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Recap: 2013 Super Bowl Ads

Jake Daubenspeck  Follow

Dominated by a furious second-half comeback, a 37 minute power outage, and what Kanye West would undoubtedly call "one of the best halftime performances OF ALL TIME," the general consensus is that Super Bowl XLVII was not nearly as much of a coup for on-air advertisements as 2012's event. Whereas the previous two years featured equal parts impassioned and hilarious ads, the tops trend for 2013 was tame, safe ads featuring fairly common themes.

“Jake Silver” – A Look at the Stats

By my unofficial count, there were 64 non-NFL and non-CBS ad spots in this year's game. Some observations:

  • 27% of ads were for car companies (quite similar to last year's 25%)
  • 40% of ads were for food/beverage products (way up from 20% last year)
  • 21% of ads featured consumer products/services (similar to last year's 16%)
  • Five movie ads were broadcast, including one promoting the new Fast & Furious franchise entry (which now has as many episodes as Spider-Man has comic books)
  • Just three ads—5% total—were for online specific-platforms/services, down even from last year's meager total of 8%

Car Commercials

In 2011, two of the most popular commercials came from automakers - VW's "The Force" and Chrysler's landmark "Imported from Detroit" spot (in my view, one of the best all-time broadcast advertisements). The trend continued in 2012 with Honda's Ferris Bueller-inspired "Matthew's Day Off" spot, as well as a weaker-but-still-powerful Chrysler spot, "It's Halftime in America."

Though automaker ads rated far below 2011's high-water mark (in my opinion), the offerings were once again strong in 2013. Kia won points for its well-acted spot regarding one of life’s toughest questions (seen above), and Audi took top storytelling marks for its prom ad. One of my personal favorite ads was VW's spot featuring a decidedly non-Jamaican man speaking with a very convincing Jamaican accent. However, I'd rate this below another recent (non-Super Bowl) VW ad, in which a non-athletically-inclined father dutifully teaches him his version of how to throw a baseball. Either way, VW continues to impress across the airwaves.

Dynamics of “Powergate”

Even those who weren't watching the game knew that the big story out of N'awlins was the long power outage in the Superdome. This break in play at the top of the third quarter changed the entire dynamic of not only the football game, but of the advertising landscape. With the first half of the contest being an entirely uninteresting display of football, many viewers clicked over to Downton Abby or elsewhere after it was clear the delay wasn’t ending soon. The resultant drop off in viewers has so far not yet been quantified, but it's safe to say that major second-half spots from brands including Coke, Bud Light and Dodge saw fewer impressions than expected. It will be interesting to see if CBS credits any of these advertisers for additional, comped spend down the road to make up for this negative impact.

Twitter Audibles

The ironic thing about this blog post is that the real story of Super Bowl marketing wasn't the ads. When half of the lights clicked off in the Superdome, some well-prepared brands took to Twitter to capitalize on the newsjacking opportunity. The clear winner here was Oreo, who tweeted an image that was conceived, developed, approved and posted in mere MINUTES. (Check out Ciara's blog post for more details.) Oreo has been the topic of countless news articles and blog posts (here's another, guys!), and their tweet has received more than 15,000 retweets and 5,000 "favorites" as of this writing (undoubtedly Oreo's agencies are furiously comparing the ROI of a $3.8 million dollar on-air spot versus the amount of impressions and value created by a free tweet; I have an idea which might win . . .) Honorable mentions to Audi, PBS and MLB for their blackout-related missives, as well; it’s clear that these brands know how to play in real-time when the stakes are highest.

Grab Bag

  • I'm not sure how many Super Bowls has been running ads for, but it doesn't matter—they're 100% in their ability to flop spectacularly. GoDaddy took a step in the right direction, dropping their typical “exploitative & unfunny” ads (which are possibly meant to be satirical, but if that’s the case nobody gets it) and choosing to run an “uncomfortable & unfunny” ad instead. Which I feel is feel is actually an improvement.
  • Samsung featured Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen in a long-form, "two guys talking"-style piece that was probably less funny than it could have been, given the firepower they culled for this spot. Paul Rudd seems to be developing a theme in his spokesperson roles—the spot felt very similar to his Madden ads featuring Ray Lewis.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but does anyone else feel that if a car commercial is going to tap “I Wish” by Skee-Lo as a song in their ad, shouldn’t it be for the Chevy Impala?*
  • The only way the Oprah Jeep commercial for the USO could have tried to be more patriotic would be if they showed an American flag waving on the screen for 120 seconds, “Yule log channel”-style. Unfortunately, that would have also been just as interesting.

* See, it’s funny because the song mentions the Impala.

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