Ad Bowl XLIX: Who Scored, Who Flopped and Who Caught Us Off Guard

Another Super Bowl has come and gone. There were miraculous catches, (potentially) heartbreaking interceptions, deflategate jokes and plenty of controversy about the “worst call in Super Bowl History.” Yet within the walls of PadillaCRT’s offices today, the hot topic of conversation is the Ad Bowl.

Who scored? Who flopped? What unexpected themes caught us off guard? Here to weigh in are two of the agency’s heaviest hitting creative minds: Heath Rudduck, Chief Creative Officer  and Kelly O’Keefe, Chief Creative Strategy Officer and Professor at the acclaimed Brandcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Spoiler alert… like on the Super Bowl result, we don’t all agree. With whom does your creative mind align?


20141112_PadillaCRT_MNPLS_Rudduck_46Overall Impression:

At $150K a second, you’d better be getting your message right and executing it flawlessly. This year, I was fascinated by the attempt of so many to make Dad misty. Sure, we all understand we should work less and think about the kids more, not to mention all the other shortcomings we have, but it’s not up to a brand to tell me that. There’s nothing worse than a forced purpose. But, among the old bawdy executions and tired tales of horses and lost puppies, there were a few gems.

The Best Ads:

I love the idea of the Always spot, and I truly hope they want to make a difference. I am certainly attuned to this as a dad with a growing daughter, and I can see the confidence link, but I wonder if it’s territory for them to own.

On the other hand, Fiat was a fun little tale that didn’t take itself too seriously. Minimal effects and a beautifully shot piece. The payoff was simple.

Mophie, a great idea, beautifully done, straight from a truth. This may well have been one of my favorites. AND, they took a big leap with God. To me, this is an example of brave clients and a clever idea.

Snickers. Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi? The Brady Bunch? Fantastic! This is a fantastic extension of a campaign that was probably close to the end of its life.

Not the Best Ads:   

I was disappointed by the car category overall. It hurts to know how much was spent on these spots. Kia was a cute approach that left me cold. BMW has an incredible product that was crushed by the spot. The Nissan spot was just miserable in many ways. DON’T remind me I want to spend more time with my son! Celebrate the time we have.

Almost as flat was the Coke after it spilled in the server room – in a world where soda has a lot to apologize for, it’s a stretch for them to tell you to be happy.

Plenty of failed attempts to use celebs to make it happen, from Esurance with Bryan Cranston and Lindsay Lohan to Nationwide with Mindy Kaling.

Avocados from Mexico must have a roaring business down there. Despite its cuteness, it was disappointing all aroundT-MobileKim Kar… sorry I can’t even write it. Nationwide, are you joking? Insure my kid? Like money will replace them? Don’t advertise that service.

Dove, give me a break. Daddyvision felt like a nice thought that didn’t quite make it. Compare it to the spots we’ve seen in the past around real beauty. There were beautiful images strung together, a lovely sentiment and the worst voice over possible to close it out.

Bud Light. Amazingly similar to an idea from Brazil where a live crew captured a sequence of events that unfolded after a proposition in a bar. The Brazilian idea was original and better.

McDonald’s, please don’t pretend to be what you’re not. With a 20 percent decline in sales, it’s McDonald’s that needs hugs. If they truly believed in this as an organization, the hugs freebies wouldn’t be random; they’d be free all day. Quick, let’s get to McDonald’s in case our meal is free. This to me is a fake sentiment with a vacuous promise. What they say is true, but I’d have looked to get hold of the guy who played McLovin’ in Superbad and taken it from there.



20141119_PadillaCRT_Richmnd_O'Keefe_18Overall Impression:

In years past, Super Bowl ads were known for their preponderance of beer, boobs and bros. It almost seemed like the target audience was 17-year-old boys. Well, not anymore. This was the most grown up Super Bowl in history, with dads and families taking a front seat, and cinematic anthems set to inspirational speeches that seemed more interested in causing goosebumps than laughter. The result was a whole lot of love, but not so many fireworks. The overall feeling was warm, but at times too lukewarm to excite.

The Best Ads:

Some of the best ads included a powerful spot for Jeep that gave us a new take on Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” Emotional and beautiful, the spot followed in the footsteps of past Chrysler Super Bowl stories. The company started the streak in 2011 with its “Imported from Detroit” ad featuring Detroit rapper, Eminem. The spot has been credited with stimulating the historic reversal of fortune for the company. This year’s Jeep ad edged out the centenarian Dodge ad. Its power was slightly diminished by the similarity to a North Face ad from last year.

Fiat had a hit on its hands with a Viagra-inspired ad for its larger 500x. A funny, memorable spot with just one flaw. It seems to imply that Fiat’s smaller 500 may need a little help getting powered up.

Always stood up for girls with a great spot about running like a girl. This spot debuted well before the Super Bowl, but was nonetheless one of the best of the night.

Nationwide gave us one of the best of the night with its ad featuring Mindy Kaling. The ad was smart, fresh and funny. Nationwide also ran an ad that was touching, but not well-placed on a program that is the center of parties. The mildly morbid ad about childhood deaths was the buzz kill of the night, prompting the company to give a late-night explanation for the ad.

Weight Watchers equated food to drugs in a spot voiced by Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul. The ad continues the streak of excellent ads coming out of Weight Watchers lately.

BMW capitalized on an embarrassing conversation between Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel to illustrate the forward-thinking nature of its new i3 electric vehicle. The self-deprecating humor was spot-on for the target audience.

Microsoft decided not to let Apple do all the talking in the category and gave us two inspiring stories about its empowering technology. Both hit the mark and make the company look more purposeful and relevant.

On the happiness side of life, Coke and McDonald’s competed for smiles with spots that had Coke sending happiness through the Internet, and McDonald’s customers paying for meals with hugs and calls to mom. Both companies carried on the same happiness through social media. But McDonald’s edged out Coke by tweeting out congratulatory messages to every other Super Bowl advertiser and even giving away these big-ticket prizes to retweeters.

And then there’s Loctite, the company’s bizarre, but humorous ad might just generate the highest ROI of the night. It was memorable, featured the product benefit prominently and is guaranteed to sell a lot of glue. I tip my hat to this new Super Bowl advertiser for taking a chance on a creative approach.

Not the Best Ad:

Deliberately left off of my favorites list, though sure to make it onto others, is the Budweiser puppy ad. To me, the fanciful but credible past stories of animal friendship took a turn too far with a sappy little puppy who finds himself trudging across the country to get home, only to be threatened by a wolf before being saved by a herd of, of course, Clydesdales. The saving grace was that the spot didn’t feature any babies.


Regardless of your opinions on Ad Bowl XLIX, we can all agree that this year was another one for the record books, for better or worse. Weigh in with your favorites, and with which missed the mark.

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