Opinion from a former ad man: Top 5 Super Bowl commercials

Top 5 Super Bowl Spots
Super Bowl advertising hit a new high this year. I’ve picked my five favorites, and I’ll bring you my opinions from the standpoint of a 40-year media veteran.

In the midst of radio announcing, producing and directing TV productions and writing articles and books, I spent 10 years creating image spots for public television. Most of them played upon viewers’ emotions — much like many of these Super Bowl commercials did.

The most important things I learned in my career in advertising: The trick to creating a successful ad was not only using high production values and coming up with new ideas, but clearly making the point and bringing home the sale. Do that by appealing to the emotions. Give them somebody to root for. Be subtle with humor, use it sparingly. Leave them wanting more; give them something to remember at the end.

I used those concepts to pick what I thought were the top five Super Bowl commercials this year.

5. Doritos “Time Machine”

Gullible guy gets hoodwinked by the cute kid, and it won my heart. This beautifully edited spot gets better if you watch it a second time. This ad wasn’t hilarious, but made me chuckle as it delivered its warm and fuzzy message. At the same time, I felt myself longing for that bag of Doritos the guy stuffed through the slot. It showed the product, caught my attention, and just worked.

4. 2015 Hyundai Genesis “Dad’s Sixth Sense”

“Remember when only dad could save the day?” The story is told in multiple perfectly-timed vignettes of Dad saving Junior from certain injury The payoff shows the heroic Hyundai Genesis saving itself from certain collision as its young driver is distracted by the girl next door. It’s a perfect demonstration of the product at hand. It sells it.

The Dude (Jeff Bridges for the uninitiated) drives the point home with his friendly, wise voiceover. What a great way to demonstrate the genesis of self-driving cars with one of its most useful driver assistance features, automatic braking. Sign me up.

3. Sonos: Face Off

Sonos goes with the soft sell in this arty spot that shows off its product with tasteful subtlety. I like the way music and light play together, contrasting classical music with hip-hop and ultimately mediated by an acoustic guitar track.

If you weren’t a fan of Sonos before you saw this spot, you’ll probably at least want to check it out afterward. By the way, no wonder Sonos products are so expensive — the company had about $4 million to blow on one spot. Never mind that. Sonos wins my vote for most beautiful ad in this year’s Super Bowl.

2. RadioShack: The Phone Call

If you lived in the ’80s, you’ll recognize the dozens of artifacts from that self-centered, disco-dancin’, status-seeking decade. Hulk Hogan, Norm from Cheers, the dancing raisins and even Chucky have all arrived to rip off all the ’80s junk, loading it into a DeLorean from Back to the Future. This “out with the old and in with the new” gag took me back, and it was an enjoyable ride.

But did it sell? There wasn’t a specific product RadioShack was pushing, but it certainly got across the message that the company is trying to keep up with the times. Mission accomplished.

1. 2015 Chrysler 200: Bob Dylan

At first you don’t realize it’s the legendary Bob Dylan speaking at the beginning of this masterpiece. We’re presented with a lovely montage of Americana, taking us down Route 66 along with a much younger Dylan.

It’s an ode to Detroit and our country, with the counterculture hero cheerleading for the good old US of A. In the midst of Dylan’s exhortations, we see editing that’s so smooth you don’t even know it’s happening.

Toward the end of the two minutes, Dylan delivers the money shots: “So let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Asia assemble your phone…” and then we see Dylan at a pool table admonishing us with a bow as if he’s the butler and our table is ready: “We … will build your car.” Boom.

Even though the Chrysler 200 is only mentioned with an end tag, this spot made me want to buy an American car. I loved it, and even though it’s the second “old man walking around talking” Super Bowl spot from GM (remember Clint Eastwood’s spot from 2012?), I thought it worked. Using evocative and folksy music shot with seriously emotional photography, it sold an image of hard-working Americans in the heartland, and urged viewers to support them. It was my favorite ad of the 2014 Super Bowl.

I know, my choices were different from many you’ve probably seen. The animal spots weren’t doing it for me, especially this year. But these were the ones I thought did their job the best, delivering the most value to the companies that paid millions for them. So tell me, dear readers, which was your favorite?

One thought on “Opinion from a former ad man: Top 5 Super Bowl commercials

  1. Hi Charlie,

    Agree with your choice #1 & #4. How did you like Newcastle’s sarcastic campaign ifwemadeit.com?

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