Gini Dietrich

The Pros and Cons of the Best Super Bowl Ads

By: Gini Dietrich | February 9, 2016 | 

Best Super Bowl AdsBy Gini Dietrich

Let’s talk about the Super Bowl ads, shall we?

I really loved Steve Randazzo’s blog post here yesterday about the same topic. In it, he describes how much money a company spends to have a 30 second spot air during the big game.

It is $6 million.

Six. Million. Dollars.

But (and I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise), what I liked most is his assessment of how not a single company has ever made that money back in sales.

And yet…here we are in 2016 using that as the gold standard for advertising.

Sure, you get millions of eyeballs and you have bloggers like me and like Steve writing about them.

But that does not increase sales.

Favorite Super Bowl Ads

So let’s talk about the three best Super Bowl ads and the pros and cons of each.

My favorite was the Turbo Tax commercial with Anthony Hopkins where he talks about never being a sellout to a brand.

…While holding a coffee cup with the Turbo Tax logo and calling to his dog named Turbo Tax.

I loved that it played to the criticism marketers have (myself included) about brands not being authentic or using celebrities just to boost their image.

That said, I know Anthony Hopkins does not use Turbo Tax so there still is some work to do (why not find an up-and-coming celebrity who does use it?), but it was an entertaining Super Bowl ad.

Helen Mirren does a Super Bowl ad for Budweiser about drunk driving.

She says, “If you drive drunk, you are a short-sighted, utterly useless, oxygen-wasting human form of pollution. A Darwin-award deserving selfish coward.”

And somehow you feel more chastised than if it were your mom saying it.

You can almost believe she is supporting MADD, but then realize it’s a Budweiser commercial and it isn’t quite the same.

While an entertaining ad—and certainly very powerful—it’s not going to sell more beer.

Now, if their goal is to raise awareness and get people to designate a driver, I can see it working.

You do feel guilty when you hear Helen’s voice in your head telling you not to drive drunk.

From what I understand, Doritos (as in years past) crowdsourced their Super Bowl ad this year and it was H-I-larious.

I’ll admit to giggling out loud the first time I saw it, while Mr. D. looked at me like I was crazy.

I mean, a baby in the womb trying to get the chip? Very funny! It went a little over the edge toward the end, but the picture of it in the ultrasound was funny.

The downside of this ad is I imagine their target audience is 12-25 year old boys and, I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly certain none of them are really excited about being in the doctor’s office while their wife/girlfriend gets an ultrasound.

Closing in on 10 million views later, it did go viral and it has been around the globe, but you have to sell A LOT of bags of chips to make up for the Super Bowl spend.

If only 10 million people went out and bought a bag of Doritos. Not going to happen over here.

The Result

The net result is we are still doing things—with celebrities or crowdsourcing—for the wrong reasons.

In the cases of Turbo Tax and Budweiser, it’s not believable that those celebrities use those products. In the case of Doritos, they simply were trying to go viral (and viral they did go).

But, if all it does is get us to talk about and share the Super Bowl ads, they’re still not doing it right.

Imagine, instead, if you spent $6 million on the right influencer campaign with the people who truly used—and believed in your product—and you made $12 million from that work.

Sure, it’s a lot harder work and it takes a lot longer to produce a campaign like that than a 30 second Super Bowl ad, but think of the long-lasting effect…and all that extra money on the P&L sheet.

I’ll even give you that if I had the chance to hire Robert Downey, Jr. for a Super Bowl ad, it would be really, really hard for me to turn down.

But if it meant making my organization money instead of spending $6 million to meet him, I’d cry myself to sleep, but I’d make the hard decision.

What were your favorite Super Bowl ads? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • In Canada we don’t get to see your Superbowl ads. We get our own, less impressive ones. I’m not sure that our culture suffers as a result.

    Your point about ROI is a good one though. And these ads can be life changing for brands if done well. Remember The Old Spice Guy? That ad pushed the brand to No. 1 in a new, younger demographic. It was deffo worth the investment for that brand.

    • Martin and I talked about Canada not getting all of the ads, which is total baloney. Though he said he did see some of my favorites so maybe you don’t get the bad ones.

