Super Bowl Ad Showdown – When Marketers Talk


Yesterday, Citrus Social went downtown to convene with fellow marketers to talk about the only important thing about the Super Bowl…the commercials. The American Marketing Association Northeast Ohio Chapter held a commercial showdown at the swanky new Schofield Hotel in Downtown Cleveland. The event featured a 16-commercial bracket and three panelists to lead the discussion. The awesome panelists were: Lisa Zone, Managing Director at Dix & Eaton, Lori Zoss Kraska, Corporate Support Director at WVIZ/PBS ideastream®, and Mike Lawrence, Creative Director at AKHIA.

To qualify for the bracket, the ad had to: air between kick off and the final whistle, no movies or TV shows, and a limit of one commercial per brand. Here is how the lively debate played out:

Sprint vs. Turbotax

Sprint has been trying to capitalize on Verizon’s success since they poached the “can you hear me now” guy. People still remember him as the Verizon guy, and it allows the audience to think about Verizon throughout your entire commercial. Also, Verizon clapped back without missing a beat by tweeting, “Trying to do anything on @Sprint may push you over the edge. #SprintFails

TurboTax was clever, engaging, and witty all wrapped into one. And, as some of the panelists pointed out, British accents automatically get you more points.

The winner: TurboTax

Buick vs. Mr. Clean

I personally loved the Buick commercial but had one giant question…why Miranda Kerr?? I want to know how much they paid her for her split second, and unnecessary appearance at the end of a funny commercial. I guess we still need to add supermodels to make it a great commercial.

Mr. Clean creeped me out. I did not enjoy this commercial and thought it was uncomfortable to watch. The two female panelists loved it, and thought it hit home with its intended audience.

The winner: Buick

Tide vs. Bai

The Tide commercial was a continuation of a joke from earlier in the season when Terry Bradshaw actually had a stain on his shirt. Although this information wasn’t general knowledge, the teasers did their job and the commercial did a great job. One of the panelists, and I can’t disagree, said too much Bradshaw and not enough Jeffrey Tambor.

Christopher Walken + Justin Timberlake = DREAM TEAM. You just can’t go wrong with these two.

The winner: Bai

Skittles vs.  Snickers

The ultimate candy showdown. The skittles commercial is a little concerning, with a burglar and a cop in the home, but Skittles is known to push the envelope in the weird category.

The Snickers commercial was allegedly live, which I don’t believe, and had a good amount of lead up and execution of the point. It was a less literal take then their normal “you’re not you when you’re hungry” tagline, and kept the audience intrigued.

The winner: Snickers

Budweiser vs. Bud Light

This showdown is tough because of the drastic difference in nature these commercials are. Budweiser hit home on an extremely relevant issue that they were unaware of. Talk about impeccable timing.

Bud Light was over my head. The moderator at the event asked who had never heard of Spuds Mackenzie, and my hand shot up. The panelists weren’t thrilled that Spuds was now a talking dog, and the continuity in the story was rough.

The winner: Budweiser

Michelin vs. Kia

 A big argument between these two commercials amongst the panelists was the context of the Super Bowl. Which commercial works best in a party setting, or playing in a rowdy crowd. The Michelin commercial was sweet, but the message was lost in the hectic setting of the Super Bowl, and it seemed that the tire promotion was pushed in at the end.

Kia was light-hearted and funny, and also had impeccable timing. Kia’s star, Melissa McCarthy, hosted a killer Saturday Night Live performance less than 24-hours before the Super Bowl. Seriously, great, and accidental timing.

The winner: Kia

Honda vs. T-Mobile

I LOVED the Honda commercial. It helps that Steve Carrell, one of  my favorite actors, makes an appearance. The yearbook idea was great, everyone has a yearbook picture and it made these celebs RELATABLE. Not as easy feat. The panelists thought that the graphics were iffy at times, and I agree. Also, the car placement at the end seemed unnatural at the end of a great commercial.

T-Mobile’s NSFW commercial was a huge hit. It wasn’t my favorite, like Mr. Clean it made me a bit uncomfortable, but T-Mobile went for it and it worked! Too much red Verizon branding throughout, T-Mobile needs to tone that down a bit.

The winner: T-Mobile

Audi vs. 84 Lumber

Audi tugged on the heart strings and got #girlpower points. If you’re going to make a political, feminist statement, you got to have the goods to back it up. One of the panelists made the comment that only 2/14 executives for Audi USA are female…come on Audi, put your money where your mouth is.

84 Lumber’s commercial was actually a clip from a 6 minute movie they made. At the end of the aired clip, they directed you to their website, that actually crashed after it aired. The panel believed that they had one shot to nail it, and because of the website flop, they fell on their faces. If people went to a crashed site, there’s a small chance you would go back and try again.

The winner: Audi

The Semifinalists

Here is who got voted through to the next round:

TurboTax vs. Buick — Buick

Bai vs. Snickers — Bai

Budweiser vs. Kia — Kia

T-Mobile vs. Audi — Audi

The Finals

Bai vs. Audi

It was hard to vote between two such radically different commercials. The comedy vs. the message. Deep emotion vs. laughter. Which do you choose? The panel strongly believed that context was a deciding factor. Audi was a more serious commercial that potentially got lost in the chaos of the Super Bowl. Bai was quick-witted and got Bye, Bye, Bye stuck in our head for days.

And the champion is…

Bai took the championship for teaching us how to correctly pronounce their name, giving us some Christopher Walken, Justin Timberlake, and N*Sync. Rock on, Bai. Can’t wait to see what you bring to the table next year.