There are more than enough opinions flying about this morning about who "won" the Super Ad Bowl that now runs parallel to the big game. Hulu's voting audience has declared "The Force," a VW ad featuring a kid Darth Vader 'magically' starting a car to be the most popular, followed by the Bridgestone "Carma" spot (beaver saves driver from rushing torrent) and VW's "Black Beetle." The Dorito's House Sitting ad (grandpa resurrected) and the NFL ad reprising great TV moments round out the top faves. Interestingly, Hulu's visitors rewarded concept over celebrity. We don't see stars (aside from the NFL montage) until the sixth top rated slot for Snickers featuring Richard Lewis whining and Roseanne Barr getting whacked by a log - which is vote bait if we ever saw it.
A number of ads were mere teases for longer iterations found online. GoDaddy.com, as is its wont, deliberately threw viewers where it wanted them to be, the Web. According to the company this morning, the reveal of Joan Rivers as the new GoDaddy Girl helped drive domain registrations past the 46 million mark in total for the hosting/registry firm. But it was the obvious bait of the second spot, the promise of naked GoDaddy models that got the predictable reaction. In the brand's usual fashion, it spoofed its own predilection for vapid cheesecake ads while delivering a cheesecake ad. The possibility of seeing Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels nude sent twice as many people to the site within two minutes as had gone for the 2008 "banned" GoDaddy ad.
Critics long before me have commented on the post-modern turn the Super Bowl ad ritual gives us. The targets of advertising become its critics, judging how "effective" an ad is. Does such a turn immunize the viewer from advertising's influence, assuage us with the deceptive feeling we are immunized, or simply turn us into collaborators in our own persuasion? Whichever is truest, the Super Bowl coalesces a cultural trend; we reward smart persuasion.
The "What-The-Hell-Were-They-Thinking?" award has to go to Groupon, whose ads seemed designed to offend by taking serious subjects like Tibet, whale extinction and rain forest deforestation and turning them into self-conscious jokes about consumer obsession with Groupon deals. I like irreverence as much as the next guy, but there was not a thing funny here.Personally I thought the most genuinely effective spot I saw all evening was the most straightforward in messaging and visual impact. Chrysler's homage to Detroit featuring Eminem was just flat out good video. The voiceover, dismissing rhetoric against American-made cars, built up with its own rhythm, and the visuals focused on the iconography of the great era of production: deco paintings of workers, arms of steel, world-weary laborers. There was a pace, visual style, messaging and mythology all at work to deliver something powerful. Ultimately, after all of the jokes, self-conscious gyrations, and CGI elsewhere in the Ad Bowl, I found most memorable the ad that just had a damned good story.