Best Super Bowl Commercials 2011 Go Back to the Basics

best superbowl commercials 2011The 2011 Super Bowl is in the books and the Green Bay Packers have won their 4th Championship in franchise history. Congratulations to the players, coaches, fans and city of Green Bay. The other game, The Super Commercials, was played out on television. The Super Bowl commercials have been the academy awards of commercials as the exposure from being deemed the best Super Bowl commercial is highly coveted. This year is no different and a lot was at stake as for returning brands like Pepsi, newcomers like Best Buy and the auto industry as a whole which dominated the field.

The success as well as the failure of a commercial is shared by the brand, the agency as well as the supporters of the brand. The pressure for a brand to perform at the Super Bowl is immense but a risk worth taking as the media exposure is worth upwards of 10x of the cost of the spot. The major news stations coverage, the cable news coverage, newspapers, magazines, radio, blogs, Twitter, Facebook … it is everywhere for people to see, hear, share and comment.

Best Super Bowl Commercials of 2011 – Back to the Basics

The best commercials of all time have certain themes in common. Humor, lifestyle, wow/shock factor, celebrity appearance, animals and kids. This year was no different but the commercials that performed best had a very common theme: lifestyle and WIIFM. The audience was able to relate to the spots by feeling and connecting emotionally. The best commercials did not have a wow factor where we gasped or roared, no, the best spots were ones that we walked away from thinking. We took a piece of it away with us through seeing a bit of us or remembering a time in our lives. They captured the lifestyle of the audience and answered the WIIFM. The brand was not the focus, we, the audience was. This is the basics of advertising and what defines what advertising has been built on. The customer.

Auto Bowl

The automotive industry dominated the advertisers. It was auto spot after auto spot after auto spot. The ones that focused on the car itself, were nothing different than what we see every other day of the week. Imagine spending $3M for a spot that shows the car driving down a deserted road, performing well in the snow, or crashing (because we all think of crashing each time we drive) that has no impact upon the audience. A dud. How can you create a spot that misses the mark? Was this the safe route, as, well, these spots run all year long and cars are sold. Why deviate? Well, the winners of the Auto Bowl are clearly Chrysler with “Imported from Detroit” and Volkswagon Passat with “The Force” which did not focus on the car.

Imported from Detroit

This spot was the most powerful and compelling. The copy writing was spectacular as there are so many lines from this spot that make you think. Two minutes of a city that has struggled but yet is trying to conquer through resilience. Detroit was the automobile manufacturing capital of the United States.The city thrived and employed hundreds of thousands throughout the years. My grandfather was a proud member of the automobile manufacturing family in Detroit prior to being relocated to New Jersey. The spot tells a story of a city and while we see quick segments of the car, the focus is on the city, the people and as they say “… when it comes to luxury, it is as much as where it is from and who it is for …”

The Force

Volkswagon has proven that the force is still within us. This spot had us cheering for this little guy to finally get something to feel his inner force and do something. We saw ourselves, we saw our children, we saw and felt. How many of us wish the washing machine and dryer would do the wash itself, the treadmill would run all day and we would reap the benefits? The looking around when he actually had that force was magical as we have all been there. I did it, I did it! Did I really? Did someone do it for me? It is just so heartwarming and brings out that force within us all.

Crash the Super Bowl

Doritos certainly did not disappoint with Crash the Super Bowl contest where once again the audience flexed their creative juices. The one spot that stood above the rest poked fun at something we all do. We lick our fingers. Generally our own but in this spot humor was incorporated making us fearful of ever eating Doritos at the office. It was one habit that we could relate to through tipping the bag to get every last crumb, the wiping of the orange remnants on our pants and leaving the best part to savor which is on our fingers. We generally enjoy this part ourselves but the incorporation of humor of someone licking our fingers could have backfired but we were not focused on that, we were focused on our own behavior as come on, we all lick our fingers.

