Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

Super Bowl Commercials: Russian Roulette for Companies

The holidays have passed, which means it’s that time again… For some, it’s the holiest day of the year: The Super Bowl!

But let’s face it, we all know the true meaning of Super Bowl Sunday. Unless your team is one of the lucky two competing for the championship, it’s all about the commercials.

Companies pull out all the stops for their 30-second spots that air during the game. They had better, because those spots are running for as much as $4 million per ad! It’s a price tag some companies are willing to pay since it means their product will be seen by upwards of 111 Million people.

If the commercial is a hit, Monday water cooler talk alone will increase brand awareness tenfold. If it bombs, the company has wasted huge money and the advertising team responsible for the dud will be searching for new jobs before the trophy presentation.

So does this multi-million dollar gamble pay off? That depends on the commercial:

Let’s start with the worst of last year:

3rd to Last Place: put themselves on the map a few years ago by showing a risqué commercial with a generic hot girl basically being naked. Then the entire nation saw Janet Jackson’s boob on the halftime show, and the commercial was no longer special. Yet GoDaddy keeps going to this well and it works less and less each time. Little tip: replace Danica Patrick (a waddling, race car driver) and Jillian Michaels (I’m not quite sure what she does, but her name was once a Jeopardy answer) with say, Megan Fox. More people will pay attention, and it’s not like Fox has been doing anything since marrying 90210.

2nd to Last Place:

WTFunk, Hyundai?! I got dizzy watching this commercial now. I can only imagine if I had actually seen this commercial last year when I was 10 beers deep. I might have thrown up, and I don’t think I could ever buy a car that makes me vomit.

Last Place:

Alright, Hyundai, you outdid yourself. You wasted a lot of money. Second to worst AND worst commercial? The rhythmic pounding probably did more to put stuffed football fans into food comas than it did to put them in the driver’s seat of your compact car (which most football fans can’t even fit inside of).


Why were these commercials so unappealing to the public?

Unrelatable: As humans, we like to connect with things. It’s why a stuffed animal, a cotton-filled toy manufactured in bulk on an assembly line, can be our best friend until we’re 17 years old (don’t judge). None of these three had any aspect we could relate to. Most people have never signed a contract to appear faux-naked and try to bail. The kaleidoscope Hyundai commercial moves too quickly for a person to latch on to any one part, and the last place Hyundai commercial showed us absolutely nothing.

Uncreative: The GoDaddy commercial is almost identical to the commercials we’ve seen every year the website has existed. The Kaleidoscope Hyundai is basically the same special effect thingy over and over again for 30 seconds. And in college I made a video that was vaguely reminiscent of the last place Hyundai commercial. I got a C.

So now…

The Ones That Worked: Top 3

3rd Place:

This commercial is awesome. Kids are adorable, especially when you don’t have to see their faces or listen to them screaming. It also references Star Wars, which is an immediate win since I still pretend I’m a Jedi every time I walk into a store with automatic doors.


The most epic Pug ever. The guy is kind of a tool, so it’s great to see him get his comeuppance from a dog the size of a throw pillow. This was also part of the Doritos Crash The Super Bowl Contest. People submit their own commercials, and Doritos chooses the top 3 to show on the air. The prize is commensurate with how the commercial ranks. This is a genius way for Doritos to get 3 commercials made and not have to pay a dime in production costs.


Beer. Hot girls. Dogs acting like people. This commercial has it all! Not to mention it proves why dogs are far superior to cats. If you didn’t at least crack a smile during that commercial, you probably don’t have a soul.


So where did these succeed where so many others failed?

They Leave An Impression: All three have memorable moments. I’d never seen dogs grilling and serving drinks before, but now that I have, I’m jealous my dogs can’t. David vs. Goliath, Tiny Dog vs. Big Door. It’s an epic battle people will remember. And finally, we can see the emotion all over the stoic and unchanging Darth Vader mask in the Volkswagen commercial. The kid’s ability to bring that mask to life rivals only David Prowse (Star Wars nerds will get that reference, the rest of you, Google it).