  • Hanna Knowles

    Now I am not going to claim this advertisement as my favorite, but I do think Budweiser took an interesting approach with its #NotBackingDown spot ( There are no celebs (beyond the Clydesdales) and its approach is a stark contrast to previous years. No tear-jerking puppy emotional appeals. Compared to Budweiser’s 9/11 tribute ( full of American pride and symbolism, the #NotBackingDown commercial seems to cheapen the American lifestyle. This year’s version is full of rapid shots of people producing and consuming beer in mass quantities. The words “not sipped” flash on the screen, directly contradicting the Helen Mirren ad. Even though I missed the cute puppies, the #NotBackingDown approach will likely have audiences reaching for another Bud versus a box of tissues.

    Side note, I love how the Budweiser commercials celebrate American pride but if you know the backstory they were acquired by Belgium based InBev.

    • That was a direct slap in the face to the hipsters! No fruit in the beer!

  • I really enjoyed the Steve Harvey one for T-Mobile. I’ve always admired how they are able to come up with a good commercial based on something that happened in pop culture relatively recently.

    • Poor Steve Harvey! LOL! At least he’s being a good sport about it.

    • Steve Harvey was a good one…as well as Anthony Hopkins and the Shocktop commercial with TJ Miller.

  • I only watch the half-time show – don’t hate me – but the only ad I heard about during the show that’s getting the most replay in my social graph is the end of The Good Wife. Boo!

    As much as I adore anything with Dame Helen and Sir Anthony, the Doritos ad was by far the most entertaining of your three pics. Here’s my favourite:

    • howiegoldfarb

      I actually hated the snickers ad. And the reason was they started this with Betty White a few years back and it is just an old tired series to me.

      • Eden

        Goes to show how many Super Bowl ads us Canucks don’t see.

  • howiegoldfarb

    Last year had the worst ads in general since well since Caesar held the first Supper Bowl at the Coliseum. And this year’s was way worst than last years.

    I agree with this post. The best ad to me was SoFi because it was boring and told you exact what they do and I had never heard of them before.

    I wonder what will happen to ad prices if people stop watching the ads. I also have to go through some but one from Hyundai was so bad they actual caused Brand-Damage.

    So much about this event changes if the ads suck. the chicks leave, and the men tune out. Repercussions galore.

    • I totally missed there was a SoFi ad! I have to make sure a client saw that.

  • I thought the majority of the Super Bowl ads were inferior attempts at humour and pathos. Given the amount of money involved that makes them particularly bad. These companies would have been much better off by showing a 30-60-90 second card that read, “Instead of paying $5million to CBS for this ad, we’ve donated the money to a youth mentoring charity.” I also saw the ads that were on Canadian TV during the Super Bowl. Lo and behold, some of them (like the Coke ad) were superior to any of the US ads.

  • Desiree Dahlson

    I appreciate this new perspective on Super Bowl commercials – a perspective I have never thought of. I’m not really one for NFL, but I won’t deny I love watching the Super Bowl, though not for the football, for the commercials. They’re incredibly entertaining, but it’s astounding that companies spend $6 million and that money rarely profits them. I like your call to action to spend that huge amount of money for a more effective, campaigned aimed at loyal customers to actually make a profit. Though I doubt the companies that spend $6 million on Super Bowl ads are going to stop any time soon, it’s definitely great food for thought.

  • Megan

    Hey Gini!

    I also loved the Doritos Ad. They have always been the best ads by far, in my opinion. However, I did have an ultimate favorite this year. Mine was the Tmobile “Hotline Bling” ad with Drake.

    Like all the others, the cons to this is not everyone is going to switch to T-mobile after this ad airs. And I find it extremely sad that many companies don’t earn that money back in sales.

    However, I think the pros to this commercial was the comedy. T-mobile’s target audience was of course, my age group (18-25.) We probably got the ad more than the older generation. I think they did a great job appealing to their target audience, and comedy is always a good strategy as well.

    • But…you said it. You’re not necessarily going to switch because of it.

  • Hunter

    I agree with you on the Doritos commercial. It is a little over the top, but it is also rememberable. I feel like having a lasting impact on the audience is a very important thing in ads like this. This will be a commercial I will not forget in a long time!