Nostalgic NFL Fans American Family

I loved this spot but not a fan of the name. American Family, um they an insurance company that has an established brand. NFL Fans was a better name as it tells the story of the fans of the NFL. The spot says itself says it best almost at the end with  “Best.Fans.Ever.” The branding of the NFL is through the individual teams. Millions come together each week to bleed and cry the colors of their team. They may win or may lose but they are always there. The loyalty to the NFL brand through a team is unreal. I am one of them and while my insane alliance is to my team, I still love the game. Super Bowl is hard as I love advertising and marketing but yet bringing sports and advertising together is not easy. This spot was very nostalgic with a wealth of creativity. We saw old friends though 90210, Sopranos, Friends, Golden Girls, Sesame Street, Alf, Happy Days, South Park and some newer friends in How I Met Your Mother. The flow of the commercial made us remember the shows we watched and were reminded of the cities they were in through the association through the teams. Yes, I am very proud to have seen all the JETS supporters.

These spots have made an impact though giving us something. The something is through the basics of knowing the audience and how they support the brand. Will people run and buy a Passat from the commercial? Probably not but they will remember it and if they are looking for a new car, they may consider it. Will drones of people move to Detroit? No, but they may have a new renowned love for their city and take more of a proactive role to make it better.

The failures of the Super Bowl were great and the tarnishing of the brand image is yet to be seen. Best Buy as a newcomer did quite well through showing us the challenges of the older vs the newer and not knowing the new technology. The Ozzy to Beiber is similar to Aerosmith to Run DMC of bridging the gap through bringing generations young and old together. Going back to the basics.

In the end overall the game was better than the commercials but isn’t that what the Super Bowl is all about?

photo credit: Michael Oh

  • Since I wasn’t there to actually watch the ads, I am gonna hijack this comments thread to talk about the superbowl itself. Rather one thing that really hit me.
    I was lucky to zap through channels and notice one italian television (La7) airing it, and, wow a full concert between half times? 40 years waiting list to have subscription to follow the team’s games? And it can be given from father to children… like, wow.
    They often compare american football to italian soccer, for fandom-purposes, but I think you american are like, 100 light years ahead in terms of fanatism. That’s not a bad way mind you, it just fascinated me.

    Ok maybe I have a little comment about the ads, at least I saw it mentioned on TechCrunch: the Motorola Xoom ad, mocking Apple. That was a good one, made me smile, curious how things can change in 27 years.

    • Yes the super bowl is the most watched sporting event of each year here in the US. Season tickets do have waiting lists of 40 years. My beloved JETS are one of them. When your team is not doing so well, you can get tickets for every game at a reasonable price however when your team is winning, the tickets are really expensive and harder to come by.

      The commercials are the other game that is played and those are seen all over the world. There were some excellent ads but there were more disappointments and train wrecks than good ones.

  • Lew

    Re: Doritos. Sorry, watching one guy lick another guy’s fingers was gross.

    • Lew

      So far you are the first one that has said that to me. Interesting.

    • Jon

      Doritos commercial was one big FAIL.

      Very creepy.

      • I did not see it as creepy but then again I did not look at it from the aspect of someone else licking fingers. I saw it how we all lick our fingers after eating them. The creepiness could have prevented them from taking the top spot as most men were creeped out but then again, it was 2 guys. If it was a woman maybe would have been different.

        • Jon

          Uh yeah….and when your advertising during the bowl is pretty much geared 100% towards your average AMERICAN male (who would not lick his buddy’s finger to save a life) it kind of raises the question of what their Marketing team (not to mention the CEO) was smoking weeks prior to the release of the ad…

          • Jon

            Many women watch football and the Superbowl is watched by both. This was an amateur/contest commercial so the folks at doritos did not have anything to do with the production.

          • Jon

            Jesus couldn’t they have asked someone who took at least one marketing class in college then?

            I’m sure I would have rejected it at the storyboard phase either way lol.

  • Super Bowl Ad

    Many people watch super bowl commercials and they don’t even know that they part of the contributing bulk of viewers all over the world that make super bowl commercials probably one of the most popularly watched commercials as counted cumulatively through all forms of media. Of course, this probably has no real statistics to back this claim up yet but nobody really knows. In any case the super bowl is probably one of the most advertised of its kind, which is already a lot because it means that the people who are working to advertise the events, establishments as well as products are definitely earning a lot of money out of it.