real Vikings going to Minneapolis.  A nice connection.

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Wendy’s Never Frozen – When you are number three in the category and you have a competitive advantage over number one, going for the jugular might be a good strategy.  With better quality (not frozen meat) and the great photography of Wendy’s burgers in the commercial, I would not be surprise if Ronald McDonald was caught sneaking out and eating there.  It probably will not rank in the top for being remembered, but it does illustrate Wendy’s advantage with facts to let the viewers self-discover the difference.

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Doritos versus Mountain Dew –  Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman in a lip sync contest is fun.  PepsiCo getting two of it’s brands to do something together is impressive.  Doritos wins this round as Dinklage did a better job of driving the spicing new flavor – Blaze, than Freeman did connecting to Mountain Dew.   (Disclosure – Mike worked on Doritos and Mountain Dew when he worked at PepsiCo)

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Tide –  Proctor and Gamble gave us all a lesson in the power of repetition.  Tide washed, rinsed and repeated their simple message….every Super Bowl commercial is a Tide commercial if the stains are out…over and over again.  Brilliant.

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Bud Light Knight – A friend you can always count on is the right message for a mass appeal beer in a world sprinting towards market segmentation.  Too bad the drawn out story line got in the way of this message.  It is however a nice tie-in to their Dilly Dilly campaign, assuming you like that campaign.  They should be able to craft something better.

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E-Trade Retirees – The key incentive for developing a financial plan is to be able to live comfortably in retirement.  E-Trade dramatizes what is in store for you if you do not have a retirement plan in a humorous way that should get people thinking.

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Avocados from Mexico – If the creative objective was to take avocados beyond guacamole in a creative way, they succeeded.  Avocado toast?   I am in.  No internet?  I am out.

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Weathertech Factory – OK, Weathertech thinks their Specific Edge is Made in America and that is all they say about their brand in 30 Seconds.  I hope they spend the rest of their advertising dollars on letting people know about the great products they make in those factories.

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Pringles “Wow”  – Forty-three years ago (1975) when I joined Frito-Lay, Proctor and Gamble’s Pringles were our biggest threat.  Would this canister packed product disrupt the snack food industry?  Our concerns were short lived and one of the Pringles plants was converted to a Pampers manufacturing  facility.  The product’s Specific Edge or competitive advantage was based on the unique and uniform shape of the product and re-sealable package.  Neither was relevant to the heavy potato chip user that just cared about taste and could finish any size package in hours, not weeks.  Kellogg bought the brand and focused on flavors (taste.)  They also found a benefit for the unique shape – stackability.  This ad stacks up.  It is G-R-E-E-E-A-T-!

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Febreze  Bleep Don’t Stink –  How do you make covering up bathroom smells fun?  You don’t.  Or certainly not with a story line that drags on forever.  This one stinks.

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Michelob spent $10 million to make Chris Pratt look like an idiot.  This would have been a great Saturday Night Live skit, but fell flat for the brand and the people who developed it.

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SquareSpace – A guy standing on a motorcycle going 60 miles an hour down a road will grab my attention.  Well done.  Hiding the logo or any mention of who blew $5 million on this Super Bowl ad was also a good idea.

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Dodge RAM Truck Built to Serve – Martin Luther King’s speech delivered 50 years ago coupled with a montage of people serving others was a brand building event for RAM Trucks.  Using MLK’s words to celebrate those who serve is a positive.  Using his voice to sell trucks will be viewed as inappropriate by many.

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Australian Tourism Board –  Nice twist on the typical movie commercial that surprised us and managed to focus on some great reasons to visit Australia.

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Diet Coke Twisted Mango – Flavor extensions for Diet Coke sounds weird to me.  And the commercial only reinforces that feeling.  I am not sure weird fits Coke’s brand image.  But at least they got the name right – Twisted.

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Verizon First Responders –  When tragedy happens, people call for help on their cell phones for first responders. Verizon creatively captured that emotional connection of being pulled to safety and celebrated the role of first responders.   At the same time, Verizon drove home their product benefit in the simple line – “Our job is to make sure they get it.”

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Persil –  Too bad they did not know that Tide was going to dominate the air time.  Persil got their clock cleaned.

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Lexus Black Panther – This is an exciting commercial for the Black Panther movie that is scheduled to be released in 10 days. However, Lexus product placement in the movie was a much smarter decision that the placement of this commercial in the Super Bowl (unless the movie studio paid for this air time.)

