The Big Game: A Tale of Underwhelming QBs and Ad Spots


By Shalee Hanson, Marketing  & Business Development Coordinator, PadillaCRT                

Super Bowl 50, a tale of two defenses. If you weren’t watching to see Peyton Manning’s last rodeo, or Cam Newton’s dance moves, and you weren’t a fan of either team, you were likely there to watch what we refer to in the communications industry as the Ad Bowl. This is the night when more than 100 million consumers are glued to the TV, brands blow their marketing budgets sky high (spending more than $5 million dollars for a 30-second spot) and we all watch to see what they’ve come up with. So how did they do? We turned to our resident brand and creative experts to get their take on who had the strongest Super Bowl ad game of 2016.


Kelly O’Keefe
Chief Creative Strategy Officer

Rooting for: Broncos
Currently snacking on: Homemade chili and fresh fruit.
Office location: Richmond

Q. What brand did you think would have the strongest Super Bowl ad game?

A. I was expecting a lot from Budweiser and Chrysler’s Jeep brand. Both have dominated past years, but this year neither brought their A game.

Q. Which brand actually did?

A. There were several strong spots. But Audi, brought together touching sentiment with a soundtrack by David Bowie to remind us that humor isn’t the only emotion that gets our attention . A beautifully told story.

Honorable mention goes to: Bud Light, Axe, and Mountain Dew

Q. Which brand missed the mark? What made it fall short?

A. The unholy trio of OIC’s constipation ad, Xifaxan diarrhea ad and Jublia toenail fungus ad. There was a time when advertisers thought ads like these didn’t belong on the Super Bowl. We should return to those times. Immediately!

Q. Which brand surprised you the most? How did they surprise you?

A. A smart ad on the subject of abuse by NO MORE proved that the Super Bowl is a good place to talk about abuse. It slowed us down and made us pay attention. In the midst of big productions and slapstick humor, the quiet poignancy of this ad really stood out.

Q. Lastly, what was your overall impression of this year’s ads?

A. For advertisers (and quarterbacks) it was the most mature Super Bowl yet. For the first time ever, there was not a single scantily clad underwear model or an ad overtly objectifying women. Even Unilever’s bad boy brand, Axe, looked more grown up, and ads for pharmaceuticals proved that the audience is graying a bit.

The old “boobs, beer and bros” culture of Super Bowl advertising is officially over, but there were still a lot more misses than hits.


Christian Markow
Senior Vice President      

Rooting for: Panthers.
Currently snacking on: Homemade chicken wings and guacamole.
Office location: Richmond

Q. What brand did you think would have the strongest Super Bowl ad game?

A. I’m generally not a fan of Super Bowl ads as a brand building activity unless they do something that really raises their brand above the noise. Evaluating ads based on their potential to a) invite consumers into the brand’s overall experience, and b) actually result in generating revenue or activity for the brand is what I’ll keep in mind. I’m going to guess that the Deathwish Coffee ad from Intuit is going to lead to some serious sales for the small coffee company. If Taco Bell is presenting a new product, I think it could do well too. But for pure pleasure, I am hoping Mountain Dew Kickstart will kill it with something weird.

Q. Which brand actually did?

A. I thought Mountain Dew Kickstart had a great ad with Puppymonkeybaby. It was funny – at least to my son and I. It was memorable. We were all chanting “puppymonkeybaby” as soon as it ended. And it got across its functional offer which I still remember: Dew. Juice. Caffeine. I am pretty positive my son is going to want one the next time we’re at the store.

Honorable mention goes to: Mini Cooper and Colgate

Q. Which brand missed the mark? What made it fall short?

A. I thought the Michelob Ultra ad was super lame. A bunch of people working out and breathing hard… then the pop of a beer bottle top, and a promise of 50 cal (I think). I’m not even sure the position lands the mark. I have to believe that they’ve done their customer research, but the athletic types I know who drink beer also want that drink to be rewarding. And they ain’t looking to an Ultra as their big treat. Who knows? I could be wrong. Either way, the ad was still pretty boring.

