Super Bowl ads: Tops, flops and emerging trends

1:08 AM, Feb 3, 2013   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Sunday evening, millions of Americans will sit down to watch the Ravens and 49ers battle in Super Bowl XLVII, and the most expensive television commercials of the year.

During this year's Super Bowl, advertisers will spend up to $4 million for 30 seconds of air time, giving them little time to impress the audience.

Grand Rapids advertising expert Bill McKendry has examined commercials for more than two decades; he says the basic formula for Super Bowl ads comes down to children, animals, violence or making men appear unintelligent.  It's commercials that break that mold that make McKendry's list of top spots. His number one pick is the the Apple McIntosh commercial from 1984.

"We believe Super Bowl advertising changed forever after this ad ran," says McKendry. "I can remember being wowed by the production values of this spot. It was epic in its presentation."

McKendry says the Ring of Fire ad from Chrysler in 2011 is the only ad that has come close to Apple's commercial,  because it evoked emotion.

"When I looked at it for the first time, I said, 'Not only is it about Chrysler and its product, we're telling the world American auto manufacturing is back and it's on top,'" he says. "In the ten years we've hosted [our Super Bowl commercial] party, we've never had people sit that still during an ad. And afterwards, people stood up and were applauding."

It's a different story for Groupon's 2011 Super Bowl ad. McKendry says the commercial ties with one by former Congressman Pete Hoekstra's campaign; both get his thumbs down for racial stereotyping.

"I think a lot of these people think they're being funny, but I think significantly fewer people find racial stereotyping funny anymore," McKendry says.

Which means the next flop may be this year's Volkswagen ad, which features a white Minnesotan with a fake Jamaican accent.

As for emerging trends among Super Bowl ads, McKendry says companies are trying to create more buzz before their spots run by sharing them online. McKendry says advertisers are also turning to social media more.

Doritos started the trend years ago, and this year Pepsi followed, asking people to send a picture of themselves holding a Pepsi can. Some of them will appear in the halftime ad featuring singer Beyonce. 

"The mere fact Pepsi is reaching out to its fans, Doritos is reaching out to its fans and allowing them to be on the world's biggest stage along with them, I think is a really smart move for those brands. But if I was spending $3.8 million, seems to me I'd want to see something new," he said.

Hanon McKendry is hosting its 10th annual Super Bowl party Sunday, where 32 judges will be critiquing all the big commercials. Their employees will go against advertising and marketing students from local colleges, before comparing their choices with the USA Today consumer poll.

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