They Tell A Story: Story telling is as old of an art as, well, art…  The story is what intrigues people, keeps them watching. Some people take way too long to tell a story (Michael Bay, I’m looking at you), others can tell a quick tale in 30 seconds or less. These commercials all have a beginning, a middle, and an end.  A man house sits, throws a party, and is left having to clean up after the dogs decide they’ve done enough. A man taunts a dog, the dog races after him, and gets the treat he deserves. Darth Vader wants to prove his mastery of The Force, he struggles, but is finally able to start a car.

BASED ON LAST YEAR’S AVERAGE (roughly $3 mil a spot), over $18 million dollars was spent to show these six commercials. The companies all believed their commercial was worth it when they placed their $3 million bet (or $6 mil if you’re Hyundai).

Unfortunately, not all gambles pay off. So who is going to roll the dice in this year’s big game? We’ll see, but you can bet that I’ll be right there to comment on those as well.

Do you agree with my choices? Want to comment on the Super Bowl or its commercials? I’d love your feedback.

 Image credit to Ant baena.


Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. Amy Swanson

    I’d forgotten how horrible’s commercial was last year. Wow, words can’t do it justice. However, I do remember loving the Volkswagon ad and being so excited to see them airing it after the Superbowl. What I find so intriging about it, is that there’s no dialgoue in it. Truly amazing it made such an impact without someone yelling at me to go out and test drive it right now, haha.

    Great post, Alex! Can’t wait to see what this year brings (isn’t Madonna the half time act?!)

    • Alex Brodsky

      Unfortunately, yes, Madonna IS the half time show… Don’t get me started on that one. I could write a 10 page rant on why that’s an astoundingly STUPID idea.

      But I was equally glad to see them air the VW commercial after the game. I actually just saw it on TV last week and got really excited all over again.

  2. Jen

    Darth Vader gets my vote for number one!!!! I love that commercial so much. It reminds me of my own childhood, when I would pretend I could predict the future. My vivid imagination freaked my mom out for a while, but she finally caught onto my bull and just ignored me. She should have pulled a prank on me like the parents in the commercial. lol

    Great post Alex! It was quite entertaining to say the least. 🙂

    • Alex Brodsky

      Thanks! I’m glad you were entertained! I still pretend that I can see the future. As long as you can keep a straight face and act like you know what you’re talking about, people will believe just about anything.

      I once convinced a girl at a bar that I was a psychic… true story.

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    Wow. I missed the Super Bowl commercials last year, but I guess I didn’t miss out on those compelling and story-rich Hyundai ads. I hope the person in charge of those ads was fired or severely underpaid. They aren’t even creative in the least, and I was under the impression that ad agencies pull out all the stops for Super Bowl ads.

    But the Bud Light commercial was great! Any commercial with dogs being awesome is okay in my book, though. 🙂

    • Alex Brodsky

      Dogs rule! Both the number 1’s had them. And I don’t think that it’s a coincidence, but 2 out of the top 3 Doritos “Crash the Superbowl” ads for this years game also have dogs. Apparently it’s a theme: If you have dogs, people will like it.

  4. Cybernetic SAM

    I think that the Vader commercial is waaaaay funnier than the Doritos commercial, and the Bud commercial is almost as funny. As for the worst, I thought the Hyundai commercials were a lot better than the Go Daddy commercial. Great post! I too wish my dogs could help throw parties. It is almost as awesome as my all time favorite commercial, the EDS cat herding commercial. Frreaking awesome! Now that is creativity!

  5. Joseph Giorgi

    Volkswagon’s “The Force” commercial is pretty fantastic in just about every way. From the shot composition, sound editing and narrative pacing to that memorable performance by mini-Vader, everything just clicked. So naturally, it’s my pick for number one.

    Your other top picks are great, too. “Pug Attack” was hilarious, and “Dog Sitter” was fairly clever. Personally though, I’m hoping to see more cats in this year’s Superbowl ads. 😉

    Awesome post, Alex!

