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Responsible Marketing

Responsible Super Bowl ads? You decide.

By February 4, 2008August 19th, 20204 Comments

The Super Bowl frenzy is over, but the analysis of the Super Bowl advertising has just begun. Millions are already viewing and voting on their favorites at YouTube Adblitz and MySpace.

I’m interested in something a little different.

I’ve taken the liberty to list just over twenty of the ads that are currently receiving at least four stars on YouTube (yes, there were that many).

Which ads do you believe are most responsible?

What’s responsible? The ads should balance strategic, message and social responsibility. An ad can be strategic if it gets your attention and delivers the advertiser’s differentiation. It’s not responsible if it does it in a socially irresponsible way, or if it’s not message responsible.

Here’s the list:


Comments? I’d love ’em. Please post below.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Have an ad that’s not on the list? I only listed ads that were receiving 4 stars or more at the time I created the post. If there’s an ad you believe was particularly good that didn’t make the list, please mention it here in the comments.

    For example, I’d consider the Pepsi ad for the deaf I mentioned on January 30th ( one of the most responsible of all ads. But it aired during the Super Bowl Pre-Game Show so it isn’t on many of the voting lists online.

  • Bill Boyd says:

    “Brilliant work, Jim. That should get them talking Monday morning. Oh, one more thing . . . I know we’ve seen this ad 87 times now, but can we just tweak the third gecko from the left? He needs to be a little more orange so he matches the product label.”

    What works in the echo chamber of an ad agency — where ads are watched again and again in quiet conference rooms and editing suites — doesn’t necessarily work in the home of Joe Snuffy. Joe is hosting a Super Bowl party. His friends work at the bottling plant, not on Madison Avenue. They don’t consider ads to be an art form. And they’re loud.

    Joe won’t be online Monday morning reviewing the Super Bowl ads. The advertisers had one chance to make an impression on Joe. And they had to do it despite the fact that Joe can’t hear the soundtrack over the din his friends are making. Which gives rise to my #1 rule for Super Bowl commercials: Find a way to put the product on the screen. For most of the ad.

    What’s interesting about the poll — so far — is that the ads with the most votes pretty well follow this rule. They feature solid creative but don’t venture too far outside the box. One of the ads I found most entertaining included a screaming squirrel. I laughed a lot, but afterward I recalled it as a car ad — not an ad for tires. On the other hand, Coke’s ads were highly effective because they both starred bottles of Coke (along with James Carville, Bill Frist, Charlie Brown, etc.)

    Enough of my opinions. Here’s what Bob Garfield of Ad Age had to say about the 2008 crop of Super Bowl ads:

    “And advertising people wonder why the public views them with contempt.

    “The industry’s annual showcase Sunday featured commercials that peddled soft porn, sold soda pop as a drug, trivialized charitable causes, ridiculed ethnic Americans, terrified small children and contemplated running over a sissy with a car.

    “Well, isn’t that just super? If this was supposed to represent the best Madison Avenue has to offer, the losers were not confined to the football game.

    “There were highlights, of course, as always, but watch as the complaints begin to filter in. This was a performance Madison Avenue will not soon live down.”

    You can read Garfield’s ad-by-ad analysis here:

    Over at iMedia Connection, Michael Estrin says “many of this year’s ads treated the web as an afterthought. Did brands fumble the digital handoff?”

    Overall, 2008 won’t be remembered as a classic year for Super Bowl ads. For once, the game was more interesting than the commercials.

  • In terms of “responsible”, I felt that the Coke (Carville / Frist) ad was about the only one that lived up to the premise of the question. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s an advertisement’s responsibility to be “responsible” (unless that’s a core value of what you’re selling).

    If I was paying for a Superbowl Ad, my marching orders to the creative team would be “I want people talking about the [insert product name] ad on Monday morning.” Not talking about the ad in general, but KNOWING what the product was in the ad.

    Even if the ad itself wasn’t very “responsible”.

  • Ryan,

    Great comments.

    Responsible Marketing raises the bar and says it’s NOT okay to be creative at all costs.

    The ad you defined would be responsible, as long as the it was message responsible. Message responsibility is really about respecting your audiences by telling them the truth. In an era where customers demand authenticity, puffery just won’t do.

    Happy Marketing.


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