Who Will Win the Super Bowl of Ads?


This Sunday, will Budweiser win the Super Bowl for the eleventh consecutive year? It's probable. Why? Because Bud (and its agencies) try really, really hard to win. And they understand how it works. 

The Super Bowl is special because everyone watches it. You, your grandma, your youngest cousin. We all tune in. Last year, 97.5 million people watched the Giants beat the then-undefeated Patriots. 

Knowing your work will be seen by millions of eager eyeballs is intimidating for all concerned at the client and the agency. Intimidation can cause overanalysis and paralysis. And that can be fatal.

What those showcasing work this year have hopefully kept in mind is that they're not trying to wow 97.5 million people. They're trying to entertain (and sell) lots of little groups of friends and family members who have gathered to snack and drink and talk and watch football. And they want to like the ads. They're all in a great mood and they're paying attention. In other words, it's optimal viewing conditions.

Obviously, there are no rules for creativity. But, I've picked up some tips over the years creating ads for "The Big Game." Here are my guesses for what type of ads will hit and miss:

1. The Super Bowl is lowest common denominator of time. That's not an opinion -- it's a statistical fact. So, broad comedy tends to be the most successful. The spots that make it big this year, as in other years, will have universal appeal.

2. Spots that hinge on a reveal or "rug pull" will be dangerous. They bank everything on one aspect. Plus, they essentially ask viewers to decide if what they saw was funny -- and that's inviting potential failure. (I'll take this back if the spot involves a T-shirt wearing chimp dancing on a garbage can. See what I mean about no rules?)

3. Animals, as always, will work, per the E*Trade chimp example above. Animal spots are not my personal preference creatively, but spots featuring animals historically score higher on the annual USA Today Super Bowl commercial poll.

4. Ads that create a ripple effect will also be successful. In other words, agencies that use the unique viewing environment to their advantage have a good chance of standing out. People gather in crowds to watch the game and commercials, so why not go for the big crowd pleasers? Ideally, they'll start out funny and get funnier, confidently "overwhelming" the audience until the entire room is laughing.

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