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Budweiser “Stand By You” – Welcome back Budweiser, the brand that stands for pride, helping your neighbor and making a difference.  Converting their breweries into canned water production facilities to help Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and California during their respective disasters effectively pulls at the heart strings of their loyal target audience.  A well crafted commercial.

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T-Mobile  –  Baby’s   T-Mobile uses a carousel of babies to look into their opportunities for a future that will not be determined by their race, color or sex.  John Legere’s (T-Mobile CEO) irreverent attitude in this politically charged environment will be positively received by most viewers.

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Toyota Mobility – Toyota continues to build an affinity for the brand by highlighting the development they are doing in helping the physically challenged  live with greater independence.  The right objective for a well known automobile company advertising in the Super Bowl.

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Rhett and Link are a great YouTube comedian team that demonstrates all the easy to use tools that Wix.com offers people who want to develop their own website.  I would give Wix high marks for delivery with an ad that has a great demonstration of product features in 30 seconds.  However they fumbled by airing it for $5 million on the Super Bowl.  Nobody is going to remember product features in this stadium.

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Kraft Family –   Another brand building commercial.  With all of the brands under the Kraft umbrella, focusing on family is a good match.

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Michelob Athletes – People who exercise like beer and Michelob has found their perfect market segment.  Most of them are probably watching the Super Bowl.  But these active high energy people will miss or forget this commercial that is filled with too much clutter to break through.

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Monster Headphones?  Someone took the plot of a feature film and covered it in 60 seconds.  I got lost in the story line and have no idea what Monster does besides burn advertising dollars.

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Groupon  –  This creative team has come up with an interesting angle for Groupon – Support Local Businesses.  High marks for this connection.  So, why did they ruin the idea with a stupid freshman prank that hijacked the message?

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Amazon Alexa –  If you want to build awareness for the power and range of a computer who can listen and respond by voice, replace the predictable with the unpredictable and see what happens.  People will be listening to this one.

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Coke –  In today’s highly charged political environment, it is no surprise that a major brand would come out with a message on diversity and inclusion.  I just wish Coke would have pulled it off with a little more emotion to break through and get noticed.

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Peyton Manning has a great day riding exciting rides and experiencing the Harry Potter “something” at the Park.  Everyone at Universal Studios knows all about the Harry Potter attraction and that is why they approved the ad.  But their message would have been more effective if they gave the viewers a stronger hint about some of the features of the new Harry Potter ride.

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Stella Autois supports Water.org – Matt Damon gets some great air time to promote Water.org.  But the makers of Stella come up dry on this one.

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Jeep  –  Fiat Chrysler got serious about demonstrating the superior benefits of a Jeep over all of their competitors and let the viewer draw their own conclusion.  Well done.

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PETA – Redemption –  This one is sure to get a positive response from all the vegetarians out there.   But, isn’t that preaching to the choir?  And speaking about the choir, how are they going to feel about trivializing the confessional?  No redemption here.

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Jack in the Box vs. Martha Stewart  – There are a lot of benefits attached to this competition.  The association with Martha elevates the perception of the new fast food sandwich.  The format also gives Jack in the Box a good reason to tout the product benefits.  It is unfortunate that they picked the wrong venue to promote this new sandwich.  No one will hear your product benefits pitch when you are running with elephants.  Not even from a clown.

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Pepsi Flashback –  I loved the historic review of all the Pepsi commercials and packaging because I was there for a lot of it and so were most of the people approving this commercial.  However, flashbacks are often associated with what happens just before you die and I hope that is not the fate of the person who approved this one.  Pepsi and Frito-Lay use to be on the top of the charts with Budweiser brands when I started this review.  I am afraid this year will be another miss.

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Hyundai Kona –  This commercial connects with viewers because it dramatizes what every viewer is thinking.  “Who would schedule a soccer game on Super Bowl Sunday?”  And my positive view of this ad has nothing to do with the name of the car.  🙂

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Kia Stinger – Steven Tyler is able to go back in time and relive his youth by putting his Kia in reverse to “reverse” time.  Fun concept, but not a break-through concept.

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Toyota One Team – An interesting story line on how four leaders from different religious denominations come together to watch a local high school football game.  And this all happens in a Toyota Truck.  This commercial is all about brand image, which is all you can probably accomplish in this game.

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