10 Good Super Bowl 2012 Ads & An Ugly One

2012 Super Bowl adsThe 2012 Super Bowl and accompanying Brand Bowl has come and gone. There were some good ads and some really bad ads, but none stood out to me as truly great ads. In the last few years, picking a number one ad was either easy because it was a standout or hard because, like last year, there were two standouts (VW Vader spot and Chrysler's Imported from Detroit spot). This year it was hard because I really didn't have strong feelings about any one spot. But be that as it may, here's my top 10 spots and my worst of the year pick.

10. Honda – "Matthew's Day Off"

So many people loved this ad, that I had to make it a top 10. But truthfully, I'm not a big fan. I think part of it was that Honda used VW's Vader kid "leak the spot online" strategy and it backfired. Instead of endearing the spot to me with all the coverage it got before the Super Bowl, I was already tired of it. I think if I saw it and it was a surprise, I might have felt – oh wow, look what they did. Instead, I felt, meh… they took an iconic movie character and reinacted some movie stuff and it didn't tie in to the car at all. If I hadn't looked up the spot, I wouldn't have been able to tell you which car it was.


9. Oikos Greek Yogurt – "The Tease"

This one made the list simply because it's got a woman head butting John Stamos to the floor. And who doesn't want to see that again?


8. The Voice – "Vocal Kombat"

Props to NBC's The Voice for creating something far more engaging than a montage of clips for a show promo. This was entertaining, had high action, cool graphics and still got across the premise of the show, which is the judges fighting to get the best voice to choose them. Love the "Kill Bill" sequences and graphics, down to Cee-Lo's outfit. And the twist at the end made me laugh.


7. Doritos – "Man's Best Friend"

What's the Super Bowl without dog spots. Here's the first one to make my list. One of the winners of Doritos annual Super Bowl ad contest. Clever concept, the dog gives his master Doritos as "hush money" after "offing" the cat. Nice.


6. Sex Sells for H&M and Teleflora

We always see examples of good and bad use of the time honored tradition of sex sells. Here's two good examples – one for the men and one for the ladies. First, there was Teleflora. I would actually call this a great product benefit spot. Guys may think giving flowers is stupid. But, with Valentine's Day coming up, Teleflora reminds us dumb guys the real product benefit of buying flowers, mixing metaphors with Christmas, using the line, "give, and you shall receive."


On the other hand, we have David Beckham for men's underwear for H&M. Now, you may think they're targeting the wrong market – getting the ladies attention for a men's underwear product. But, I'm sure their research shows that most of the men's underwear is actually bought by the women in their lives. Let's face it, most of us guys will keep wearing shabby, holey underwear rather than go buy new stuff. Also, judging by a lot of the tweets I read, a lot of women are buying this stuff just because they're buying whatever he's selling.


5. Chrysler – "Halftime in America"

I have mixed feelings about this one. For one thing, it must have run during the one time I got up and left the set – so I didn't see it in context, just later on the web. It suffers by comparison. Last year's imported from Detroit spot featuring Eminem was so powerful and poignant. Trying to recapture the magic of a special spot is very hard to do. I think they did a valiant job here, but it pales in comparison. For one thing, as someone living in Detroit, I don't remember that "we almost lost it all" – sure time have been tough and we were hit harder than most, but I don't remember ever thinking we were going to lose everything. It's a well written, well produced spot with an icon to lead the charge. But, it's not last year's spot. Not even close.


4. Budweiser – Eternal Optimism

Don't love the beer, but I love this ad. And I wish my clients had this kind of budgets! It's a lot of fun, with a great soundtrack featuring a mash-up The Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary" and Flo Rida's "Good Feelin'." It basically shows that over time, people have always gathered together with their buds for a good time gathering – and often it's involved their favorite beer. It's a spot that works well with Budweiser's tagline "Grab some Buds."


