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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Monday Morning Quarterback: A Huddle with Super Bowl Ads

The only AI generated thing in this whole post
The only AI generated thing in this whole post!

More than a mere week has skated by since the proverbial Monday morning, the time when many are still nursing their football hangovers, while others have already sprinted off towards different sports and pastimes. Yet, here I am, ready to huddle up and tackle a fresh play on this year's Super Bowl commercials—not rushing my snap judgment but letting the play unfold a little longer. I'm peering beyond my initial instincts and the gut reactions to gauge what truly made a mark and what, despite a flashy start, couldn't hold the line in memory's field.

In tossing out this perspective, it's worth noting the field is riddled with diverse metrics and acknowledged biases, making it a real scramble to single out a definitive champion. After all, the advertising field doesn't rely on a clear scoreboard like the Super Bowl itself. Success is subjective, and the real MVP is in the eye of the beholder, contingent on the strategies they deploy and the unique scorecards they maintain. It’s as if the rulebook is often penned postgame.

I initially called plays on an eclectic mix of creativity, authenticity, resonance, and brand alignment. Ads that roped in celebrities had to hurdle higher—similar to teams boasting high-profile free agents needing to prove their worth at season's kickoff. Those ads aligning their brands with purpose-driven messages faced a tough defense from my scrutiny, as more and more, brands that fumble the follow-through are swiftly taken to task. And to keep the play clean, I steered clear of the TV and movie promos, the NFL's self-promotional spots, and the realms of politics, gambling, and religion. It's a coach's decision—no playbook necessary, just trust my call.

I'm still at a crossroads over my stance on commercials released pre-kickoff versus those that unveil a surprise on game day. Currently, I'm favoring a strategic tease before the game that goes for a touchdown during. And in this league, the ad champs are those that view their spot as a component of a broader strategy, inclusive of social media huddles—a playbook missed by Avocadoes from Mexico this time around.

Before I break the huddle and dive into the standout players, let's note that I also paid attention to the timing of the ads (which quarter they played in) because, just like in football, positioning can be everything. Take the Paramount+ ad: creative, sure, but when weighed against PlutoTV, the latter might have scored the extra point for spotlighting everyone's favorite price—FREE. The game tape will reveal the true impact in time. And a brief aside—I had to review some plays post-game due to a couple of timeouts nature called. My Winners, by Quarter:

The opening quarter's winner was the Dove's "Hard Knocks" commercial. Full disclosure: I'm a sucker for purpose-driven advertising, but only when it isn't shoehorned or off-brand. Dove, however, consistently nails it with genuine authenticity and a clear connection to their core message. This year's ad maintained that high standard with creative flair and a powerful message, keeping their streak alive.

Playing the field as wildcards were Mountain Dew's "Having a Blast" and Popeyes' "The Wait is Over." Admittedly, neither product is in personal my favorites, but Aubrey Plaza's synergy with Mountain Dew is undeniable, and the cameo truly popped. As for Popeyes, they delivered a compelling narrative and a surprising revelation—wings are a new player on their menu? They might just pair perfectly with a Mountain Dew Blast.

In the second quarter, T-Mobile's "Magenta Status" won that division. The commercial's lineup with Bradley Cooper and his mom - as unexpected as an offseason trade, yet it scored high on brand alignment and humor, a perfect pitch for T-Mobile's new venture. I'm curious about the stats—how did it fare in engagement and customer acquisition?

The wildcard spots go to Hellmann's "Mayo Cat" and Dunkin's "The DunKings." "Mayo Cat" was a tasteful blend of simplicity and charm with Kate McKinnon, even with the side of Pete Davidson, and it managed to outshine "PuppyMonkeyBaby" by miles. And though Dunkin's "The DunKings" played a slow game, I really didn't want to like it (even though it is currently my national coffee brand of choice), it won me over—proof that sometimes, persistence pays off.

Taking a time-out from halftime ads to pivot to the third quarter (since I think Paramount+ didn't shine over PlutoTV in effectiveness), Pfizer's "Here's to Science" was a standout for me. It took the field with a calculated risk, presenting a timely, well-executed play that was both smart and impactful, and I had visions of Aaron Rodgers stubbing his toe while the commercial was playing to call into one podcast or another to complain.

For wildcards, Doritos' "Dina & Mita" and Etsy's "Thank You France" caught my attention. Doritos scored with an unexpected play, steering clear of the obvious with Jenna Ortega and pairing her up more creative with the bad-ass abuelitas who won the day. It was on-brand, witty, and almost had me reaching for a bag. Etsy's ad was a clever nod, and full disclosure, I'm a listener of the "New Heights" podcast (and for the record, while I am a fan of Taylor Swift and if you aren't, then you don't have a heart, but I was listening to it long before she came into the picture, so there)...which Etsy sponsors. So, call it a bias, but they're on to something with their new Gift Mode.

The fourth quarter's frontrunner was Microsoft's Copilot "Watch Me." Carefully navigating the complex narrative around AI, they turned potential fear into empowerment, diversity, and a call to action for the dreamers of a new era. If I could add a personal touch? Perhaps a nod to the old-school tinkerers in a garage, reminiscent of tech's early days. (and to prove that I am sticking with my picks, no one had it on their post game top ten, other than CBSNews).

Wildcards for the final frame included Kia's "Perfect 10" and T-Mobile’s "Internet Feeling." Kia made a strong entry amidst the EV conversation, posing questions and aligning brand with narrative—can you really power your Christmas lights with an EV? Meanwhile, T-Mobile’s homage to Flashdance was spot-on. I am not a fan of "Scrubs" (don't need no scrubs) but Jason Momoa and Jessica Biel's presence was pure fire, leaving the Nerd's version in the dust. At the risk of going into overtime (couldn't resist) before crowning a champion, if you are keeping score, I did miss Beyonce's ad for Verizon, which I quite liked, and I missed Michael Cera's "CeraVe" which I really didn't. I thought Uber Eats "Don't Forget" ad to be clever but even with the star power, eventually forgettable. As for the other car ads, BMW's "Talkin' like Walken" was clever but really didn't land the connection to the brand, and I really am having a hard time with Volkswagon trying to pitch "An American Love Story." The list of "what did you think of" could go on but I will mention two more - I am not ranking Temu's ads because it was really less about creativity and more about a pure blitz. I also have to admit this, with every successive HOMESdotcom, I really got upset at how bad the ads were - again, in my opinion.

So who won? I am going with wildcard pick - The DunKings based on the campaign placing in the top five in almost every ranking, including social traffic. Based on the post-game traction. Selling out the custom track suit (really??) and the fact that my local drive through has had twice the amount of traffic than before the ad. Just one postscript - while I would love to offer my opinions on those taking issue with Taylor Swift and being shown during the Super Bowl for 55 seconds, Travis' antics after the game, and how triggered many feel, I am not going to. Instead I will mention that the winner in terms of social impressions during the Super Bowl wasn't DunKings (3rd), Temu (2nd), or Verizon (1st) - it was not an ad, it was Taylor Swift. Shake it off.


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