As we've mentioned previously, during Super Bowl XLIV as part of #BZBowl, Brainzooming Strategic Contributor Barrett Sydnor focused on rating Super Bowl ads based on the memorability criteria highlighted in the book, "Made to Stick." Here's Barrett's assessment:

“I loved that ad with the little kids, you know, the one for . . ., Well I can’t remember who it’s for, but I loved it."

We’ve all said those same words more or less. Most critiques of Super Bowl ads operate on that level. The ad someone “liked” or thought was the funniest is declared the best Super Bowl ad.

But that isn’t why advertisers buy Super Bowl time. They want to sell stuff, lots of stuff. To accomplish that, the message must be memorable. As Chip and Dan Heath write, it must be "Made to Stick." So in generating ratings for the Brainzooming Super Bowl XLIV ad analysis, I was more systematic in assessing the best and worst Super Bowl ads using the six strategic characteristics Made to Stick says make for memorable messages.

Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotion, Story

From kickoff to final whistle there were 31 breaks containing 67 national commercials and at least one very memorable promo. I watched each ad only once—as it ran—and made my judgments as to whether each met the six criteria (yes/no only, no shades of gray here) in as close to real time as possible. I haven’t looked at any best and worst list other than Mike’s.

Most Memorable Ads

  • Based on the Made to Stick criteria, I rated Doritos "Keep Your Hands Off My Momma" as the most memorable Super Bowl ad. It hit on all six cylinders.
  • The runner-up is Google for Paris. I thought it hit on five of six. (Mike and I disagree here.  Actually the next best ad was for The Late Show with Dave, Oprah, and Jay--but I think advertising is like therapy, it doesn’t count if you don’t pay.)
  • Tied for Third: Snickers, Coca-Cola (Simpson’s characters), and Teleflora. All had four of six and all were well done tactics with clear strategies.

Least Memorable Ads

  • The least memorable Super Bowl ad was Diamond Foods. The totally overproduced and under-communicating ad for Emerald Nuts and Pop Secret met none of the "Made to Stick" criteria.
  • The next least memorable ad was Vizio. It did meet one criterion (Unexpected), but the rest of it was so bad it drops to the penultimate place on merit.
  • Third worst went to the Go Daddy spots collectively. They met no criteria and made you feel bad for everyone involved.

A full listing of all the ads with their Made to Stick criteria ratings and my pithy comments can be downloaded at the end of the post.


Using the same criteria, someone else might reach a different conclusion about most and least memorable, i.e. your mileage may very.  But we should be able to agree that memorable communication counts for something in marketing.

Right now, we're applying these principles for an event strategy project, designing an innovative positioning and strategy to create greater memorability and impact for attendees. What we've found at Brainzooming is beyond applying the "Made to Stick" criteria after the fact, the big opportunity is to innovatively use them in developing communications creative strategy. - Barrett Sydnor