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February 06, 2006

Super Bowl XL: Advertising's Winners and Losers

By Charlene Li

Peter_kim  My colleague, Peter Kim, is an analyst at Forrester covering integrated marketing and word-of-mouth marketing. So it's very appropriate for him to offer up his take on the winners and losers of this year's Super "Advertising" Bowl. So heeeere's Peter!

Raising the question of the ROI of Super Bowl advertising brings you to a place squarely in the crossfire between the left-brain and right-brain halves of the marketing world.  Although no one releases sales results specifically attributed to their in-game ads, I believe that the most successful advertisers deliver spots as part of an integrated campaign.  With that in mind, here’s my take on the top three winners and losers from Super Bowl XL.

The winners - think about The Bus holding up the Lombardi trophy and retiring after winning the biggest game of his career in his hometown.

Champion:  Burger King – Whopperettes

This spot was the culmination of a month-long viral marketing campaign that started with the King and Brooke Burke on a beach, moving into an engagement, and ending with Burke as Burger Queen.  The natural progression would be for a Whopper Jr. ad to be next in the series.

1st runner up:  Dove - Self-Esteem

In v2 of their "Campaign For Real Beauty," Dove launched an emotional and empowering spot.  This next step is a great evolution with a tough-to-remember vanity URL but compelling call to action.  The spot was enhanced by its placement between violent ads for M:I:3 and a new ABC crime drama.

Honorable mention:  GoDaddy - Version 14

Another advertiser using pre-game viral tactics.  Although the controversy was nowhere near last year's censored spots, GoDaddy still achieved maximum exposure - for its domain name, featured prominently in a letterbox-style ad.

The losers - think missed opportunities, like Seattle's dropped passes and missed field goals.

Honorable mention:  The halftime show

At an event that is the pinnacle of pop culture, ABC chooses an act that is fading into irrelevancy and seemingly "safe."  And then edits them twice for potentially offensive lyrics.

1st runner up:  ESPN Mobile- Sports Heaven

Odd that an internet-based service wouldn't include a single URL.  Great special effects though.

The Biggest Loser:  Gillette - Fusion

This 60-second spot was heavy on details and product features and ripe for TV-to-Web integration.  Instead, P&G tried to pack an entire sales pitch and owner's manual into a commercial without a URL in the end cap to boot.

The toss-ups - like Tom Brady performing the coin toss, things that left viewers wondering.

Lost in translation:  Toyota hybrid ad deserves props for ethnic flavor but delivers confusing line about learning English for kid's future.  Borderline offensive.

Recycled creative:  Bud Light and Airtran [local] give nods to Terry Tate; Pizza Hut borrows flying food from Doritos 3D; McDonald's starts to position Ronald like the King.

Guerilla keyword buying:  During the game, keywords like "whopperettes," "dove," and "brown bubbly" were purchased by companies in totally different industries than the ones associated with the terms.  CPC prices for these terms were in the $0.01 - 0.04 range at the beginning of the game.  Hopefully these companies believe in search's ability to brand.

Bottom line:  Although there were some bright spots, overall there wasn't anything that people will be buzzing about for days and weeks to come.  Advertisers should take a look back at great ads for key lessons:  cultural relevance (Apple's "1984"), integration (Mitsubishi's "SeeWhatHappens"), and timing (Monster's "When I Grow Up").


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You're SO wrong about the Burger King spot. That was such a HORRIBLE spot. One of - if not the - worst spots in a continually horrible campaign. The King is creepy. And the Whopperettes made the burger look nasty! I WILL NOT be going to Burger King specifically because of this campaign.

Also, the Spanish-English comment in the Toyota Hybrid commercial was odd. But it gave me the impression that it was an immigrant Hispanic family in America, which made me like the message that learning English is important to your future if you choose to live in this country.


What planet are you on? The "word of mouth" for the Burger King Whopperettes commercial is "awful"


I can't believe that someone actually believes that the burger king commercial was good. It was a big turn off from eating at Burger King again. It's one of the worst ads I've ever seen, and I think any consumer that watched it would agree.

Stella Maris

Sincere question from an admiring lurker -- why is Campaignforrealbeauty.com hard to remember? I tend to think that longer names that make sense will be easier to remember than shorter ones that may be to distilled? Speaking of "real beauty" I still find godaddy's antics hard to take.


ESPN Mobile isn't internet-based. It's a mobile phone.

