Ads for beer and soft drinks have long been Super Bowl stalwarts, but this year it was Tide that really cleaned up.
The clothing detergent’s light-hearted commercial showed a man dripping salsa on his San Francisco 49ers jersey, only to find the stain it leaves is a dead ringer for former Niners quarterback Joe Montana. Fans flock to see the idol, but the celebration is derailed by his Baltimore Ravens fan wife, who zaps the apparition away with Tide.
Reviewers from both Michigan State University and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University chose the 60-second advertisement as their favorite of the night.
Expectations are always high for Super Bowl ads — the priciest and most coveted spots of the year — and advertisers didn’t disappoint.
In addition to popular ads featuring the E-Trade baby and the Budweiser Clydesdales, there were several hits from automakers. Two of the longest — and most talked about — ads belonged to Chrysler.
The first was a halftime Jeep ad titled “Whole Again” that had Oprah Winfrey talking over scenes of U.S. servicemen and women and their waiting families. Chrysler Group said it was meant to encourage Americans to embrace and support returning troops. As has been Chrysler’s strategy the last couple of years, the message overshadows any individual vehicles, though the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee are featured.
Derek Rucker, an associate professor of marketing at Northwestern, said the emotional message connected well with the audience. And while tying troops to a brand can be difficult, it works for Jeep.
“You could imagine a host of other car brands that would have a lot more trouble fitting into it. There was a fine line you walk there when you use the scenes they were showing, but the brand walked that line perfectly,” he said.
Northwestern gave it an A grade, ranking it fifth. The USA Today’s AdMeter also had the Jeep spot at No. 5. Michigan State doesn’t rank ads that show during halftime.
A second two-minute Chrysler Group LLC commercial for the Ram truck brand showed a series of still photographs of farm life overlaid by the late Paul Harvey reciting his “So God Made a Farmer.”
Robert Kolt, an advertising instructor at Michigan State, said it was a good ad, though it was very serious.
“I don’t know if a lot of people were ready for that ad,” Mr. Kolt said. “Chrysler ads in the last couple years have been really poetic and serious, and successful. For their target market, it will certainly sell some trucks.”
The Ram ad was ninth in Michigan State’s rankings. It might have been higher, Mr. Kolt said, had it been clear more quickly what the ad was selling. It goes on 23 seconds before the first spotting of a Ram truck, and even longer before it’s clear that’s the product being pitched.
Denny Amrhein, managing partner at Grogan’s Towne Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Toledo, came away pleased — even though both ads took some time to get to the vehicles.
“It keeps you so involved in watching because it was so powerful, and then when it ends it comes out with the Jeep Wrangler and the same with the truck,” he said. “To me, that was very, very powerful.”
A handful of German automakers also put on a strong showing. Audi had a hit with its prom ad, where a teenager borrows dad’s Audi, giving him the confidence to steal a kiss from the prom queen. Volkswagen continued a strong run with an upbeat and humorous spot featuring a Jamaican-sounding officemate from Minnesota. Mercedes used its time to introduce an upcoming model.
Jason Perry, general manager at Vin Devers Autohaus of Sylvania, praised the work Audi and Mercedes did.
“There’s no grander scale than the Super Bowl,” he said. “If you’re going to make some noise there’s no better place to do it than right there, and the [Mercedes] CLA is going to make a lot of noise. It’s going to have a dynamic look and a very appealing price.”
The commercial showed a man weighing a glamorous but costly deal with the devil to get a CLA, but quickly changing his mind when he sees he could buy one for less than $30,000.
Reception to ads from Hyundai and Kia was mixed, though AdMeter participants liked a Kia spot that suggested babies come from space and a Hyundai ad about a kid who rounds up a team of child metalworkers, bear wrestlers, and weightlifters after getting pushed away from a pickup football game.
A big miss was from GoDaddy.com, which Mr. Kolt said was surprisingly bad.
“I think the supermodel kissing the geek was a cute idea, and was interesting for a second, but it went on and on and you thought that was never going to end,” he said. “It actually was kind of creepy.”
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: email@example.com or 419-724-6134.