The Mad Men Behind Our Super Bowl Commercials

Me Men

Technology may come and go, but advertising will remain for as long as people have idle money to spend.

Television commercials have long been the medium of choice for large corporations and their ad agencies. Yet, with the advent of Tivo, Internet ad-blockers, and Facebook, we would expect a downward trend in interest in television ads, in particular from youths.

The reality is quite the opposite. In a study by Venables Bell & Partners, young adults said they look forward to watching Super Bowl ads more than spending time with their friends and family, the half-time show, and the national anthem, in that order. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed would opt to watch the game with commercials versus commercial-free. Attribute this phenomenon to the enormously popular drama, Mad Men.

A clear result of this demographic shift in attentiveness to advertising is evident in USA Today’s Ad Meter, a study which charts second-by-second reactions to ads during the Super Bowls by volunteers. Four of the top ten most popular ads in the Ad Meter were user submitted commercials that won Doritos/Pepsi’s amateur-commercial competition. With budgets of less than $1,000, the six young winners came away with $4 million in total winnings.

Below are the top ten commercials for Super Bowl XLV as rated by USA Today’s Ad Meter, along with an abbreviated exposition on the geniuses behind these creative works.

1. Doritos – Pug Attack (J.R. Burningham, user submitted)

Doritos struck marketing gold by using its now-familiar formula for creating best-liked Super Bowl spots: let its customers make them. The fella behind the winning Doritos ad: a 31-year-old part-time designer of websites for kids. J.R. Burningham says he filmed the spot for about $500.

In the commercial a running pug, set in slow motion, knocks down a door and a man holding a bag of Doritos to get to the tortilla chips. For Burningham’s top ranking, he receives a $1 million in addition to the $2,500 already received from Pepsico, which makes Doritos. Burningham was one of 5,600 entries in the Frito-Lay Crash the Super Bowl ad campaign, which invited fans to make a commercial.

A freelance editor and part-time Web designer, Burningham said he didn’t know his ad was going to be aired until he saw it on TV with millions of other Super Bowl watchers. [Source]


1. Bud Light – Dog Sitter (DDB, Chicago)

Tied for first place is the commercial for Anheuser-Busch’s best selling Bud Light brand. Long been the prohibitive favorite for most memorable Super Bowl commercial, there was a noticeable decline in quality for A-B’s commercials across the board.

Part of the reason is due to shake-ups in A-B’s marketing operations. Bob Lachky, A-B’s former chief creative officer who created some of the most iconic advertising campaigns of the past two decades, including “Wassup?!,” the Budweiser frogs and the “Real Men of Genius,” left in 2009 after InBev bought A-B for $52 billion in 2008.

Last year, ad agency DDB of Chicago, long linked at the hip with the Bud Light brand, began sharing creative duties with Cannonball in St. Louis. [Source 1, 2]


3. Volkswagen: The Force! (Deutsch LA, Los Angeles)

Volkswagen premiered two :30 second spots during Super Bowl XLV. The ads showcased two new vehicles, the all-new 2012 Passat and the 21st Century Beetle, months before they arrive in dealerships this fall.

Immediately following the Super Bowl, Volkswagen will execute a digital and social media campaign, including an ESPN mobile takeover, blog, and Facebook activations, as well as a YouTube homepage takeover for the recently launched walk-around webisodes “Inside the VW Academy.”

Volkswagen of America selected IPG’s Deutsch/LA in 2009 to handle creative duties on its $200 million ad account. That spending is almost sure to increase as the German automaker tries to make inroads into the U.S. market, where it currently holds a meager 2% market share. [Source]


4. Doritos – House Sitting (Tynesha Williams, user submitted)

Tynesha Williams was awarded 2nd place and $600,000 for her hilarious commercial entitled “House Sitting.” Tynesha was one of only two females amongst the ten finalists and the first black female finalist to make it to the top 10 in the five years Doritos has been conducting this contest.

An interview with Tynesha regarding her favorite filmmakers, her aspirations as a black female director and the inspiration for her commercial can be found here.


5. Pepsi Max – Love Hurts (Brad Bosley, user submitted)

Brad Bosley directed, wrote and produced the winning ad in PepsiCo’s “Crash the Super Bowl” contest and won $1 million in cash.

Bosley lined up with other finalists in a Cowboys Stadium suite Sunday, hoping his $800 commercial with unknowns was picked to run alongside others costing millions of dollars and starring celebrities.

Bosley, 28, likes to make ads with a surprise twist and a comedic touch. He studied film production and creative writing at Northwestern University and earned a master’s degree in directing from the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles in 2008. He has directed more than a dozen short films.


6. CareerBuilder – Parking Lot (In-house)

After an at times tumultuous relationship with ad agencies, the No. 1 job site in the country, CareerBuilder, no longer works with an agency of record and is handling its advertising in-house.

CareerBuilder ended its two-year run with Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., which picked up the account after the job site’s acrimonious split with its former creative shop, Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago.


7. Pepsi Max – First Date (Nick Simotas, user submitted)

Orange County-native Nick Simotas finally earned 2nd place and $600,000 in his third year as a competitor, with a Pepsi Max ad depicting a first date. The ad, which he and his friend Kyle Stafford reportedly made for $30, takes the viewer through the mind of a man and a woman on a typical first date. The woman has all sorts of questions running through her head, while the man is only focused on taking her home –until the Pepsi Max arrives, when his attention switches.

The Cal State Fullerton graduate was discouraged by his losses in past years and only decided to make this ad a week before the deadline. [Source]


8. NFL – Best Fans Ever (Grey Worldwide, New York)

One of the best and most understated spots of Super Bowl XLV came from the National Football League and Grey. Instead of focusing on the drama of the game or the athleticism of the sport, the NFL gave us a trip down memory lane, with a montage of TV fans celebrating the game while wearing NFL garb on their shows. Mostly TV comedies like Happy Days, The Office, Cheers, Seinfeld, The Brady Bunch, The Golden Girls, The Simpsons, even The Dukes of Hazard make an appearance. [Source]

Below is a side-by-side comparison of the original footage of these clips with the graphically-enhanced Super Bowl version.


9. Bridgestone – Carma (Method Studios, Los Angeles and The Richards Group, Dallas)

Visual effects company Method recently completed work on Bridgestone’s :30 “Carma” via agency The Richards Group. The commercial, which debuted during Super Bowl XLV, features a beaver that repays a surprised motorist’s kindness. The spot makes a sly reference to Bridgestone’s “Scream,” which debuted during Super Bowl XLII in 2008. [Source]


10. Coca-Cola – Guards (Wieden+Kenedy, Portland)

Four Wieden+Kennedy ads aired during this year’s Super Bowl, the most ever for Portland’s powerhouse advertising agency.

In an era where digital media is ascendant, these old-technology wins highlight the breadth and depth of work coming from an agency that is still best known to many for its iconic Nike work.

Wieden+Kennedy has created Coke Super Bowl spots for several years running, and won an Emmy award for last year’s “Heist” ad for the soft drink maker. [Source]