Olin School MBA students rank best Super Bowl ads

Super Bowl XXXVIII is over, but the Super Bowl ads — which cost a cool $2.3 million for a 30-second ad — are still battling it out. For the fourth year in a row, MBA students and faculty at the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis critiqued and ranked the Super Bowl ads during the big game with veteran advertising executives. This year, the Olin MBA students huddled with senior ad execs from the Leo Burnett agency. But expectations were dashed, as most of the Super Bowl ads fell flat.

Their picks for this year’s best Super Bowl ads:

Anheuser-Busch’s humorous “Dog Bites Man” ad for Bud Light topped the Washington University MBA students’ list, followed by General Motor’s “Holy S – – T!” ad introducing a new retro-looking Chevy. Coming in at a close third in the Super Bowl ad tally by the MBA students was Frito Lay’s funny “Senior Moment,” where an elderly couple fight over a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips.

All three ads were standouts for the Washington Univeristy MBA group — also a prime target audience for Super Bowl advertisers — because they were funny. “Comedy sells in the Super Bowl,” said Olin MBA student Dave Drew.

Most of the MBA students agreed that, overall, the Super Bowl ads were “mediocre” this year. “There were quite a few mediocre ads this year,” said Olin MBA student Beth Hunsicker. “The Bud Light ad with the dog biting his master’s crotch just really stood out because the rest of the ads were so boring.”

“Overall, the ads this year were kind of medicore,” said Lewis Williams, Senior Vice President and Creative Director at Leo Burnett. “I don’t think I saw an ad that’s going to be considered a classic — like Apple’s 1984 ad or A-B’s ad with the Clydesdales playing football from a few years ago. I don’t think there’s one that everybody is going to be talking about.”

William Finnie, a former senior marketing executive for Anheuser-Busch, who now heads up executive education at the Washington University business school, agreed. “This year’s ads all seemed to be playing a running game to build their brand, but they didn’t achieve it,” he said. “They didn’t go for the long pass, and in the Super Bowl, you build your brand with an ad that everybody will be talking about — the big pass.” Finnie said Anheuser-Busch’s “cute ad with the donkey” who wants to be a Clydesdale, came the closest this year.

Todd Abrams, who teaches marketing and advertising at the Olin School of Business, and a former senior ad executive who helped create the famous “Bud Bowl” Super Bowl ads, said this year’s ads were “not as visually engaging” as ads of Super Bowls past. “The reason the Bud Bowl ads were such a hit is that people are distracted a lot at Super Bowl parties, and those ads jumped off the screen.”

Major sponsors of the Washington University business school’s Fourth Annual “Super Advertising Bowl” included Anheuser-Busch, Nestle and USBank. Proceeds went to the United Way.

Click here to view the article on the Super Advertising Bowl from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.