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2014 Super Bowl Advertising: Winners and Losers
It is no secret that the Super Bowl is the most watched live television event every year. The magnitude of the game, coupled with the tradition of gathering together with friends and family to witness all its glory, has made it so. In fact, it has become such a tradition in the United States that the NFL has had little trouble breaking its own viewership records on an annual basis. Such was true for this year, as well, but not in usual decisive fashion.
Given the rather unentertaining 43-8 demolition of the favored Denver Broncos, early reports suggested viewership was actually down by more than 10%.The figure turned out to be incorrect, and the final tally displayed 200,000 more viewers than that of Super Bowl XLVII. But this did not help the cause for advertisers that spent roughly $4 million on a 30-second commercial spot. In fact, from a viral viewing standpoint, few, if any, ads gained the supreme attention of the Super Bowl audience. Thus, we have made a list of our winners and losers for this year’s Super Bowl ad campaign, and surprising results would be an understatement.
Perhaps the only ad to draw post-game attention from any facet of the media was Coca-Cola’s “America the Beautiful” commercial, which featured the classic song delivered in a number of different languages by people from all over the world. Little did the company know that its message of brotherhood and patriotism would be run through the mud on twitter and other social media platforms, and would even be deemed a “disgrace” by some. Still, this ad did what no other could. And for a company whose logo is already the most recognizable emblem in the entire world, creating buzz is rarely a bad thing. The company will look to overcome a relatively lackluster 2013 by sticking with this ad campaign through the next few months, while simultaneously positioning itself for further refranchising of many of its bottling assets.
Soda Stream (SODA):
Sticking with the soft drink market, one of the biggest winners of the Super Bowl has to be Soda Stream. The beverage carbonation system manufacturer put forth a commercial displaying more than just its product’s simple method of use. A sultry Scarlett Johansson relays a message that appeals to soda lovers and health conscious consumers alike. The understanding that homemade carbonated products are healthier to produce than those purchased in stores, and that lesser use of bottles and other means of packaging is better for the environment, spoke to a demographic that the company has been trying to reach since its inception. Lest we also forget that the original ad was banned from live television, as it concludes with Ms. Johansson taking shots at both Coca-Cola and Pepsico Inc. (PEP). That said, for a company attempting to put its name on the map in the market of beverages produced in house, the ad reached a series of goals, and may have been partly responsible for about a $5 price advance in the following week.
Radio Shack (RSH):
Another big winner early in the year is RadioShack. The consumer electronics provider generated an ad that was not only funny, but empathetic. Simply titled “The Phone Call” RadioShack poked fun at a stigma the company has been trying to shake for years: that its stores are outdated and ill prepared to meet its customers’ needs. To the tune of a vintage Loverboy song, viewers were able to witness some of their favorite characters of the 1980s tear apart a RadioShack store to make way for the future. In fact, this commercial was immediately followed by a press release from RadioShack management stating that the company would be closing roughly 500 of its outlets across America, or almost 10% of its total. Subsequently, its share price received a boost. But this ad tells us a lot. It displays that RadioShack is well aware of its poor brand image. It also tells us that the company has no intention of folding quietly. This may be a stock worth monitoring over the long-haul as the early portion of its restructuring plan seems to be moving along well.
Pepsico Inc. (PEP):
People have begun to expect great things out of Pepsico over the past few years when February rolls around. Its commercials for corn chip brand Doritos have consistently made waves, and have opened the door for many of the brand’s newest products, including the Doritos Locos Taco offered at Taco Bell, a YUM! Brands (YUM) outlet. However, this year, we can’t help but feel that the company lost an opportunity to once again push a new offering. Indeed, its “Doritos Time Machine” and “Cowboy Kid” ads were humorous, and certainly fit the mold for Doritos’ unorthodox method of marketing its product. But with rumors swirling of new products in the works, including a Dorito crusted buffalo wing to be offered by Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD), which recently entered an agreement to sell Pepsi products, and a “Doritos Loaded” product in the midst of a test in the Washington D.C. area, we think Pepsico could have done better. Of course there are licensing and joint-venture agreements to consider. But the run-of-the-mill ads that the juggernaut created left us wanting, and likely accomplished little at a hefty price tag.
Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD):
For what it’s worth, Anheuser-Busch InBev is likely the winningest loser of them all. The company generated great buzz with its Bud Light ads leading up to the big game, prompting viewers to “see what’s next” and offering them a date at the bottom of the screen (February 2nd). What’s more, its “Puppy Love” ad for its signature Budweiser brand was largely successful. But as far as the ads for its Bud Light brand was concerned, we feel little was accomplished. The end result of the “Ian is up for whatever” ad was bewilderment. Many viewers felt it was relatively pointless. And at a $4 million dollar price tag, we question the goal for Bud Light. The bottom line is that BUD’s largest prospects for growth are not within the continental United States. And if any company was hurt by the lack of viewership growth, it was AB InBev.
The commercial for the 2014 Hyundai Elantra failed to make waves. Not only for the fact that it did not make any sense, but for the fact that it relayed such a fluffy message that it could hardly be expected to coerce consumers into purchasing the product. The ad entitled “Nice”, displayed "The Big Bang Theory" star Johnny Galecki attempting to complement a woman in the advertised vehicle, only to endure a series of passive-aggressive insults and face obstacles like an exploding road and an inexplicable giant ramp at the commercial’s conclusion. Over the course of the ad, the only comments relayed about the car are references to its fashionable design, ability to quickly accelerate, and its exceptional handling. These qualities, however, are old hat to say the least. The vehicles on the road today are expected to possess these attributes. Thus, once again, we note the ad’s inability to differentiate itself from its competitors, making this an ineffective ad.
Some might say that any level of viewership is good. However, at such an expensive price tag, we would expect that most of these companies would enter the Super Bowl season with a fool-proof ad campaign in place. That may not always be the case, but viewers will certainly look forward to excellent commercials during the big game for years to come.
At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have any positions in any of the companies mentioned.