Sunday night's Super Bowl provided an incredible opportunity: getting a cool group of brand-savvy marketers from around the country together on Twitter to tweet about the best Super Bowl XLIV ads. As opposed to larger hashtag groups, the #BZBowl group was more intimate (with nearly 70 participants and no spammers). We had a lot of great IRL and online Brainzooming friends (both new and previous ones) navigating a few Twitter overloads and sharing more than 900 perspectives on Super Bowl ads throughout the game.

Update-wise, our recaps will unfold over the next few days. Barrett Sydnor is preparing a recap based on the SUCCESS formula spelled out in the book "Made to Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath. It will be interesting to see how this assessment compares to the popular opinion and buzz-oriented evaluations.

For me, the best Super Bowl ad was only 15 seconds, took just 30 minutes to shoot days before the game, and didn't cost the advertiser anything to air (in fact, the biggest cost was likely the private jets to get its stars to the shoot). Yes, the David Letterman promo co-starring Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno was the standout ad in this year's Super Bowl.

When you think through the "Made to Stick" criteria, the promo fully used 5 of the 6 proposed keys to memorability. It was:

  • Simple (little dialogue, one set, no computer graphics)
  • Unexpected (who'd have thought you'd get Leno and Letterman on the same set after the past month)
  • Credible (if Jay and Oprah will hang with Dave, why wouldn't you?)
  • Emotional (with little dialogue, it was still one of the funniest ads as David Letterman imitated Jay Leno to his face)
  • Story-based (who doesn't know the backstory so as to quickly put the setting into context)

The only key it didn't use was Concrete, and that's only because it didn't scream, "Watch the Late Show!"

Just goes to show that a creative idea, some strategic risk taking (on multiple fronts), and implementing the SUCCESS formula can more than compensate for huge production budgets when it comes to memorability.

A few other quick impressions:

  • Certain "creative" (or maybe not so creative) themes emerged among ads (underwear, little people, surprise tackling, classical music). Many were easy to spot because of odd CBS scheduling which placed similar commercials back-to-back during certain breaks.
  • Super Bowl Advertisers (or their agencies) aren't getting that traditional and social media should work together for maximum effectiveness. Pepsi went all social and suffered from no call-outs in the game. Few Super Bowl TV ads included social media angles (only Vizio had really blatant social media overtones), with the exception of a few, "go to the website to see more" mentions (Focus on the Family , GoDaddy, Doritos, HomeAway).
  • The Doritos open competition for ads seemed to work well for the brand, with some relatively strong creative in what many online felt was a lackluster Super Bowl advertising year.
  • For all the pre-game handwringing, the Focus on the Family ad was much ado about nothing. The ad featuring Tim Tebow and his mother was very weak, irrespective of how you feel about the intended message.
  • The much-anticipated Google ad was interesting and distracting at the same time. It demanded attention to follow the integrated, text-based storyline in one pass (I admit it - it took me two viewings due to a poor attention span). The popular view is the Google ad signals its fear of Bing. My game time tweet was that in my previous job, I'd always tried to sell our e-commerce team on simplicity in web design. The rationale was that Amazon and Google didn't have to invest dollars to get people to understand how to use them. So...did Google really need to run the ad?
  • Coca-Cola went for little vignettes, including one built entirely around the Simpsons. These ads felt like they were solidly facing the past. Saw a mix of reviews on these - USA Today had Sleepwalker at number 5, but the Simpsons spot at number 30 among all Super Bowl ads.
  • There was nearly universal disdain, at least among the #BZBowl crew, for GoDaddy. My personal opinion is that Danica Patrick's willingness to be in these BS ads signals how really bad the motorsports sponsorship market is. I feel sorry for very few athletes, but these ads continually put her into situations she should not have to be associated with.

As I write this very early Monday morning (after a post-game visit to the emergency vet with a sick cat), USA Today is reporting (by a really obnoxious guy BTW) the top ads as ones from early in the game:

  • Betty White (and Abe Vigoda) playing football for Snickers
  • The Doritos ad where the dog put its collar on its owner
  • The Bud Light ad with the house made out of full Bud Light cans

My sense from the chat on #BZBowl would be agreement with Snickers, but support for other Doritos ads as among the best. lists one of the E*Trade baby ads as number 1. I was less sold on the babies this year, but the campaign did yield a great new term, "Milkaholic." Its other top 3 were Doritos (dog collar) and Denny's (which should have come up with a special football promo name for its expensively-touted Grand Slam Breakfast).

As I mentioned, we'll be updating our Brainzooming Super Bowl Analysis the next several days, sharing a strategic and innovation perspective on the Super Bowl marketing efforts. - Mike Brown