What were the lessons for Madison Avenue on Super Bowl Sunday, the biggest day of the year for advertising?
Well, it seems that a beaver can best a Bieber, the Force may be as strong with a sedan as a Skywalker, a rapper can draw more applause for supporting his hometown than for singing — and social causes like the plight of Tibet may be no laughing matter.
The 60 commercials that ran nationally during Super Bowl XLV on Fox are being analyzed, scrutinized and chewed over to a fare-thee-well by pollsters, surveyors and data analysts. The increasing presence of marketers in social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube means there is far more data than in previous years showing how consumers responded to the spots, which cost sponsors an estimated $2.8 million to $3 million for each 30 seconds of airtime.
The commercials during Super Bowl XLV that seemed to resonate most with the estimated record 111 million viewers were those that offered “more of an emotionally based story, rather than just a joke,” said Bart Cleveland, partner and creative director at McKee Wallwork Cleveland, an agency in Albuquerque, N.M., that since 2000 has been conducting an online poll of Super Bowl spots at adbowl.com.
That explains the popularity of commercials for brands like Bridgestone, in which a beaver helped by a driver repays the favor six months later; Volkswagen, with the parents of a child dressed as Darth Vader playing along with his game involving the family’s Passat sedan; and Chrysler, which presented the rapper Eminem in a bold, two-minute pitch for cars “imported from Detroit.” Those commercials, in many instances, were described more favorably — and received higher scores — than spots with celebrities like Justin Bieber, who appeared with Ozzy Osbourne in a commercial for Best Buy.
The desire for spots that engaged emotionally may also explain why an ad for Groupon, which seemed to make light of Tibetan refugees to sell online discount coupons, was so widely castigated. The commercial, and two others that ran on Fox on Sunday, introduced a campaign for Groupon — its first national mainstream advertising — that spoofed pitches for charitable causes while helping to raise money for causes.
But the fund-raising element was missing from the commercials and could only be found online. In the Tibet commercial, the actor Timothy Hutton narrated scenes of refugees as poignant music plays. “The people of Tibet are in trouble,” he said. “Their very culture is in jeopardy.”
The scene suddenly shifted to Mr. Hutton seated in a restaurant. “But they still whip up an amazing fish curry,” he continued, “and since 200 of us bought at Groupon.com, we’re each getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15” at a restaurant in Chicago.