The 2012 Super Bowl advertising experience was very different for me this year. For the first time since the dawn of Twitter, I wasn’t sitting by myself, focused on the computer and television screens with little on my mind but moderating #BZBowl via social media and Super Bowl ads.

No, this year I was actually invited to a party at the home of a long-time friend and Brainzooming blog reader who was nice enough to put up with me live tweeting about Super Bowl advertising during his party. And for the 2012 Super Advertising experience, instead of #BZBowl, we participated in #SBExp with Jim Joseph, so even my moderation duties for the Super Bowl Twitter chat were dramatically lessened.

When you’re among other people talking, cheering, and moving about the room, the criteria by which you judge Super Bowl advertising change. It’s a lot less about isolated strategic and creative criteria, and much more about what gets the crowd’s attention.

Because of the change in my experience, it would be difficult to guess what I’d have chosen as the best Super Bowl advertising under my recent years’ viewing situation. Instead, I’ll offer my perspectives based on what stood out either to me or to the eight to ten people in the room. Remember too, I’d purposely seen only a few ads before the game, and have tried to stay away from other "best of 2012 Super Bowl advertising" articles before getting my thoughts down here.

The Best of the 2012 Super Bowl Advertising Experience

M&M’s Ms. Brown

This to me was the first really strong Super Bowl ad. In what were big themes during the night, it mined previous ads (the M&M’s out mingling with people looking to eat them) and used a hint of skin (or chocolate in this case) to catch attention. The M&Ms Super Bowl ad, however, was able to integrate with past creative while not being detrimentally saddled with it. The spot introduced Ms. Brown (yeah, I know, the name may have caught my attention) explaining her brown color didn’t she was naked, without a coating. The red M&M saw her from across the room though and took it as a cue to get nekkid and start the party. A product everybody knows with some sexually-oriented playfulness that was fun, not pandering, and scored some early points. Maybe should look at M&M’s agency for next year.

GE Turbines

I’ll be interested to see if this clearly business-to-business oriented spot from GE shows up on anybody’s list. Maybe it’s my business-to-business roots, but I thought GE did an effective job of making a play for itself as an innovative, important ingredient brand in a memorable way by demonstrating its industrial turbines are key components of creating Budweiser. Sure the second half of the commercial looked like Budweiser Super Bowl advertising, but it was exactly this integration with its much more prominent Super Bowl advertising customer that provided this spot’s memorability. As an example, there was another GE business-to-business oriented spot, but I have no recollection what specific category is was portraying. With GE Turbines, even some industrial skin might be able to sell hard.

H&M - David Beckham

I can’t tell whether I’m in the target market for the H&M David Beckham ad, but I’d seen a print version of the ad earlier in the afternoon in the newest edition of Men’s Health, so give them points for an integrated campaign. Of any Super Bowl ad, this spot featuring a very tattooed, only underwear wearing David Beckham, received more tweet attention than anything all night.

I initially said this ad was payback for all the female skin revealing Super Bowl commercials over the years, but having gotten through the rest of the ads in the game, this ad was the most memorable for me. Why? Go back and watch it. Within the first few seconds, it blatantly says H&M, David Beckham, and underwear (okay it says Bodywear, but it’s underwear to me). And you know what happens at the end of the ad? It blatantly says H&M, David Beckham, and underwear. There’s a winning formula there (beyond simply that "skin sells") that advertisers and agencies have forgotten for Super Bowl ads, but more about that tomorrow.

NFL Timeline

It’s the NFL’s show, so why shouldn’t they do a great Super Bowl ad. Not sure that the NFL has to sell much, especially since they came out of what could have been a crippling labor situation completely unblemished this year, but the combo of history, familiar images, and iconic music worked well, as usual, for the NFL.

Hyundai – Get Your Pulse Going

The Hyundai "Think Fast" spot worked for me amid the variety of auto-related Super Bowl ads (although the Fiat Super Bowl ad got laughs and interest from all the men in the audience). The message of get your pulse going tied in an inventive way to the advertisement’s storyline and an underlying message about the car and the Hyundai brand.

2012 Super Bowl Advertising that Didn’t Work for Me

Pepsi with Elton John, Flavor Flav, and a "Who and the hell was that singing?" Sandwich

Making a movie is obviously a popular approach for Super Bowl ads. When you make a movie that reinforces the brand and message (last year’s Chrysler 300 “Imported from Detroit” Super Bowl ad, but not so much this year’s Chrysler ad) ,  it’s very effective. When you're Pepsi and you make a movie with Elton John, Flavor Flav, and a singer in between who very few people seemed to recognize in a medieval castle setting, maybe a movie wasn’t your best strategic choice. Pepsi did do something right though, because I knew from early on it was a Pepsi commercial even though I don’t remember what the cue was that signaled it was a Pepsi commercial.

Chrysler - It's Second Half in America

This one was getting a lot of raves on Twitter last night, but it didn’t work for me. The reason it didn’t work, however, may have been largely because of my viewing environment. Left to mainly go by visual cues, I recognized the visuals early in the spot as Chrysler and Detroit, which put me in the mind of last year’s incredible Eminem Chrysler300 video (my personal favorite). I immediately started to try and listen for the voice, and see where this spot was heading. But by the time it was visually clear Clint Eastwood was the voice, I immediately went to, “What does Client Eastwood have to do with Detroit?” From what I could see and hear, it wasn’t clear as an “America” ad. Going back to watch it again this morning, it’s clear that it starts with America, but that start was completely lost from my viewing vantage. Big lesson here that came up on some other Super Bowl ads: consider the worst possible conditions your audience might experience your creative. Another lesson: after a big win, consider moving on to a completely new game than going back to defend a slightly off version of how you won before.


Me, Just Being Snarky about 2012 Super Bowl Advertising

Coca-Cola Polar Bears

Okay, it was cute to see the Coca-Cola Polar Bears, and I guess there was one spot that was picked based on what was happening in the game. I'd be hard pressed to tell you which Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad it was, although I suspect it was the one where the Polar Bears clearly had more than 12 bears on the field, since that seemed to be a favorite miscue in the game along with illegal grounding from the end zone and an illegal huddle (watch yourselves in there guys). Anyway, if you were a Coca-Cola brand manager, how could you resist throwing at least ONE white labeled, save the polar bears Coca-Cola bottle into those Super Bowl ads?


Chevy Trucks

In this Armageddon scenario, Chevy Trucks offered up Barry F'n Manilow, mentioned Ford more than its own brand, and so prominently featured Twinkies that I thought it was a Hostess ad until the end. Huh?


The Battleship ad looked like the revenge of the IBM Selectrics. #YoungPeopleAskYourParents


Teleflora - Valentine's Day

I was watching with a largely male crowd, and let me tell you, there was SILENCE during this ad, just as during the David Beckham ad. Clearly, it was that whole skin selling hard thing again, because at the climax of this Teleflora Valentine's Day Super Bowl ad, all the guys were ready to order flowers and wait for the paybacks. Talk about ROI from advertising.


What Did You Think?

This post is a work in process, as I'm both writing it and publishing updates as I go (the reason why I don't usually write newsy articles here - I don't like working to tight deadlines). As a result, check back for more updates during the day. But in the meantime, what did you think about the 2012 Super Bowl advertising? What worked, didn't work, or just made you get all snarky during the marketing event of the year? - Mike Brown

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