Millennials Rank The Worst Super Bowl Ads Of The Past 5 Years

Having surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest age cohort, Millennials are now the generation marketers have been investing heavily in understanding and targeting. But there are also lessons to be learned in terms of what notto do in ads targeted to Millennials: Here are four ads from the past five Super Bowls that were dismal failures with Millennials.

I asked undergraduate students at Villanova to identify the worst Super Bowl ads of the past five years in terms of appealing to their own generation. The “losers’ the students picked also scored poorly with Millennials in USA Today’s Admeter as well. Why were these ads so disliked? Because:

Millennials like to be educated about product. Studies have found that many Millennials pride themselves on a desire for continued learning and growth. According to a study by Havas, Millennials view themselves as problem solvers. It has also been observed that they care deeply about product quality. 



No “lowest common denominator.” Although Millennials are described as being skeptical of advertising, a 2017 study by Nielsen suggests that they accept that advertising is a part of life in terms of informing the public. They also trust their ability to see through questionable claims of sophomoric appeals and are unlikely to react positively to efforts to appeal to ads using lowbrow humor or other unsophisticated approached. 

Celebrities can work, but it must be the right celebrity with the right link to the product. Millennials certainly admire “traditional” celebrities such as actors and athletes and social media stars on YouTube and even trade characters. However, there needs to be a logical (and preferably clever), link to the celebrity. Just throwing a well-known and -liked celebrity into an ad without making use of something about that celebrity in the ad can backfire.

Here’s that list of worst Super Bowl ads:

#4 Beck’s Beer: Sapphire (2013)

While this ad introducing the new InBev-owned Beck’s beer variety attempted to be artsy, it completely flopped with Millennials, who found the ad to be inane. This approach runs counter to the fact that Millennials like to learn and be educated. “The smoothest Beck’s yet” is the only reference to a product feature, it’s at the very end of the ad, and it just did not do enough to impress these young consumers. It was also not lost on some of the Millennials that the gemstone shown in the middle of the bottle is a ruby, not a sapphire. 

#3 Jublia (2016)

Granted, it is probably an uphill battle to come up with a highly likable ad for a toenail fungus remedy. This ad did not score well in general and scored even lower among Millennials on USA Today’s Admeter. While these young viewers did not appear to have a problem with the choice of celebrities — former NFL stars and current broadcasters Deion Sanders, Howie Long, Phil Simms — they thought the setting of the ad in a nail salon combined with the use of the NFL’s theme song was way over the top. It is likely that if these stars had a different set-up or gag, this ad could have been more effective with Millennials.

#2 GoDaddy “When Sexy Meets Smart” (2013) 

This ad completely flopped with Millennials. While supermodel Bar Rafaeli was no doubt highly popular among the Millennial generation, they found the kiss between the Rafaeli and an exaggerated “geek” to be the lowest common denominator approach that detracted from GoDaddy’s message of simplicity and low cost. There is little doubt that Bar Rafaeli and Danica Patrick were not the problem with this ad. Rather, Millennials just did not find it to be either sophisticated — or funny.

#1 Squarespace “Om” (2015)

An attempt at an artsy, offbeat approach, this ad from a relatively new webpage building company failed miserably with Millennials. The ad featured actor Jeff Bridges and did not make clear what the product was or how the actor was linked to it, despite a long run time. The ad counted on driving young viewers to a website showing Bridges’s new music, which was designed to help people sleep. Viewers’s curiosity was not sufficiently piqued. This is a good example of the problems caused by the lack of a clever link to a celebrity and an insufficient explanation of an unfamiliar produce among Millennials.

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