Budweiser wins with crabby crawlers as Anheuser-Busch takes seven of top 10

By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY

Anheuser-Busch continued its Super Bowl ad supremacy with a commercial that pure and simple made folks smile.

For a record ninth-consecutive year, the beer giant won USA TODAY’S exclusive Ad Meter real-time consumer focus group ranking of Super Bowl commercials.

The winning ad featured a group of computer-generated crabs on the beach bowing down at the altar of an ice chest filled with Budweiser. The red chest with two Buds for antennae looks like a giant crab — which a crab army worships as the sun sets behind it. That’s the kind of gentle, visual humor folks apparently wanted most this year.

Folks such as Doyle Wind. The retired bread salesman from Houston says he particularly objects to ads with violence in light of the Iraq war. “My next door neighbor has three sons over there right now,” he says. “The way things are going now, we don’t need to be reminded of all that. There’s too much sadness now in the country. I guess that’s why I enjoy the funny (ads) more.”

The crab ad aired in the fourth quarter, becoming the first Ad Meter winner from that late in the game. A-B also walked off with four of the top five-rated commercials. And seven of the top 10.

The crustaceans’ visual humor has another advantage after Sunday for the international brewer. Explains Bob Lachky, A-B creative chief, at A-B: ‘We try to find something that will play around the world.”

This year, the usual array of humorous Super Bowl commercials had to fight off surprising competition from ads that made folks feel warm and fuzzy. But in the end, viewers wanted to laugh.

“Humor gets me over anything — not stupid humor,” says Kathleen Stobie, a Silver Spring, Md., resident who is a coordinator with her county government.

By contrast, slapstick violence sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. Panelists loved the Bud Light ad about a guy who takes a Rock, Paper, Scissors game too literally — and tosses a real rock to win a Bud Light. It finished third.

But they had little patience with another Bud Light ad featuring people who replace fist pumps with a series of face slaps.

With U.S. beer sales growth flat — particularly domestic brews — A-B once again went all out to win the Super Bowl of advertising. It broadcast nine commercials over five minutes of multimillion-dollar air time.

But the unusually high ranking of a Doritos commercial about a Doritos-eating guy who is distracted by a cute girl — the winner of an online contest for amateur videos — may shake up the future of Super Bowl advertising.

It’s the first time a major marketer entrusted a Super Bowl spot fetching up to $2.6 million for 30 seconds of air time to a novice.

The fourth-place spot was filmed for $12 — the price of the four bags of Doritos. Compare that with those it beat, several special effects-laden pro spots costing upwards of $1 million to make.

This also was the first year in which a majority of marketers clearly felt compelled to air commercials aimed at driving consumer to their websites. With ad rates at record levels and consumer eyes increasingly straying from the TV screen to the computer screen, marketers are looking to have their messages have traction beyond the big game. website names were attached to virtually every ad.

If ever there was a Super Bowl whose messages were directly aimed at the twentysomething and under crowd, this was it. That’s why a Coke ad had the feel of a video game. It’s why Chevrolet put young girls in a car in Manhattan that is swarmed by bare-chested guys. And it’s why Nationwide chose Kevin Federline, Britney Spear’s estranged hubby.

Call it the Anything For Attention Bowl. Many marketers took the low road for that attention. Snickers had two men kissing over a candy bar. A-B filled most of 30 seconds with face-slapping. And GoDaddy.com offered-up a sanitized version of a wet T-shirt contest.

It’s as if some marketers momentarily forgot how turned-off Super Bowl viewers were three years ago by the attention-getting gambit of Janet Jackson’s half-time wardrobe malfunction that bared one breast.

Apparently, just about anything that’s edgy — if not bizarre — is getting Madison Avenue’s green light, again.

But once again, automakers couldn’t buy a break. Despite six ads from three car companies, none made the viewers’ top 10.

Augustina Foglietta, an accountant from Houston, summed up the feeling of many about car commercials. “Hate ’em,” she says. “I think they’re boring, and there’s just too many of ’em.”

Going head-to-head
Results of ads similar in appeal and ads in selected products:
Consumer-generated ads
DoritosGuy in car, girl show Doritos qualities.
NFLFans mourn end of season.
ChevroletBare-chested guys wash HHR.
DoritosCheckout girl gets excited.
Soft drinks
Coca-ColaNo more regrets for old man.
Snapple Green TeaFan researches mystery ingredient in China.
Coca-ColaVideo game guy does good deeds.
Sierra MistBeard comb-over doesn’t work.
Coca-ColaBlack History Month tribute.
Coca-ColaInside a Coke vending machine.
Sierra MistKarate students defend soft drink.

via usatoday.com