SOURCE: Whitehorn Group

Whitehorn Group

February 03, 2014 11:11 ET

Super Bowl Commercials 2014 -- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Christopher Johnson, CEO of Branding Firm Whitehorn Group Shares His Opinion on Which Brands Scored or Missed

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - February 03, 2014) - Super Bowl commercials are among the most expensive in the world mainly because of the mass audience the game attracts. Millions of people in America and around the world tune in every year to watch the game and major brands invest heavily to get a spot on air. In fact, many people watch the games just for the commercials. Christopher Johnson, CEO of branding firm Whitehorn Group in New York says, "A number of brands have achieved a permanent place in American cultural history by creating iconic and memorable Super Bowl commercials that have stood the test of time, sometimes more than events from the game itself."

Johnson recalls, "Some of the most outstanding Super Bowl commercials over the years include Budweiser's 1995 frog commercial and McDonald's rock-a-bye baby ad from 1996." The Budweiser spot famously featured frogs that croaked out the beer company's name while the McDonald's ad focused a rocking baby facing a window, smiling each time the McDonald arches came into view and frowning when they disappeared. In both, few words were spoken -- using the power of the medium to full effect.

The Super Bowl 2014 ads came early this year, streaming into our consciousness online ahead of the game, warming the hearts of New York and New Jersey's residents in the middle of this year's freezing cold. Johnson says, "Among the early entries worth mentioning is Soda Stream's seductive ad featuring Scarlet Johansson." We didn't get to see it during the Super Bowl broadcast because FOX banned it -- not because of sexual innuendo or offensive content -- but because Scarlet mentions Coke and Pepsi at the end of the advertisement. Soda Stream CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, alleged that FOX banned the ad because it is afraid of Pepsi and Coke. This caused an advance video of the spot to go viral on the Internet, accruing more than 1.6 million views since its release on YouTube on Monday. Johnson explains, "Intentional or not, this is the beginning of a new multi-platform, multi-device advertising frontier for Super Bowl commercials."

The spots this year seemed to almost reflect the unbalanced moments from the game on the field. The broadcast alternated unpredictably between stellar and painful moments on field and off, so with all respect to the talented and deserving players from both the Seahawks and Broncos -- Johnson chooses to organize the standout commercials into, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly".

First, The Good

Budweiser did it again this year with another memorable broadcasted moment. The one-minute ad was designed to pull at our Nation's heartstrings, exploiting our love for puppies. In the ad, a golden retriever forms an unbreakable bond with one of the iconic Budweiser Clydesdale horses and leaves even the hardest teary eyed. According to Viral Video Chart, it is the most widely shared Super Bowl ad to date.

Dannon Oikos Full House Reunion ad featured three stars from the beloved 90's sitcom, Full House. It successfully attracted media attention before the big game by reuniting Uncle Jesse, Uncle Joey and Danny Tanner.

Toyota's Road trip with the Muppets and Terry Crews takes us on an adventure with the Muppets who humorously hijack Crews' Highlander along with him after their own truck breaks down. At the end of the ad the actor is so excited by the experience that he continues the adventure solo and shirtless in his own driveway.

The Bad

The Beats ad featuring Ellen DeGeneres was bound to fall flat from the start. It leaned much too hard on the celebrity's branding power without speaking to its intended audience. Johnson says, "Ellen is amazing in every way -- so she simply eclipses the brand. Too bad for Beats."

Sadly, the ad for Ford sounded like much like a broken record. Not even the star power of James Franco and Rob Riggle could save it from its lack of creativity. Johnson says, "this was a big miss for Ford, especially in an otherwise great year for the brand's revitalized business."

The exceedingly ambitious Axe spot offered a confusing and far too lofty premise on how a perfume could solve the world's problems. The attempt to connect the serious hope of world peace with Axe Body Spray missed the mark. Johnson suggests, "Just simple intimacy would have been just fine and easier to understand."

The Ugly

At first many thought the Maserati ad was for a sequel for the 2012 movie "The Beasts of the Southern Wild" not a car commercial. The ad features Quvenzhane Wallis of and taps into that movie's gloomy imagery of nature destroyed. However it fails to show how a movie that talks about society's outcasts is connected to a sports car that only the super rich can afford.

Chevrolet asked us to spend some time thinking about animal breeding in America. Not top of mind for most, so when I saw the Chevrolet ad, I thought it was for milk not a car. Johnson suggests, "Sexual innuendo is fine in commercials, and is sometimes highly effective like in this year's Dannon Oikos spot, but Chevrolet went too far afield, literally."

Heinz gave us their first Super Bowl ad in more than 16 years. While the message was appealing, it was a little unrealistic. For instance, it takes more than two pats to happily get the red sauce out of the bottle. In addition, flatulence humor is just not that funny anymore. Johnson offers, "Much better to have a rainbow appear instead which is original enough to be almost cute, thank you for that this year Volkswagen."

Johnson concludes, "I can't end this without mentioning Anna Kendrick's Super Bowl commercial for Newcastle Brown Ale." The ad came online before the games and features the actor having a monologue. Johnson says, "It was pure genius and I feel it ranks among the most hilarious Super Bowl ads this year. It also breaks ground for the frontier of social sharing and leveraging a celebrity's brand perfectly, which, as I said earlier is a highly effective combination when handled properly, and something we all can look forward to seeing much more of in the future."

About Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is CEO of branding firm Whitehorn Group. Mr. Johnson is a highly regarded authority on creating and managing celebrity and consumer brands, like Infiniti Motor Company and JetBlue Airways. He attended Carnegie Mellon University where he won the Tholenheimer Award and McCurdy Prize. He can be reached at (212) 537-9129, or on Twitter, @Chris4Whitehorn.

About Whitehorn Group

Whitehorn is a premier brand strategy firm. They create what's NEW and NEXT through global branding, design, product innovation, political and celebrity brands, business strategy, global marketing and distribution.

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