Belk College of Business faculty critique Super Bowl ads

The Super Bowl’s viewership is among the highest for any television broadcast. Advertisers spend millions to connect with audiences worldwide. These commercials, once reserved for bathroom/kitchen breaks, have become a cultural phenomenon, sparking debate on their entertainment value and impact. Belk College of Business faculty experts weigh in on this year’s ads.

Tamara CohenBelk College of Business marketing professor Tamara Cohen said that while she enjoyed this year’s Super Bowl ads, her favorite was from Google (“100 Billion Words”).

“This ad was really poignant and touched my interest in powerful technology facilitating connection and understanding among people who have no language in common,” said Cohen. “It was about people helping each other, small acts giving and receiving pleasure and utility. It was beautiful and inspiring.”

Burger King’s “#EATLIKEANDY” was Cohen’s least-favorite advertisement.

“After the hype of not releasing this ad ahead of the game, I thought it fell completely flat. It was a noisy, boring, 45 seconds of eating an unappetizing, non-descript burger. This movie was made in 1982, which was before most people in this country were born. Maybe baby boomers would recognize Andy Warhol. Is Burger King so old and tired and unoriginal?”

As for ads with impact, Cohen went for Budweiser’s “Wind Never Felt Better.” According to Cohen, the classic Bob Dylan song was super appropriate; it spoke to the archetypal Budweiser tropes but added new emphasis on using wind power.

“Using the camera panning was a way to make the audience feel like they’re in the wind. Ending the logo on the turbine was strong. Great execution,” said Cohen.

Craig Depken, director of the Master of Science in Economics program and professor of economics, who has a national reputation in the area of sports economics, gave Google’s ad the nod for impact; he also cited the Washington Post commercial. Depken’s favorite ad was Verizon’s “The Coach that Wouldn’t Be Here.” His least favorite was the Michelob Ultra spot.

Jennifer Ames Stuart Jennifer Ames Stuart, clinical professor of marketing in the Belk College and director of Executive Education, stated that many of the Super Bowl advertisements were “trying so very hard … all of which simply screamed, ‘Look at me! I’m gonna be wild and crazy and filled with celebrities or action or cuteness or social responsibility and hope the sheer excess makes you forget there’s really not much here.’”

Pepsi’s “Bubly/Buble” commercial was Stuart’s favorite ad. She called it “extremely clever, extremely entertaining and very funny. It harks back, subtly, to the classic ‘Who’s on First?’ Abbot and Costello bit, for an added bit of enjoyability among those old enough to be aware of the reference. And most of all, it is an absolutely perfect vehicle for creating brand awareness for a (relatively) new drink—a drink which, coincidentally, happens to have a brand name that very nicely encapsulates what it is: sparkling water. This one is a home run.”

She also deemed it the most impactful due to its “brand linkage” ability, a measure to connect the appeal of the ad to a specific brand. The Mint Mobile commercial is an example of a commercial with low brand linkage, even though it might be entertaining.

Least favorite for Stuart was Budweiser’s “Wind Never Felt Better.” She noted that from a purely marketing perspective, the link between the song, the brand and the wind generators that finally show up at the end is, at best, tenuous. She added that the appropriation of one of Bob Dylan’s iconic protest songs to pitch beer is “simply disgraceful.”

Photo: The closing shot from Google's Super Bowl commercial.