Loved the ads, but who was advertising in the Super Bowl?

By Jennifer Laidlaw

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Yes, you just loved those Super Bowl ads, but can you remember who was advertising?

Although it’s a sure thing that the Baltimore Ravens crushed the New York Giants in Sunday’s Super Bowl XXXV in Tampa, there’s no certainty that consumers will remember the game’s multimillion-dollar ads, advertising experts say.

Although some were funny and entertaining, at an average of $2.3 million for a 30-second spot, most of them should have been more memorable, they say.

“Overall everybody was going for laughs and not much selling,” said Jack Trout, president of Connecticut-based marketing strategy firm Trout & Partners. “They are all trapped in this thing that ‘we have to get everyone to laugh.”

With an audience of 130 million, the Super Bowl has become an Ad Bowl, which advertisers use to kick off new campaigns. But while Super Bowl veterans like Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch Inc. and PepsiCo Inc. usually know how to woo the audience, most of the ads will just pass most consumers by.

Industry experts said Anheuser-Busch’s commercials were the funniest and most memorable, especially the one where its character Cedric accidentally sprays his Bud Light over his date while trying to woo her.

While the ad was funny, it wasn’t completely clear what message the company was trying to sell, Trout said. “That was hysterical but I don’t know where Bud Light comes in there.”

“And Volkswagen with a car up a tree, what was that about?” Trout said, referring to a Volkswagen ad which has two men throwing things at a tree and then suddenly a red Volkswagen falls out.

“Certainly some of the Budweiser commercials were entertaining,” said Bob Bloom, chief exective of the U.S. operations of French advertising giant Publicis Groupe SA. “Other commercials were just entertaining and (some) were just over the top. One couldn’t figure out what the strategy was,” he said.

While a beer brand can entertain because it is supposed to be a product that you enjoy, it doesn’t work for other things like brokerages, Bloom said. For example, “you don’t go to the broker which entertains you the most. As an advertiser, you have a greater goal than to simply entertain,” he said.

While this year’s commercials were certainly much better than last year when 17 dot-coms advertised, industry watchers said that too many were too vague, which would certainly not score a touchdown with viewers.

“Vague and funny is how I would score the Super Bowl,” Trout said. One that got particularly panned by industry experts was the rebranding campaign by Andersen Consulting, which recently changed its name to Accenture.

One of the Accenture ad featured long-distance surgery while another had a man test driving a car who suddenly disappears. “Accenture was just weird. You had no idea what they were selling,” Trout said.

Experts said that the ads that really seemed to hit the mark were from traditional Super Bowl advertising all-stars like Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo, which both use agencies owned by Omnicom Group — BBDO for Pepsi and DDB for Anheuser.

“It was the Omnicom bowl,” said Brian Goodall, president of New York-based advertising company Hampel Stefanides. “These agencies really pull out all the stops to get noticed.”

One Pepsi spot that was a big hit was a parody on Viagra in which former Sen. Bob Dole revealed his youthful and vibrant self was due to drinking Pepsi.

“It worked because of the mood. You had the expectations that it was going to be another Viagra ad,” said Spencer Brown, president and CEO of agency Tyee Euro RSCG.

Another big winner was Web broker E+Trade, which is rapidly becoming a Super Bowl veteran. It grabbed attention this year with a take-off of last year’s dot-com ads, with a “Planet of the Apes”-type monkey that sheds a tear when he sees bits and pieces from dot-com companies all rusted and broken.

“It just seemed to be the perfect parody and it was effective because the point E+Trade made was ‘stick with the basics and we can help you,”‘ Brown said.