Q. Which brand surprised you the most? How did they surprise you?

A. A regional ad by Michael & Sons Plumbing and Heating. They have a horribly painful, and because of that, a memorable jingle tagline. What made it forever imprinted in my head was that they somehow were able to sign Mike Tyson to both act in the ad and sing the jingle for them at the end of the commercial. It was dumbfounding. But I am positive it’s going to keep their brand top of mind for potential customers. It was a clever spot for what it wanted to accomplish. They communicated their brand promise in a way that you’ll never forget.

Q. Lastly, what was your overall impression of this year’s ads?

A. Nothing really stood out as innovative. There was the usual mix of humor, heartstrings and love of country.But I hope every year, that one company will do something really different to solidify its brand personality and promise and consequently win over customers.


Heath Rudduck
Chief Creative Officer      

Rooting for: Denver
Currently snacking on: Certified Organic Black Angus Beef burger – Aussie style with “The Lot” (fried egg, tomato, lettuce & beets).
Office location: Minneapolis

Q. What brand did you think would have the strongest Super Bowl ad game?

A. I remember catching up with an old partner of mine, congratulating him on his recent Nike World Cup campaign. He was, as always, appreciative and humble, but then shared, “it bloody-well better be incredible; we dropped tens of millions on it.” Throwing money at problems doesn’t guarantee great outcomes , and for me, the Super Bowl ad-fest is a testament to this. We’re going to see reams of stats on tweets and views but I’m always desperate to know which ads truly moved the needle for their intended audience.

Q. Which brand actually did?

A. Mountain Dew’s Puppymonkeybaby. It was simple, absurd, funny and bang on target. It’s made great social media noise and it was the first thing I overheard (by a group of 30-somethings) at La Guardia today.

Honorable mention goes to: Doritos and Mini Cooper

Q. Which brand missed the mark? What made it fall short?

A. The beer ads were a wreck. It’s either a shocking indictment on the brands or the audience.

  • Forgettable – Anything Honda, Pepsi, Buick, Go Pro.
  • DisappointedAmazon.  All that money. All that potential. Great product. Flop.  I also wanted the Pantene Dad-Do spot to be so much better!  Such a nice idea that seemed to fall apart execution wise. Maybe it’s having a daughter of my own that’s growing up that made it resonate for me though.
  • Dream On  Skittles. It missed completely.

Q. Which brand surprised you the most? How did they surprise you?

A. I have to say that I was really thrilled to see Budweiser take a drunk-driving stance with Helen Mirren. More of this, please! It surprised me because I am astounded at the high level of drunk driving that takes place in the world, and it’s high time big brands, as well as individuals, start to make much more noise about drinking and getting behind the wheel of one of the deadliest weapons in the U.S.

Q. Lastly, what was your overall impression of this year’s ads?

A. For the most part, it felt same-same, but different. I was more excited in general by the halftime entertainment. What a show. But – I was really happy to see a lot more humor and lightheartedness. Overall, while I’d love to produce a Super Bowl ad, I often wonder what the return is for the brands that buy in. The costs are absurd and I feel the real winners are the ones creating campaigns that work harder through social media  channels and set themselves up for continued engagement and discussion. Most seemed to be pretty traditional push messages.

 Shalee Hanson serves as the marketing and business development coordinator in PadillaCRT’s Minneapolis office. She manages the PadillaCRT brand across multiple social media platforms and works with practice group leaders across the agency to execute prospecting initiatives year round. Shalee graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, and entered the professional world with a variety of experience in consumer, B2B, health, and the food and beverage industries. When she’s not working, Shalee enjoys trying new things. From foods to hobbies Shalee tries to live life with a “try everything once, twice for good measure” mindset and she is always ready for a new adventure.

Article originally appeared here.

Leave a Comment