3. Volkswagen – "The Dog Strikes Back"

This is really two spots in one. One spot about a dog that sees the new VW Beetle and really wants to chase it, but needs to get in shape to do so. And another that takes place in a galaxy far, far away. I think VW did a much better job of trying to top last year's special ad, than Chrysler. They didn't succeed either, but I like what they did better. Instead of the new and improved version, they went with a new spot that gives a nod to the old classic. I didn't see the twist at the end coming and I loved it. I know some think they should have just ended it with the dog's story. Personally, I think it could have come off as schmaltzy by itself. With the commercial shifting to the Star Wars bar and a blatant reference to last year's spot – I thought it was great. I also like that the pre-Super Bowl spot released on the web (dogs barking out the Darth Vader theme) was a nice hint to the eventual spot without actually being the spot.


2. Accura – "Transactions"

I originally had this as my number one ad, but upon further review, it turns out I like the Chevy ad better. I did really like this one though. Of all the ads, this one got the biggest laughs from me. Sure, it was a bit over the top. But, Leno in a flying squirrel jet back to steal the deal just as Jerry Seinfeld was about to seal it? Loved it. What can I say, you make me laugh, you're gonna get high marks from me. It's just how I roll.


1. Chevy Silverado – "2012 Mayan Calendar"

I love this ad. Talk about a brand promise – buy our product and survive the apocalypse. Sure, it's not realistic, but it's fun. And I don't mind at all that they took a poke at the competition. I come from a rural area where guys drive trucks and if you're a Chevy guy, you look at the Ford and Dodge guys with disdain and vise versa. It just taps into the target market mindset.

I like that they took something topical like the predicted end of the world and had fun with it. They didn't just stick with one reason either – you see alien spacecraft, volcanoes, meteors and even the more biblical rain of frogs. Loved the burning Big Boy statue and a play on the old joke (and recent Zombie movie) idea that one of the things that will last forever is twinkies. Nice co-branding opportunity, too, I'm sure. Added bonus for the counter intuitive Barry Manalow track.


And 1 Ugly One.

That's my take on the best spots. There were plenty of disappointments, too. I think the eTrade baby spots have lost their luster. Career Builder brought back the chimps and it wasn't bad, but it was just a rehash of previous spots. I thought the Cars.com one with the extra head singing was just creepy. But one advertiser was just ugly. I bet you know who it was. Go Daddy once again stunk up the place with horrible ads that just ticked off at least half of the possible customers right off the bat. As one woman tweeted, "what? Women don't buy domain names?" Where H&M and Teleflora (and even Fiat) used sex to sell in a good way, these people use it all wrong. Their spots are sexist. They play the bait and switch game – Oooo, come to our website and maybe you'll see these women naked (you won't). And to make matters worse, it's just bad, reheated creative. They've basically run the same idea for I don't know how many Super Bowls now. Time to banish them from the event, if you ask me.

So, what were your favorites? Did I miss some? Do you think I'm a moron for including one of these? I'd love to hear your take on the best and worst of 2012 Super Bowl ads.

Mike McClureMike McClure, Ad Junkie

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Yeah, I would have to say it was a toss up between Go-Daddy and Coke for my stinkers. I can’t take another Polar Bear for another decade. My absolute favorites of the night were the Doritos bribe and the Dannon Oikos head butt. They made me feel like users have a strong connection to those products – all while giving me the chuckles.

  • Mike McClure says:

    Yeah, Therran, the integrated campaign for Coke, with the polar bears reacting in real time to what was going on in the game seemed like a good idea in theory, but was just plain old boring in execution – especially if you didn’t know the backstory, which I’m sure most of America didn’t

  • Sazbean says:

    My favorite ads were the Acura, Doritos dog and VW dog ads (hmm lots of dogs…). I also thought the Chevy ad was well done, although I think they could have been more subtle on their dig of Ford (and it would have been more powerful with less worry of legal action). I also agree that GoDaddy is the loser — using sex in advertising can be done tastefully and well (Fiat, Teleflora, H&M) without being sexist and irrelevant.

  • Dante Mallet says:

    Hahaha, that Chevy Silverado ad is the best Super Bowl ad for me. First, it’s the Barry Manilow background that makes the whole commercial humorous; and second, it’s a simple attack against rival competitor Ford. That’s truly awesome. =)

  • Toby says:

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    Thanks for stopping by Toby – can’t say I see any zombie replies here. But, if you do want to connect with us on social sites, you can find us on LinkedIn or Facebook at \TheYaffeGroup and on Twitter @TheYaffeGroup

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