Super Bowl 2013 Commercials: Touchdowns, Fumbles, and Questionable Calls

This past Sunday night, millions tuned in to CBS for the 47th Super Bowl. And if you managed to make it all the way through  Alicia Keye’s “stirring” rendition of our national anthem, you eventually got to see a football game.

Of course, the competition is not the only draw; a number of folks who watch the game tune in to see the commercials, the production of which has become an annual game of advertising one-upsmanship unto itself. If you have not seen them, there are plenty of ways to find them on the internet. I’m not going to post every single one. Some were funny, some were touching, some were downright bizarre (what was Taco Bell thinking??)…but most were forgettable. The few I’m going to talk about today are the ones that – for better or worse – left the biggest impression on me.


These are the only three commercials I felt really nailed their objective – that is, to attract the viewers attention, to create interest and a desire to act, and give a clear, compelling message. First on my list (and on a lot of people’s lists) is the return of the Budweiser Clydesdales in “Brotherhood”:


You can almost never go wring with the Budweiser Clydesdales. This spot is nostalgic, charming, warm, fuzzy…but doesn’t feel pandering. It not only draws the viewer in by telling a compelling story, it reinforces the brand as part of the fabric of American family life. And really, what more could a brand want?

(Side note: the foal they used was born on Jan. 16, and was just seven days old at the time of the commercial’s filming. The fact that people are just learning about this now is helping to continue the momentum of the spot…and drive viewership)

The second commercial I felt was also successful – if not underrated – was the Sketchers ad, “Man vs. Cheetah:”


This spot isn’t showing up on many ‘lists’ of this year’s top Super Bowl commercials, probably because it’s not laugh-out-loud hilarious, rip-your-heart-out poignant, or scratch-your-head-wondering-what-the-hell-just happened bizarre. (Most car manufacturers, especially Hyundai, seemed to have a near-monopoly on that last category) But this spot does what every effective spot should do: it directly ties together the premise with the benefits of the product. Too many commercials try to connect the product to a contrived premise, which leads to a confusing, ineffective message – if there’s a message at all.

The third commercial that stood out for me was Tide’s “Miracle Stain:”


Here again, it’s a compelling story told with humour that immediately gets your attention, creates interest, and concludes with a perfect ending. It doesn’t get into the details of why Tide is so great, it doesn’t compare itself to other detergents…it just puts the brand front and center as the payoff.  Ironically, the brand becomes the downfall of the main character – an unusual twist – and that reinforces the notion that Tide’s power is somehow ‘non-discriminatory.’  For top-of-mind awareness, this was a winner.


I could give you a long list of all the spots I thought were failures. Actually, I can’t. Many of the spots were so forgettable…I forgot them. And personally, I don’t feel like sifting through all the Super bowl 2013 commercials just to find the worst ones. So here are a couple that really annoyed me.

First up, Volkswagen’s “Get In, Get Happy:”


OK, OK, the spot is amusing. It does make you smile. Even I chuckled when the guy says to turn the frown “dee udder way ah-roond!”  But let’s be serious: did it compell you to consider buying a Volkswagen? Did it spotlight any benefits to driving Volkswagens, other than they’ll make you happy? Without rewatching it, was the car they were driving a Beetle or a Jetta? This is an example of trying to get a premise to fit the brand. Sure, you might be happy driving a VW – but the image the viewer is ultimately left with is a white guy speaking like a Jamaican, not a red 2013 Beetle.

The second spot (actually a series of spots) that I felt missed the mark were Coca-Cola’s “Chase ads.” Here’s one of them:

Apparently, the idea was that viewers were supposed to log onto Coke’s website and vote how the story ended. A good idea to create a story that continues through the game. Unfortunately, Coke forgot two important things: 1) you need to compell viewers to take action, and 2) you need to compell viewers to take action.

