Dishing out $4 million for a 30-second commercial is a risky move, but with big Super Bowl advertising bets come big payoffs… and even bigger failures.
Who did it best and worst, and who might be getting fired? We're breaking down the ads from Super Bowl XLVIII so you know what people will really be talking about.
1. RadioShack, "Phone Call"
"The '80s called. They want their store back." Remember RadioShack? The store — yes, it's still in existence — simultaneously became cool again, told us they were aware of their brand image, and got unanimous approval on the Internet for their flashback-tastic ad (above). Featuring Mary Lou Retton, Ponch, Cliff Clavin, Hulk Hogan, Dee Snider, Kid 'n' Play, Devo, Jason Voorhees, the California Raisins, Teen Wolf, Chucky, Sgt. Slaughter, and Alf all cleaning out a Radio Shack store for a much-needed makeover, the ad ended with them loading up the old junk into a DeLorean and peeling off. Of course.
Well, @RadioShack just took the lead in my Super Bowl ad rankings. By a mile.— Joe Adalian (@TVMoJoe) February 3, 2014
Was that RadioShack commercial an episode of The Goldbergs? #SuperBowl— Jesse David Fox (@JesseDavidFox) February 3, 2014
The Broncos are too busy thinking about how cool Radio Shack is now.— billy eichner (@billyeichner) February 3, 2014
I think the best commercial has been the Radio Shack 80s commercial. Alf is aging surprisingly well.— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) February 3, 2014
2. Audi, "Doberhuahua"
A couple at a pet store were told they could breed a Doberman and a Chihuahua together, and imagined the possibilities: a giant-headed Doberhuahua hybrid. This ad featured a hilarious cameo by animal-rights activist Sarah McLachlan (she of the sob-inducing basic-cable animal rescue commercials) and a town running scared from the terrifying new breed, with the tagline "Compromise scares us, too" and then an Audi. Could've been for anything, and sometimes those are the most fun. Bonus points for having the couple rescue an adorable mutt in the end.
3. Heinz, "Hum"
If you're happy and you know it, hum this song and pick up some Heinz! The ketchup ad capitalized on the need to "tap" a bottle to make the condiment come out in one of the cutest, simplest, sing-songiest ads of the Bowl. We wish they didn't have to make fun of their own squeeze bottle to do it, but they're not wrong — those bottles do make a gross sound.
4. Cheerios, "Gracie"
Sassy kids are crowd-pleasers. It's just a fact. But the Cheerios kid — who was told that her parents were having another child, adding a little brother or sister to their brood, by adding a Cheerio to her pile — one-upped an easy target dad by adding one more Cheerio to the bunch and declaring, "And… a puppy." Adorable.
5. Budweiser, "Puppy Love"
The Clydesdales have become a Super Bowl beer-shilling staple, but they've never been this awww-inducing. Great rule of thumb for a winning commercial: Put a puppy in it!
1. Maserati, "Strike"
The Maserati Ghibli ad was a head-scratcher for a couple of big reasons. One: Its star Quvenzhané Wallis, best known for her Oscar-nominated role in "Beasts of the Southern Wild," has nothing to do with Maserati and isn't even old enough to drive. She's 10. Two (and this is a biggie): The car has a starting price of $65,600 — about $14,000 more than the median household income in the U.S. First rule of advertising: Know your audience.
Um, this Ghibli commercial just used the same recruiting pitch that Al Qaeda uses. #SuperBowl— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) February 2, 2014
Quvenzhané Wallis for Mazarati feels like such a natural pairing #SBads— Jarett Wieselman (@JarettSays) February 2, 2014
Remember that Mazarati ad when Quvenzhané Wallis sings “It’s a Hard Knock Life” in Annie later this year.— Jason Lynch (@jasonlynch) February 2, 2014
2. Chevy, "Romance"
But Chevy proves that knowing your audience is tricky sometimes. Super Bowl viewers like trucks, right? They must, because there are a lot of truck commercials. But how do they feel about livestock in love? Chevy's ad started off very much like an ad for most pickups… and then "You Sexy Thing" came on, and it became about a bull having sex. Really.
Congratulations to Chevy for harnessing the power of bull sperm for its #SuperBowl ad.— Daniel Fienberg (@HitFixDaniel) February 2, 2014
Dear Chevy - nobody likes bull sex. Or whatever that was. Awful.— Tim Goodman (@BastardMachine) February 2, 2014
3. Chrysler, "America's Import"
What started with the odd but possibly poetic query "What's more American than America?" ended with Bob Dylan telling us to "Let Germany make your beer ... let Asia assemble your phone." Really? Bob Dylan's not a poet, y'all — he just sold out for a free car! Chrysler might be made in America, but that commercial made us so confused. It drew a clear love it or hate it response from even his staunchest fans.
“Is there anything more American than America? Or a renowned folk singer selling out?” #SuperBowl— Matt Fowler (@TheMattFowler) February 3, 2014
Nobody tell Bob Dylan what he just did.— Danny Zuker (@DannyZuker) February 3, 2014
GoDaddy was one of the pioneers of the shocking Super Bowl ad, but the buildup to their big "someone's quitting their job on national TV!" stunt didn't pay off. At all. Is this woman really becoming a puppeteer? And does anyone besides John Turturro really care? Better luck next year!
5. Subway, "Frito Chicken Enchilada Melt"
Is Subway still healthy fast food? Apparently not — sorry, Jared — but they have enough money to make athletes pretend they like cheesy enchilada sandwiches with Fritos on them. Yikes. Brand confusion if we've ever seen it… and also pretty disgusting looking. Someone should (and might) get fired over this.
What did we miss?