A Top Super Bowl Ad We All Hated

People don’t watch the Super Bowl the way people in the media-making business do. For example, tomorrow, or Saturday at the latest, you are likely to do the advertising version of cramming for finals and read up on and watch every Super Bowl ad you can see, so that by the time the game begins you will be fully up to date.

Normal people won’t do that.

And while leaking or teasing Super Bowl commercials is the current mode and is part of the online pre-game ritual, for many millions, the idea is to be surprised. That’s the payoff. As much as we think the world rushes to see a clever commercial the way you do, the world, in general, has more interesting things to do.

But that Budweiser puppy knows its job. What we think are the best, more shared commercials are ones that trigger big, deep emotional responses. You can say the same thing about greeting cards.

Funny greeting cards are funny once. (Likewise, as Unruly, a counter of Super Bowl sharing cautions, advertisers better be damn funny if they’re going to go that route.)



The kissy kinds of greeting cards that make you cry are the ones stuck in the desk drawer to looked at again and again. And those seem to be the kind of ads we like too.

Or so it seems.

Adweek’s ongoing coverage of the Super Bowl displays a game day ad for Snickers that is quite funny, even laugh-out-loud hilarious or, in Adweek’s estimation, “one of the funniest Super Bowl spots ever.” If I were you I wouldn’t click on that link twice because unlike Snickers’ ad claims a funny Snickers ad doesn’t satisfy you twice.

Adweek also replays the “Run/Throw ‘Like A Girl’) ad for the Always brand, and I’d bet right now that even though that ad isn’t new and has been downloaded 54 million times since it was introduced in June, it will finish among the most admired/liked/shared ad from this Super Bowl. It is a soft, thoughtful message amid a cacophony of high-voltage commercial yucks and loud football hype.

It also creates a kind of jarring companion to NFL-sponsored public service commercial about domestic violence that is so grim, subdued and effective it will be fascinating to see where NBC and the NFL place it within the telecast.  I wouldn’t want to be the brand for the funny commercial that follows. It’s hard to get back to the big game, or ponder the best Doritos commercial, after that. 

What really “works” in the Super Bowl might not be what we really like, and that’s probably true with online advertising, too. With apologies to President Clinton and his definition of “is,” it probably depends on how you define an ad “working.”

Innerscope Research, a consumer neuroscience firm in Boston, makes the disturbing claim that, in from its research, the most engaging Super Bowl ad ever was’s’ “Hey Dummy” spot from the 2009 game, and in fact, many of us remember how much we hated it.

The company collects “biometric signals” from respondents that tip off emotional responses to ads. The higher the signal, the more the engagement. In other words, you may hate the ad--Innerscope uses the seemingly universally-hated (but apparently successful) Mr. Whipple ads for Charmin as an example--but it sells.

This CareerBuilder commercial showed a woman arriving at work, screaming in her car as she anticipates the horrible day ahead; a boss who greets workers with “Hey, dummy,” a co-worker who trims his toenails at his desk, you the drift. It’s a disturbing commercial ,but Innerscope says a good Biometric Engagement is around 65-70; this annoying ad stayed in the 80s and even hit 90.

And people hated this ad. It’s on at least one list of the “10 Most Annoying Super Bowl Ads Ever.”

That says something about what makes a “good” Super Bowl ad. Innerscope leaves us with three takeaways:

--Be wary about what people consciously think about an ad (I think this is the part that leads to hiring Innerscope)

--Timing is everything. The commercial appeared while the nation was still plunging deeper into a recession and bad vibes were available by the bushel.

--Effectiveness is not always about an ad’s likeability.

Innerscope provides a kicker here. People hated this commercial. Its message was grim. And yet, because so many people really do hate their jobs, the message resonated, making it a viral sensation: After the game, nearly 3 million people searched online to watch the spot again.

2 comments about "A Top Super Bowl Ad We All Hated".
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  1. Brad Stewart from Molecule Inc., January 29, 2015 at 6:18 p.m.

    You nailed it, PJ. That stands out to me still as one of the best SuperBowl ads ever. So well executed, edited and acted. A great piece of art. Sorry Etrade baby.

  2. Graeme Blackman from Shift Communications, January 30, 2015 at 11:14 a.m.

    One thing that’s really important to emphasize is that the writer of the Blog that analyzes the CareerBuilder ad doesn’t actually say that this ad was “the most engaging Super Bowl ad ever . . .” Instead it says that it was the most SURPRISINGLY engaging ad . . . which is quite different. He says it was the most engaging ad for 2009, but the blogger also says that CareerBuilder created an ad for its time – and suggests that at a different point in time (the second worst financial disaster in modern history) it might not be as effective.

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