Harry Beckwith

Harry Beckwith J.D.


Six Lessons Of The Super Bowl Ads

What The Super Bowl Commericals Tell Us

Posted Feb 08, 2011

The Force was with Volkswagen this year

What did the ads suggest about America's mood?

It's angry.  (That mood wasn't helped when Christina Aguilera invented new lyrics--and a whole new key--for our national anthem.)  Pepsi hit us with a girlfriend who kicks her boyfriend, shoves his face into a pie and then forces a bar of soap into his mouth. When he notices a pretty blonde, Girlfriend-In-Need-of--Restraining-Order hurls a full Pepsi can at him. Fortunately for the boyfriend, her throw misses. Unfortunately for the blonde, it whacks her flush in her forehead and sends her tumbling to the ground.

Later, Pepsi gave us the Revenge of a Nerd against a polo-shirt wearing preppie. This time, using his cleverly-built Pepsi can launcher, the assailant directs a can-missile into the preppie's crotch.

Advertisers also showed us a chimp co-worker smashing his car into another worker's, a Transformer/Chevy hurling a guy 50 yards through the air onto a concrete walk, a servant sampling a king's food and dying almost instantly from poisoning, and a couple accidentally launching their baby face-first into a plate of glass.

So the ads suggest what the recent incidents in Tuscon and Egypt express vividly: There's anger out there.

Now to the bright side: Whose ads won?

As a marketer of many years, I can promise you which ad won--and many of you won't like my answer.

As an advertising legend once said, "Nice is nowhere. So don't give me nice--an ad that everyone likes. Give me one that lots of our prospects will love." By this definition, who won?


Yes, this may be like encouraging Hooters. Like Hooter's, GoDaddy's commercials appeal to mammophiles.  But Nielsen just confirmed (February 2) that traffic to GoDaddy's website increased 41% following the game.

But who is GoDaddy trying to reach? 18-28 year-old web site developers and coders, who will use or recommend GoDaddy to host the sites that they develop. These developers are overwhelming male, young, and single. An unusual number like NASCAR, which is why GoDaddy's ads regularly feature the Dark Goddess of Car Racing, Danica Patrick.

Their ads aren't for women, or for all men, either.  But the ads strongly appeal to their best prospects, and emblazon "GoDaddy" in their minds by emblazoning "GoDaddy" on every tight tank-top in the ads. (Because of this, no one seeing a GoDaddy ad asks, "Who was that ad for anyway? Millions of us asked that about every other commercial.)

By coupling all of this with its important "Why pay more?" message, and then surprising everyone with its choice of their newest sex symbol, GoDaddy easily won the Super Bowl. But creative, well-acted, funny? Please.

VW landed the best one-two, with a charming Darth Vader ad that appealed to parents (helped by a fine performance by six year-old Max Page), and a wonderfully executed Beetle ad that grabbed and kept everyone's atttention and convinced millions that the car is a blast to drive--without ever showing the car.  This week's showroom traffic numbers from the company could move these ads into first place.  (Nielsen reports that Volkswagen's website visits increased 27% following the game, second only to GoDaddy.)

Audi may have placed third, With "Luxury Prison" they subtly portray Mercedes as the choice of the dottering, the pretentious, and out-of-touch. Audi becomes the alternative: the choice of everyone who refuses to get old--a good description of our biggest demographic, the Baby Boomers. (To boost interest even more, Audi produced several teaser videos that attracted over 250,000 YouTube viewers three hours before kickoff.  And almost everyone loves the Kenny G versions.)

And as usual, Budweiser scored. It cleverly played on another American trend: the startling growth in the number of people who hate their jobs. (For four consecutive months, more Americans have quit their jobs than have been laid off.)

Their Bud Light ad online ad tapped into this phenomenon. After a company's workers learn that their company is offering a case of Bud Light as a severance package, everyone begins devising clever ways to get fired. (Following the trend to violence, Bud Light's workers include a fellow who tees up golf balls that knock out his fellow employees.)

What are the lessons of this year's commercials? I spotted six:

1. Young men still are into boobs.

2. Lots of us feel like hitting someone.

3. Especially preppies (aka: The Rich) of all ages.

4. Many of us don't like our jobs.

5. The car companies believe that t.v. advertising really works. Ten different car companies aired at least one spot this year.

6. The economy may be improving.  Advertisers bought all this year's ad slots weeks before Halloween last fall--more than three months earlier than last year.

P.S. Last week, my web developer insisted that I move my website to GoDaddy.com.