Maybe it's time to stop thinking about the SuperBowl as a showcase for great advertising. This year's line-up was notable for being rather lame. Though the ads were better than the channel-change inducing halftime show. (Note to AdRants, Bob Garfield was right.)
This year featured the usual line-up of B-List celebrities, silly jokes, over-the-top performances, mildly offensive spots, and a few ideas that were better left out of the show all together (the Emerald Nuts ad was just plain stupid). Having said that, there were a few ads that worked, though they probably won't be remembered long after next week.
The DisneyWorld spots (featured before and after the game) were right on strategy. Showing football players practicing how they would say "I'm going to DisneyWorld" after winning the game. Mildly amusing, they effectively tied Disney's brand story of dreams and magic to the "reward" of winning the big game.
The best spot of the night was Budweiser's Clydesdale ad featuring the young Clydesdale trying out the harness and wagon. It was emotionally appealing and continued a long-running storyline.
Also decent was the Mobile ESPN spot, showing a sports fan surrounded by sports while he watches ESPN on his mobile phone (though this was reminiscent of XM radio's launch ads). The spot showed a clear product benefit in an amusing way.
Honorable mention to CareerBuilder for demonstrating a need that their product solves. I have a few former co-workers who are rushing to post their resumes even as we speak. A second honorable mention to American Home Health for their ad showing there's a safer way to kill bacteria and avoid getting sick than wearing a haz-mat suit. Not great, but at least it's about the product.
Overall, the creatives who came up with the rest of the SuperBowl ads proved the point made by Rosser Reeves when he defined the problem with modern advertising:
"1.) Advertising (not the product) must compete with a tremendous number of other advertising messages.
2.) Therefore, the advertisement (not the product) must get attention.
3.) Therefore, a given advertisement (not the product) must be different.
Such reasoning bypasses the product and, when it does, it bypasses the advertising function. It is a classical example of confusing the means with the ends, for if a product is worth paying money for, it is worth paying attention to."
SuperBowl Ads are generally produced as entertainment, so I have my doubts about whether or not they actually sell the products they feature. One thing can be said for them: they sure beat watching a bunch of 60-year-olds skip around on stage during the half-time show.