Super Connections In The Big Game

This year, I did something different when it came to watching the Super Bowl. Instead of just ordering the buffalo wings and chilling some beverages (I did this too), I prepared to watch the game with my laptop handy. My goal: watch the commercials through a new lens by immediately visiting the websites of the companies spending those massive sums of money on ads shown during the game. I was planning to do this just for the first half of the game when most of the more buzzworthy ones typically air. To add, I was just going to pay particular attention to advertisements for consumer brands, ignoring those for movies and TV shows, for example.

For the consumer brand ads, I wanted to see how connected those commercials were to their company’s websites. This is a basic tenet of our Connected CommunicationsSM approach at Stern + Associates: repeat your brand’s unified messages through multiple interconnected channels so that you reach your target audience – which is spread out – consistently and effectively. So I created a simple grading system for this year’s Super Bowl ads.

Here it is:

  • An “A+” means you created something on par with Apple’s classic 1984-inspired ad – yes, I am old enough to remember it and the buzz it created. Watching your ad and then visiting your website for further reinforcement would need to leave me convinced that I was already a new customer of yours, or at least I was aware of your arrival and the major impact you were likely to make (and probably quaking in my boots if I was one of your competitors as was accomplished by Apple in the mid-80s).
  • An “A” means you had a great ad and it was reflected with equal creativity and effectiveness on your website in such a way that made it easy to buy your product or at least be turned on to it in a memorable way. I was definitely going to remember your ad (and your site) well after the game. I may have even felt a twinge of impulsion to buy something or at least make plans to look closer in the near future.

Yep, it takes a lot to get an A. And an A+ is only coming along once every decade or so.

  • A “B” means you had a good ad and it was somewhat reflected on your website, but I may have forgotten both soon after the game. But you got my attention in a world where it’s not very easy to do so with any target audience for that matter.
  • Cs and Ds don’t really count here.
  • An “F” means your ad – which again you spent loads of money on – wasn’t at all leveraged to capture the moment by being effectively mirrored on your website through either consistency of messaging or even just its mere appearance on the site. Perhaps this wasn’t your intent, but opportunity abounds when 150 million Americans – roughly half the country – is likely to have seen your commercial. After the game – well, maybe the next day after they’ve slept off the wings, chili, salsa, etc. – their TVs are off and they are naturally going back online.

So how did some advertisers do this year? (Note: I heard about the Dorito’s ad, but didn’t see it.)

The A+s: Apple’s iconic 1984 ad retains its position as the greatest Super Bowl advertising champion of all time. Nothing in this year’s pack even came close, although one company tried by actually mentioning in their spot that they were nicking the 1984 ad. Sorry, Motorola. It didn’t work.

The As: Pepsi Max – several funny spots and all tied into a contest on the brand’s website; Snickers; Bridgestone; Budweiser; Chevy; Motorola; Volkswagen – great spot for the Passat brand with the kid dressed as Darth Vader.


The Bs: Bud Light; Hyundai;; Teleflora


The Fs: Carmax’s spot was really funny, but the company made no attempt to even mention the spot or its messaging on their site; CareerBuilder – another comical ad, but nothing on their site about it. Audi’s spot with musician Kenny G and ads by Kia, Ford and BMW all seemed like poor efforts as well. In fact, a lot of the car companies either impressed or just got it all wrong this year.

By the way, the “What Was That?” award goes to Sony for the robot getting thumbs installed so it would be able to play video games. Truly bizarre.

And for what it’s worth, I’d give the game an A, but the half time show an F-, if one can ever reach that low. Too many reasons to list.

Next year, I hope to see more companies earn As by pursuing a Connected Communications approach – and for the New York Giants, naturally, to win the big game.

What did other professionals think? You can read all about it in today’s The Wall Street Journal and at Time’s website. Let us know what your favorite Super Bowl commercials were this year.

By Ned Ward (@ned_ward) Group Vice President, Stern + Associates

About Ned Ward

With more than a decade at Stern, Ned has had the opportunity to counsel – and learn from – some of the brightest minds in business. A lifelong student, he is always searching for new ways to hone his craft by applying insights and ideas from outside sources. He says inspiration can come from anywhere in the world – from his young children to emerging start-ups to more established brands – which he constantly draws on to infuse creativity into client programming. As vice president, his pragmatic leadership style combines with strategic thinking to effectively connect clients with top-tier media, conferences and industry influencers. If he hadn’t answered the call to become a communications pro, you might have found him as a carpenter crafting wood furnishings and cabinetry.

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