Who won Super Bowl advertising? It’s unclear, but there were bright spots

The Super Bowl, both the game itself but, more importantly for the ad industry, the ads, are under all kinds of microscopes. Expectations are huge — and those of us on the sidelines, waiting (or not, with early releases of spots) to see what brands and agencies have up their collective sleeves to surprise and delight the audience, establish a sort of “OK, let’s see what you’ve got” mentality. According to Shocase, the social network for marketers, the big day felt felt a little flat.

“The game didn’t live up to my expectations and neither did the ads,” commented Vince Engel, long-time creative director and two-time Big Game commercial veteran for Subaru and Nike. “Where were the big ideas? Too many hid the lack of an idea behind movie stars. There were, however, a few spots that stood out to our panel of experts and consumers. Although far from a unanimous choice, ‘Puppymonkeybaby’ from Mountain Dew was the most liked ad across our three groups of judges.”

The agency winners were the aforementioned “Puppymonkeybaby,” “Portraits" by Jeep and Audi’s “Commander.”

“Puppymonkeybaby” was “so dumb, so simple, so memorable,” said Jason Harris, president of Mekanism, whose work with Pepsi has been seen on Super Bowl Sunday. “Millions of people this morning are humming: puppy-monkey-baby and looking for a Kickstart. It doesn’t have to do more than that.”

On “Portraits,” Janet Champ, creative director/writer at Switzerland and Big Game ad veteran working with Nike said, “Far and away the best, although it was far from perfect and wins simply because of the art direction, which consists solely of black and white still shots,”

Canice Neary, vice president and co-ECD at Laughlin Constable said that “Commander” featuring music from David Bowie gave him chills and was “emotional, classy.” He added that, “Venables Bell & Partners always delivers high for this client.”

Client-side winners included “Ultrasound” from Doritos and “Game Day” by Heinz. Consumer winners were “Drop the Balls” from T-Mobile and “Ryanville” for Hyundai, with Samantha, a young professional from Wisconsin noting, “Who wouldn’t enjoy 45 seconds of Ryan Reynolds’ face on a high-definition TV? It’s a cute and funny ad that is effective in highlighting their anti-crash feature.”

There were clearly some creative highlights, but one place that failed to impress was in social media.

“Super Bowl 50 will not go down as the social Super Bowl, as very few of the ads had social tie-ins,” said Jim Tobin, the president of Ignite Social Media. “But the few notable exceptions show how powerful social media can be at extending a message. In fact, the most tweeted brand of the Super Bowl didn’t even buy an ad during the game. Esurance instead chose to give away $1m to people who retweeted their hashtag. It was a blatant promotion, but lots of folks took the bait.”

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Doug Zanger

Doug Zanger is the Americas editor for The Drum. He leads the Americas editorial team’s content activity in the growing region. Based in Portland, Oregon, he is committed to sharing the most meaningful stories that benefit the global industry and its people. A Minnesota native, Zanger has covered a wide range of brands, issues and personalities, including Aloe Blacc, Seu Jorge, Wendy Clark, Susan Credle, Dan Wieden, Jeff Goodby and more. Fiercely dedicated to diversity, equality and talent, he has interviewed several women in leadership roles through his Exceptional Women of the World podcast.

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