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Anheuser-Busch climbed back into the saddle as No. 1 with a heart-tugging commercial about the raising and training of one of its iconic Clydesdale's.
But it was a tight horse race.
This was the Super Bowl when ads with heart got all the love in USA Today's Ad Meter, which, for it's 25th anniversary, vastly expanded in scope by going online to 7,619 pre-registered panelists.
Procter & Gamble's Tide laundry detergent pulled off an unlikely feat Sunday night finishing No. 2, ahead of many Super Bowl regulars.
The ad is about an image of football legend Joe Montana miraculously appearing from a salsa stain on a rabid 49ers fan's jersey. The miracle stain causes a media uproar and becomes a relic of worship until the player's wife who happens to be a Baltimore Ravens fan washes the stain out with Tide.
For P&G, the road to nearly achieving advertising nirvana has been long, slow but focused. The company, once ridiculed for its advertising, has become a regular in studious attendance at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, the largest and most prestigious gathering of ad executives worldwide. Its ads have continued to improve from pure product demonstrations to humorous slices of life with product as hero.
Chrysler's two-minute spot for Ram pickups, in third place, focused on a celluloid hug for the American farmer, featuring photographic images of farmers and their work. For the ad's narrative, the carmaker turned to an old commentary by radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, who died in 2009. His comments extol the virtues of American farmers, whose hard works seems to put them as about as close to God as anyone can get.
A second two-minute Chrysler ad for Jeep saluted military veterans. Airing just before the third quarter, it was in the top five. Chrysler proved something Sunday night that every Super Bowl marketer must remember for years to come patriotism still sells.
Fifty-five commercials that cost 40 advertisers $3.8 million to $4 million per 30-second slot for the airtime were in the CBS broadcast, which set a record for viewership. The game was marred by a 31-minute blackout, which either cost many second-half advertisers millions of viewers or kept viewers tuned in once the 49ers mounted a comeback from being down 28-6 and made a close game of it before losing, 34-31..
The Budweiser winner was about a guy who breeds and raises a Clydesdale, only to wistfully watch it leave for the big-time, then, three years later, at a big-city parade, man and horse re-unite in an emotional embrace.
"That was absolutely heart-warming," says Tyler Stocks, an Ad Meter panelist and journalist from Greenville, NC.
For A-B, whose major-brand beer sales have taken a hit in recent years, it's a return to marketing glory after slipping out of Ad Meter's Top Five last year. Through the years, A-B has won 12 Ad Meters, more than any other advertiser.
For the first time in years, the Super Bowl took place at a time of relative national calm, so with a decent chunk of the American public feeling a bit better about themselves and the direction of the nation, Super Bowl advertisers figured it was time to let loose. Most of the commercials were overflowing with spectacle, scantily-clothed bodies and visual and audio pyrotechnics. This must be what viewers really want, right?
Wrong. What most of Sunday night's viewers really wanted weren't ads that go whiz, bang and pop. What they preferred were ads that told a simple story with a wisp of wonder. Amid the wreckage of Sunday Night's mostly overdone ad fest, Madison Avenue must admit this, simple is hard.
"It's almost unfathomable to believe corporate sponsors paid millions of dollars to create those overall woeful ads, and then, paid even further millions to show those ads during the Super Bowl," said panelist Kitty Grubb, an attorney from Seminole, Fla.
Viewers loved the ads about heart-felt reunions. For A-B, man and horse. For Chrysler, soldier and family. Doritos finished fourth with a touching ad about a father whose daughter talks him into prancing around in a tutu for a bag of chips.
Other Super Bowl ad trends on Sunday:
Social chit-chat • A common thread ran though many of the top-scoring ads: they'd been viewed on YouTube and talked about on Facebook and Twitter for days. Increasingly, advertisers are embracing a new social media platform that demands advertisers give the goods early well before the game so that millions of folks can see them long before the clutter and confusion of The Big Game."
Ads go long • Who'd a thunk, in age of instant gratification, that two advertisers would choose to air three Super Bowl spots that are each two-minutes long? Chrysler do it twice. And Samsung jumped on the train, with a spot featuring three actors in search of the next big thing who happens to be LeBron James. (Isn't he already a big thing?)
Sex with a twist • Sexy babes sipping soda or ogling guys just don't have the Super Bowl thrill any longer. Perhaps that's why GoDaddy put super model and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue cover girl Bar Refaeli into a 30-second ad in which she French-kisses a bespectacled, chubby geek for a full 18 seconds. The close-up smackeroo was an utter turn-off for many viewers.
Results from Richter7's Ad Bowl in Salt Lake City
Most Valuable Ad • Dodge Ram Farmers
Best Low Budget Award • Doritos Fashionista Daddy
Celebrity Sack Award • Subway February
Championship Chuckle Award • Oreo Whisper
Illegal Use of $$$$ Award • Coca Cola Mirage
Creative Fumble Award • Century 21 Wedding
Should Have Punted • Go Daddy Perfect Match