If we had to pick one winner from last night's game it would have to be the Saints, of course. But who won when it came to the $175 million ad game? With 62 Super Bowl spots valued at about $2.8 million each (and that's just for the media buy), here are the five other winners and losers when it came to getting their advertising dollars' worth...or not.
- Google. This ridiculously simple, heartwarming concept—part of Google's Search Stories—that chronicled a long-distance relationship through a series of search-field entries had Super Bowl parties going "awwwww" all across the country. This ad probably cost nothing to produce, and wasn't even exclusive to the Super Bowl (Eric Schmidt explains further here), yet the ad's visual impact was so effective it had already spawned a worthy parody that started to appear yesterday afternoon. Google wins big...and they don't even need to advertise.
- Snickers. Huge laughs echoed in every bar in America when octogenarian Betty White got tackled in the name of Snickers. The revitalizing effects of the candy bar were front and center in the spot and, really, how could you not giggle a little when you saw Abe Vigoda down on the muddy, muddy ground. Pushing old people has never been so funny!
- Doritos. A crowd-sourced mentality proved to be smart for the chips, with a handful of really funny ads named Crash the Super Bowl that were created by its fans. A win for Doritos. But what does this say about advertising when the fans are funnier than the big-time agencies?
- Letterman (and Leno). Does this signify a happy ending to the late night wars? The surprise entry, which was a reprise of this spot poking fun at Letterman's famous standoff with Oprah, had crowds asking each other, "Did you see that?" The New York Times has the story about how Letterman dreamed up the spot, and snuck a cooperative Leno into his studio to film it.
- Pepsi. No, you didn't see them advertise at last night's game, but you've likely been hearing plenty about their socially-conscious social media campaign Refresh Everything, which takes what would have been their Super Bowl budget and gives it away to worthy causes. Their $20 million gamble seems to have paid off, even if the creative origins of their ad campaign are murky.
- Audi. Plenty of pre-buzz swirled around their "Green Police" spots (well, mostly because people said the name was too close to a Nazi special-forces unit) but they turned out to be pretty funny ads for the A3 TDI commenting on our eco-mania. Too bad a lot of greenies out there were seriously offended by Audi's audacity to poke fun at their movement. Somebody call the Green Police!
- Boost Mobile. A fantastic concept—a remake of the Super Bowl Shuffle 25 years later—a great cast—most of the original Chicago Bears—and two star directors—Tim & Eric, of Awesome Show fame. The music video is highly entertaining when viewed in its entirety online but the production didn't play in 30-second cuts. Plus, no one could remember what the spot was even advertising.
- Focus on the Family. After all the over-reaction about CBS allowing an issue-oriented ad, these supposed anti-abortion spots featuring Tim Tebow and his mother were so puzzlingly non-message that it's almost like Focus on the Family didn't get its money's worth. The word "abortion" was never uttered, and the dialogue was so vague that anyone who didn't know the story behind the spot would have watched completely oblivious until the next Doritos spot.
- Vizio. The HDTV manufacturer spent a bucketload on the Super Bowl this year, with an expensive ad directed by Wally Pfister and featuring Beyoncé and Internet star David Goes to the Dentist, plus some snazzy overhead cam the sportscasters kept calling out by name, plus the pre-game show sponsorship to hype its Internet-enabled HDTV system. Did all that really make any difference?
- Budweiser. The fratty, unfunny ads from the beermaker were called out as misogynistic by more than one critic, and those Clydesdales have got to be about ready to go to horse heaven. This whole genre seemed tired and sad compared to other advertisers. Maybe next year Budweiser can follow Pepsi's lead and give away its budget? Please?