Chrysler's Jeep ad featuring a patriotic salute to U.S. troops and narration by Oprah Winfrey, an Oreo ad asking viewers to vote cookie or creme, and a scantily clad male Calvin Klein model were among standout commercials during a Super Bowl that suffered a half-hour partial blackout delay on Sunday.
Ads by Budweiser and PepsiCo's Doritos were less engaging, according to advertising experts, in the game that is annually the largest showcase for U.S. consumers with more than 100 million viewers.
The Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 after the 49ers staged a furious comeback following a 34-minute partial blackout of the Superdome in New Orleans.
During the blackout, CBS filled the time with recaps by the network's commentators and did not use any of the ads, but the game broadcaster said it would honor its commitments to advertisers who paid an average of $4 million for a 30-second commercial. As a result of the delay, the game ran until 10:45 p.m. on the East Coast.
"Hands down, the winner was Chrysler because of American pride," said Jim Joseph, president of North America division for Cohn & Wolfe. "Unlike other carmakers, they didn't talk about their features. Instead they showed what they're doing in partnership with USO to bring home troops to their families."
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The National Football League's big game started off on a somber note with a rendition of "America the Beautiful" by Jennifer Hudson and the chorus from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed in a December 14 shooting.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, including more than 800 mayors led by New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, ran an ad in the Washington, D.C., area that urged U.S. lawmakers to pass rules requiring background checks on gun buyers.
CBS spokespeople did not elaborate on how they would honor commitments from advertisers. Jim Joseph of Cohn & Wolfe said that by "honoring their commitments," CBS guaranteed that the placement of ads would not be affected, with those in the third and fourth quarter appearing where they had been contracted to appear.
While the game was being played, advertisers offered the kind of humor-laced ads that have annually been a part of the game.
An M&M ad featuring "Glee" star Naya Rivera romancing a red M&M was a crowd pleaser, while an Oreo ad asking viewers to visit the social network Instagram to vote on whether they prefer the cookie or creme of the iconic sandwich cookies was another hit.
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"That was brilliant marketing and generated thousands of hits on Instagram within minutes," said Joseph.
Chrysler's salute to U.S. troops was in keeping with patriotic messages that appear to becoming a hallmark of its ads. Last year, Chrysler's commercial featured a surprise guest appearance by Clint Eastwood who proclaimed it "Halftime in America."
Chrysler was one of the holdouts that did not reveal its marketing strategy prior to the game, while many released online teasers and contests to engage viewers ahead of the game. This year many ads stirred controversy, touching off online debates and headlines.
One spot by Coca-Cola was denounced as "racist" by Arab-American groups, who received an apology from the soft drink giant. In an online teaser for its longer advertisement, the ad showed a person who appeared to be an Arab falling behind in a race to reach a gigantic Coke bottle, as his camel refused to move, while cowboys, Las Vegas show girls and a motley crew fashioned after the marauders of the apocalyptic "Mad Max" film raced by him.
The ad encouraged viewers to vote online on which characters should win the race, but failed to allow a vote for the person on the camel.
SodaStream, which makes a home carbonation system, generated hefty publicity for a spot that didn't even make it to the big game. It issued a statement that CBS rejected its original Super Bowl commercial showing bottles of Coke and Pepsi, two of the game's biggest sponsors, combusting spontaneously as they were being delivered to a store as someone used a SodaStream product.
Other 30- and 60-second spots stretched the boundaries with scantily clad Kate Upton pushing Mercedes-Benz, while domain name registrar GoDaddy caused a stir with its ad showing a nerdy looking man schmooching with super model Bar Refaeli.
But Derek Rucker, professor Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, said by the time the ad finally ran during the game, viewers felt "the GoDaddy close-up was too much."
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Taco Bell scored a hit with its ad featuring a geriatric joyride, with graying consumers enjoying the fast food.
"Right now it looks like Taco Bell is going to be the winner tonight with the geriatric commercial and the reworking of the song, 'We Are Young' done in Spanish," said Brent Poer, president of LiquidThread, a division of media agency Mediavest, about the spot showing senior citizens behaving badly and getting tattoos.
Another favorite was an Audi commercial about a kid getting to take his dad's car to prom and kissing a girl.
"We've all been in high school where you didn't feel like you fit in. It's funny but there's a core human quality they pulled from," said Poer.
The Calvin Klein underwear ad got a lot of traction on Twitter.
"The response from women was pretty overwhelming. It reminded me of the H&M spot with David Beckham a year or two ago where it was a slow pan of his body," said Claudia Caplan, chief marketing officer at advertising agency RP3, based in Bethesda, Maryland.
CBS also expanded its so-called "second-screen" offerings to complement the television broadcast, said Jason Kint, senior vice president and general manager of CBSSports.com,
The enhanced features on CBSSports.com include a first-ever live stream of the Pepsi-sponsored halftime show featuring Beyonc, additional camera angles to see the action from different perspectives and immediate access to the commercials as they are broadcast on CBS.
"The moment when an ad runs, it becomes a true Super Bowl commercial and people start talking about it. Now they can immediately watch it again online as they are talking about it," Kint told Reuters.
"Any advertisers will consider that as value for the ad. It becomes immediately social and played again and again," he said.