Olin Business School picks super ads from the Super Bowl

The best of the best weren't that great, according to many evaluators

Philadelphia but up a good fight during Sunday’s Super Bowl, but in the end the New England Patriots and Diet Pepsi were the clear winners–that’s according to the votes cast by faculty and students from the Olin School of Business during the annual Super Ad Bowl event.

The Diet Pepsi ad featured rap-star P. Diddy getting a lift in a Diet Pepsi truck when his car breaks down. This leads to all of Los Angeles’ celebrity set driving their own diet-drink trucks and decking them out in all kind of ostentatious ways.

“Making fun of us for following pop culture and blindly imitating what celebrities do was great,” said Wendy Katz ’02 and JD/MBA student. “In general I liked the commercials this year. There was a lot of focus on pop-culture, which I thought was interesting. It was very clear who the target audience is for most of these ads.”

The second choice for best Super Bowl Ad featured a reluctant skydiver whose pilot jumps out of the airplane without a parachute when a Bud Lite falls out the door. Coming in third was Frito-Lay’s ad featuring MC Hammer as one of many lost items returned by a grouchy next door neighbor who never returned anything until the kids offered him a bag of chips.

Not everyone was impressed with the ads. William Finnie, adjunct professor of marketing who also served 26 years as former director of market research for Anheuser-Busch, said that half of the advertisers didn’t get the most value of the $2.4 million they spent on a spot. Finnie said Super Bowl ads are both a business and creative opportunity, but a company has to determine what the business model is that the ad is going to convey. They also have to know what’s going on in the market, he said, as Cadillac has done it its advertising.

“In the last three years Cadillac has done everything right to turn around their product’s image,” Finnie said, pointing out that the average age of Cadillac buyers has dropped by 10 years. “Their strategy for the Super Bowl cemented their turnaround. Their ad said, ‘We’ve got what it takes. We’ve go a cool car.’ They’re no longer a codger car. You have to use a very sophisticated strategy for Super Bowl ads to make them worthwhile. Half of the advertisers didn’t get that. Pepsi got it; Cadillac got it; Anheuser-Busch always gets it.”

Even though the emphasis of the Super Ad Bowl was on the commercials, several people found the the whole event equally thrilling. John Klein, executive vice chancellor for administration at Washington University, said he felt the ads were trying too hard, but watching the game at the Knight Center with the business school faculty and students was easy.

“I mostly enjoyed just being here and listening to what other people had to say. I learned a lot from the talk the people from Leo Burnett gave before the game. But basically, being here with everyone is just great.”