Dan Brown

The big looser that no one seems to be mentioning IMHO is Mobile ESPN. I just want to know what marketing genius felt it was a great idea to leave out the URL: http://mobileespn.com/ out of ALL their Superbowl ads? The one 30 second ad which ran at least twice and the 15 second ads which ran 3-4 times?

They must just want people to KNOW that they have a new sports related wireless products, but they really don't want to acually SELL any of these products to people watching the Superbowl.

This has to be one of the biggest marketing blunders in Superbowl ad history.

I really just don't get it?


Bill Hartzer

I personally thought that the Sharpie ad featuring the pirate was kind of cute.

Ivan Minic

Burger king rocked that night...

Random Reader

Forrester needs to fire Peter Kim if he analizes stuff for them like he did that BK commerercial and If he is your friend run now and find a new one cause this guy is a complete moron if he thinks the BK ad was the big winner.


Ok I have not fact checked !! (disclaimer)

"no one releases sales results specifically attributed to their in-game ads" - so true..

so lets take a look at another metrix !! how about Tivo analysis ??


Peter Kim

Just to clarify, my view on winners/losers comes from an integrated marketing perspective. BK and GoDaddy both had integrated campaigns with channel-specific creative. Dove had a clear call to action that involved their website - using dove.com could have build additional brand equity. In general, everyone could have done much more; pasting a URL into the last 2 seconds of a commercial isn't integration.

BTW re: creative, my favorite was ABC's Robert Palmer "Lost" spot; Bud Light's "Magic Fridge" made me laugh; Dove's emotion was good change of pace.

Great comments! I think the discussion reflects another great SB advertising issue. The audience is incredibly diverse...while exposure might reach 90.7 million viewers, with how many can a brand realistically connect? Are companies better off spending $2.5 million on more relevant, targeted media?


Peter - you finally say something that makes sense:

"The audience is incredibly diverse...while exposure might reach 90.7 million viewers, with how many can a brand realistically connect? Are companies better off spending $2.5 million on more relevant, targeted media?"

Duh! Absolutely! I can't believe so many companies waste so much money on Super Bowl spending! Frito-Lay, a former perrenial SB ad monger, seems to have learned this lesson judging by their absence. And even with "Brown abd Bubbly", Pepsico seems to have scaled back to a reasonable level - use the SB stage to launch some buzz and then build from there.

EVERYONE seems to agree that Apple's Mac ad is THE best SB ad in history. But everyone also seems to forget that they ran that amazing spot ONCE. That's it. Never again. With it, they launched the buzz, amassed an amazingly brand loyal sub-culture and built from there (with some unfortunate marketing fumbles along the way).

How Bud can justify $25 million on SB ads is beyond me. If it takes your creative 10 or so very different ads to build your brand, you need some new creative!

But even grading on the curve of Integrated campaings, you're way off on BK. That was just horrible. I'll raise $2.5 million for an ad showing the King getting the snot knocked out of him - sending him into the next millenium - by Terrible Terry Tate if Reebok and BK would produce it!


The Burger King spot was horrible. I didn't think the viral was effective since it did not get very far. Also, girls dressing up as vegetables getting tossed around???

The Dove spot was not better. The Asian girl wishing she was blond???? It gives the message that blonds are superior over brunettes. Where is the self esteem message?


Heard the director of marketing at ESPN was canned because of the superbowl ad. True or False?

Andy Woolard

I understand your rankings via integrated campaigns - totally agree. However, I don't know that any of us can, any longer, associate ROI with Burger King ads. The Campaign for Real Beauty was the winner. Not only is Dove experiencing ROI, but the brand is experiencing positive Repuational Return on its cause-marketing investment.

Randall Wilson

Regardless of the rating of the commercial, I found most of them entertaining. It was also one of the more memorable Super Bowls in recent memory.



The key, as Peter notes in his most recent report, is that marketers want (need?) more comprehensive, integrated applications to boost marketing effectiveness. Whether it be TV, print, or online, marketers need to adopt better ways to bridge channels. One way to link offline and online is through the use of call tracking and click to call. Through integrated media campaigns, companies like Jenny Craig and Verizon are using these technologies to extend their brands and track marketing ROI from any offline or online medium.


The Burger King "King" ads quickly became boring and the "Whopperettes" ad left everyone at our superbowl party scratching their heads. After weeks of these ads I decided to E-mail BK to let them know their ad agency was taking them for a ride. BK doesn't accept E-mail communications. I figure if I quit eating burger king, maybe they'll go away!

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