Winning Ads

A Twin Cities advertising executive is hoping one of his firm’s four TV advertisements played during the Super Bowl will be unforgettable.


David Lubars watched the Super Bowl, but he went to the bathroom and the refrigerator during the game not during the advertisements.

That’s what you do when you’re president and creative director at Fallon McElligott, the Minneapolis-based ad firm.

“I enjoy the game, but I watch the commercials,” he said.

Especially this year.

Fallon McElligott created four ads for three clients that aired during the big game, so for Lubars the real winner of the televised extravaganza isn’t the team that scored the most points, but which commercial people are talking about at the water cooler this morning.

“The idea is to do something big and grand in a huge forum,” Lubars said. “The truth is, a lot of it is wasted.”

Only a few spots can really stand out in a crowd of ads all trying to stand out, Lubars said. That means most advertisers will have have spent an average of more than $2 million for 30 seconds to just get one of the many Super Bowl ads as forgettable as most of the games.

“It should be talked about afterward,” Lubars said of a winning Super Bowl ad.

Perhaps the best example of that is the “1984” ad that aired during that year’s Super Bowl plugging the introduction of the Macintosh computer. The image of a woman shattering a giant TV screen featuring a Big Brother-like speaker only ran once, but “Advertising Age” named it the commercial of the decade.

“That kind of started the trend” of Super Bowl ads trying to be critically and popularly acclaimed mini-blockbusters, Lubars said.

Lubars also liked the Master lock ads showing the company’s padlocks surviving a rifle shot. They were only run once a year, just during the Super Bowl, but everyone remembered them.

“If it’s a powerful message, that’s really relevant, it really sticks,” he said.

A favorite from last year’s Super Bowl: the ad featuring kids who said they wanted to grow up to be unappreciated middle managers and brown noses.

Lubars said he has high hopes that one of his firm’s ads will be the next talked-about Super Bowl commercial. All of them — the Nuveen Investments commercial showing a future where Christopher Reeve can walk, an Electronic Data Systems spot with cowboys herding cats, and two BMW ads for a sports utility vehicle — have been featured in news reports about Super Bowl commercials.

“There are a hundred ads, and only three or four are on news shows,” Lubars said. “I think they’ll be talking about Nuveen and EDS.”

Lubars said the BMW ads, almost soundless images of a woman skiing and people running through the woods representing the joy of driving a BMW, are “very quiet and anti-Super Bowl,” but “it’s loud in its silence.”

That’s a contrast to many of the of dot-com companies plugging themselves during the big game. Lubars said the outrageousness that characterized a lot of online companies’ efforts to make a name for themselves may be waning. He said so many online companies now are competing with each other that its not enough for their ads to just say they exist. They also have to convey why they’re better than the competition.

Fallon McElligott almost had another Super Bowl ad client this year: online marketeer But Lubars said his firm wasn’t able to put together a spot because the company was in the middle of changing its business model.

“They needed to do a lot of work before we felt comfortable positioning them in a Super Bowl format,” Lubars said. The company ended up doing an ad on its own with this pitch line: “This is the worst commercial on the Super Bowl.”