    • Alex Brodsky

      Not only should it probably have been ranked number 1 of last year, it might just be the best commercial of all time. It speaks to pretty much every demographic. It’s funny, but not in a hateful, at someone else’s expense type way (i.e. Miller Lite’s “unmanly” campaign), and it sticks with you.

      As far as more cat commercials, I’m not sure if that’s possible. Dogs are easily tricked/bribed. Training a cat to do what you want for a commercial is most likely WAY more work than most people would care to do.

      • Alex Brodsky

        But maybe next year we can do a Doritos Crash the Superbowl commercial with your cats.

  6. JPorretto

    Vader VW Commercial = Awesome. Number 1 for me without a doubt.

    Call me jaded, but I think the Bud Dog Party commercial was uninspired. Doesn’t animals acting like humans make up about 40% of the internet? It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. Dogs rule in general of course, but I found nothing special about that at all.

    Can’t wait to rip/ commend this years commercials!

    • Alex Brodsky

      Well, then as stated in my blog, you must not have a soul. I’ll bring in the priest tomorrow and we’ll proceed with the exorcism after the blog meeting.

  7. Kyle

    That GoDaddy commercial makes me want to facepalm everytime. Hey, GoDaddy! Newsflash! Danica Patrick is not all that attractive and considering you’re taking the “sex sells” route you might want to reconsider who you cast for your commercials. Oh, and maybe your commercials worked with their shock factor the first one or two years, but they’ve run their course.

    I think that’s the first time I’ve ever complained about skantly clad women being featured in a Super Bowl commercial. Or any commercial for that matter. Way to go, Go Daddy…

    • Alex Brodsky

      Seriously… That’s the easiest strategy ever, and they managed to screw it up.

      Step 1) Get hot chick.
      Step 2) Take off most her clothes.
      Step 3) Profit.

      Go Daddy failed.

  8. Rachel

    Great rundown, Alex! Love that pug dog one, haha. I remember seeing a lot of good Doritos commercials during the last few Superbowls — seems like their user-submitted ad strategy is working, at least on me. 🙂 Man, now I want some Cool Ranch Doritos …

  9. Jill Tooley

    “Kids are adorable, especially when you don’t have to see their faces or listen to them screaming. It also references Star Wars, which is an immediate win since I still pretend I’m a Jedi every time I walk into a store with automatic doors.”

    Amen, my friend. My thoughts exactly. This blog had me laughing from start to finish (other than the statistics you quoted — GOOD LORD, that’s a hefty sum!). What WAS Hyundai thinking by making these 2 less-than-entertaining commercials, anyway? I mean, they’re not offensive by any means, but they’re somewhat uninspired. And you’re so right about GoDaddy, they’re stuck in the 1990s. Their crappy ads remind me of the Man Show with girls jumping on trampolines. Unless you’re a 12-year-old boy who has never seen a half-naked body before, this technique is a bit ridiculous!

    Most commercials annoy me, but the Volkswagen one takes the cake. I’m not a huge fan of kids most of the time, but this was quite well done. You’ve gotta love the Star Wars reference, too, even if you don’t find kids’ antics funny at all. It’s just an all-around GOOD commercial.

    Can’t wait for your rundown of the 2012 ads — I wonder if there’ll be any diamonds in the rough! 🙂

  10. Eric

    I’m gonna have to do a write-in vote, and go with Chrysler’s Detriot-centric commericial, narrated by Eminem and accompanied by his music. You want Detriot pride in 30 seconds, well, I don’t know how much better a job one could do.

    Funny? No. Sexy? Not so much. But I’ll be damned it it didn’t get their point across.

    Like everyone else agrees, however, the VW commercial was easily the most imaginative. Knowing someone who owns one, and having joked about those crazy-ass headlamps that move one their own, it made a funny commerical even funnier for me. Besides, I think that had to be a pretty amusing pitch to sit in on. VW car + Darth Vader = Marketing Gold? Sure!

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