No one had a better Super Bowl night than Tom Brady, but Melissa McCarthy and Kia came close, reports USA TODAY

According to USA Today, “Her slapstick shtick for Kia won the 29th annual USA TODAY Ad Meter competition in a crazy commercial where she gets bounced out of a boat by a rampaging whale, among other ecological calamities.

“The 60-second spot, called “Hero’s Journey,” is about an eco-warrior called on to save the whales — and the trees and the polar ice caps. Each time she strives heroically but ends up with the sort of cartoonish comeuppance more commonly associated with Wile E. Coyote. (Except that he chased the Roadrunner, while she gets chased by rhinos.)”

In addition to the Kia spot, one of the other highlights was during the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show, when Intel Corporation collaborated with the NFL, Pepsi and six-time GRAMMY®*-winning music icon, Lady Gaga, to create a unique drone light show experience to kick off her performance. Three hundred Intel® Shooting Star™ drones lit up the sky in a choreographed aerial performance marking the first-ever drone integration during a televised event and a Super Bowl.

As Lady Gaga’s performance began, Intel Shooting Star drones created a backdrop of colorful formations in the sky including twinkling stars that transformed into red and blue moving stars, before creating the American Flag for a dramatic finale that brought Lady Gaga to center stage on the field. Additionally, the Intel Shooting Star drones finished out the halftime performance by forming the Pepsi logo in the sky.

But, back to the ads.  According to Joel Machak, Executive Creative Director, Crosby Marketing Communications:

In 1967, a couple of interesting things were invented. On January 15th, 1967, the first “Super Bowl” was played. Vince Lombardi’s Packers trounced the Chiefs, 35-10. That same year, an adman named Dick Roth at Wells, Rich, Greene, in New York, invented a form of advertising that we know as the “vignette” TV commercial, using a series of short scenes to show a repeated outcome in a variety of situations.

Roth’s invention was for a campaign for Benson & Hedges cigarettes. The brand’s unique selling proposition was that it was one millimeter longer than the 100-millimeter brands so popular at that time. The campaign featured humorous vignettes showing the negative effects of smoking a cigarette one “silly millimeter” too long.

Today, smoking is thankfully on the wane, but the vignette commercial, and the Super Bowl, are both going strong. On Sunday, from the national anthem through the post-game pod, there were 124 ads. A whopping 24 utilized the vignette style. And another 32 were TV show or movie promos, which mostly rely on a rock ‘em sock ‘em vignette style.

That means 45% were vignettes.

Considering the recent acclaim that a revived appreciation for great storytelling in advertising has received, I found this hard to believe. By the third quarter, I wondered what would happen if someone switched the soundtracks of these vignette spots. Would anyone even notice? I doubt that you remember any of them.

Can you recall the emotional story arc of the vignette spots from H&R Block, the American Oil Institute, Coke, Ultra Beer, Alfa Romeo, or SoFi? They all spent a boatload of money hoping that you might.

But I’ll wager that you can easily tell me the arc of most of these ads: Anheuser-Busch, Kia, Avocados from Mexico, Skittles, 84 Lumber, and Audi. You see my point.

Vignette spots aren’t hard to do. But they are hard to do with a meaningful and surprising insight that connects with the brand and sticks in the mind. I prefer a single, complete and richly detailed story that can hit more emotional notes, and maybe even assemble a genuine melody of heartfelt chords.

Rich and honest stories are felt and remembered. Vignettes certainly get the job done in some minimal fashion, but all too often, little more. And going out and shooting all those different scenes sure feels like you’re accomplishing something great, trust me. But in the end, it’s all just another silly millimeter on the march of advertising history.

But there are great stories to be told. That’s the challenge. Think about it. And join me in rising every day with the passion to do the telling.

Warschawski, a national marketing communications agency located in Baltimore, offered their take on  Super Bowl ad winners and losers:

Advertisers paid approximately $166,000 per second to air their ad, as this year the average thirty second spot cost about $5.5 million.  Many small and mid-size companies spend about the same amount on marketing communications in one year that Super Bowl advertisers spend in one second.

Doritos, a Super Bowl advertising staple and sometimes standout, did not advertise during the SB this year for the first time in 10 years.  Examples of other brands that sat on the bench this year include Visa, Heinz, Butterfinger, Taco Bell, Toyota and Mini USA.  Is Doritos a bellwether for other brands? Are they beginning to sense that in the digital era there is a lot you can do with those SB advertising dollars that might get you a better ROI? It’s a trend that bears watching.

Most brands are now pre-spending to market their super bowl ad.  If you’re already spending $5.5 million to run your ad nationally and perhaps you spent $1-3 million in producing that ad, you want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.  That’s why so many companies today were releasing their ads in advance of the big game and doing all kinds of PR and marketing to leverage their SB appearance.  Today, some companies are spending as much as 25% of their SB marcom budget on the pre-marketing.

Social Media tie-ins and integration are becoming the norm and another way to extend the reach of your ad and increase engagement with your target audience.  You could see it on display a la T Mobile’s “post your moves” or 84 Lumber requiring viewers to go to their site to see the end of their ad.  Caution — when you spend $10 Million on your first-ever SB spot you want to make sure your site doesn’t go down, like 84 Lumber’s did.

On the whole, this was a pretty average year for Super Bowl advertising, with no brilliant stand-out spots and no shocking stinkers like we’ve had the last couple of years.

This year’s winners and losers list is impacted more so than ever by misjudgment in using political themes, by poor execution of digital tie-ins, and from brands forgetting their core target audience or confusing them (e.g. detergents being sold by men with Bill Nye the science guy as your celebrity endorser?).

Warschawski’s 10 Best Ads of Super Bowl LI, in order:

  1. Michelob Ultra, “Our Bar”
  2. Alfa Romeo, “Riding Dragons”
  3. Bud Light, “Ghost Spuds”
  4. Bud Light, “Between Friends”
  5. Mercedes Benz, “Born to be Wild”
  6. Honda CR-V 17, “Yearbooks”
  7. WeatherTech, “Tech Team”
  8. Busch Beer, “BUSCHHHHH”
  9. Yellowtail Wines, “Let’s Yellowtail”
  10. Google, “Home”

Warschawski’s 10 Worst Ads of Super Bowl LI, in order:

  1. 84 Lumber, “The Journey”
  2. Mr. Clean, “Cleaner of Your Dreams”
  3. Persil Detergent, “10 Dimensions of Clean”
  4. Wonderful Pistachios, “Treadmill”
  5. American Petroleum Institute, “Power Past Impossible”
  6. Avocados from Mexico, “Secret Society”
  7. Turbotax, “Humpty Dumpty”
  8. It’s a 10 Hair Care, “Awful Hair”
  9. Square Space, “Calling JohnMalkovich.com”
  10. Sprint, “Car”

What did you think of the Super Bowl ads this year?

 

 

 

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