I don’t know how many people bothered to log on and choose the ending – because, frankly, I didn’t care. Why should I? A bunch of strange characters are racing somewhere…I don’t know who they are, why I should care about them, or why I should be bothered to log onto Coke’s website. Hey, here’s some free advice for Coke’s ad agency: compell me to BUY A COKE. You’re welcome.

Questionable Calls

These are spots that were memorable and did a pretty good job of getting people to take notice of the product or brand, but fell a few yards short  (to carry the metaphor).

First up, the one everyone’s been talking about…’s “Perfect Match:”


Yes, my skin’s still crawling, too. A lot of folks have slammed this commercial for being tacky, crude, and totally un-funny. It is, indeed, all of those things…but we’re still talking about it, and that was the plan.  Come to think of it, it may also be the first time I’ve turned away from looking at Bar Rafaeli. Those Go Daddy people are just evil.

Another commercial that swung hard and missed was Ram Trucks’ “Farmer:”

I realize I’m going against a lot of my fellow ad geeks and agencies – but I was really disappointed in this. The production values are terrific. The intonations of the late, great Paul Harvey are sincere and stirring. The images are powerful. And the fact that it never felt like a two-minute commercial reinforces my belief that a compelling story will maintain the interest and attention of the viewer or listener, no matter how long it is. If a story starts to feel long – whether it’s a commercial, movie, or book – it’s not as compelling as it should have been.

My problem with this spot is the payoff. After watching this heartfelt tribute to the American farmer…we discover it’s a pitch for Ram Trucks. Really? You’re going to play with my emotions for a play at my wallet? I just felt let down. Now, I’ve thought about this quite a bit – about how they could have done this without it coming off as being tacky or cheesy – and I think if it they had used a different line other than, “to the farmer in all of us.” That line feels like they’re pushing their trucks on me. Perhaps a subtler, “thank you, farmers” or something that at least felt less pitchy, less…sales-y. I don’t know.  I’m still torn on this one, but it’s still not sitting well with me.


The last commercial I want to spotlight was Oreo’s “Whisper Fight,” which gets a nod not for its uniqueness, but for what Oreo’s executives managed to do in the middle of the game. First, the spot:


It was funny, yes – I was laughing along with everyone else – but it felt like a retread of the old, classic Miller Light commercials: “Tastes great! Less filling!” Not a great commercial, but I think it definitely will have life after the Super Bowl – and it was certainly one of the funnier spots, which helps with top-of-mind awareness. I’m not sure how many viewers were compelled (there’s that word again!) to take the call to action and send an Instagram to @Oreo on Twitter, but Twitter is where the real action ended up taking place…

Only a few minutes into the 3rd quarter, half the stadium’s power went out – leaving literally half of the stadium in darkness for 34 minutes. During that time, Oreo’s ad agency, 360i, received approval from the company execs to send out a graphic on Twitter showing part of an Oreo cookie and the phrase, “You can still dunk in the dark.” According to Buzzfeed, the image has been retweeted more than 14,000 times and the Facebook graphic has amassed 20,000+ “likes.” As Buzzfeed points out, the brand that got the biggest impact on the most expensive advertising day of the year…may have done it for nothing! Gotta love social media.

So what commercials did you feel had the biggest impact? Any I missed? Am I totally off the mark on any of these? LEt me know – I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section, below. And if you liked this post, feel free share it and subscribe to the blog! Thanks…and keep in touch!

5 thoughts on “Super Bowl 2013 Commercials: Touchdowns, Fumbles, and Questionable Calls

  1. Pingback: 7 Top Voiceover Blog Posts This Week - Feb. 10, 2013 | Derek Chappell's Voiceover Blog

  2. What we noticed in the vacuum of out-of-the-park commercials, a lot of advertisers waited a week and rolled out new spots during the Grammys. Snickers’ Robin Williams ad came out then, and so did a number of others who escape me at the moment. Not sure how much Grammy :30s cost, but it’s less than $4M, I guarantee.


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