Expensive Clarity: The Best and the Worst Super Bowl Ads

This was an odd-ball year for Super Bowl ads, wasn’t it? Some real head-scratchers. I found myself going, “huh??” multiple times as I saw the promotional attempts by quite a variety of companies.

But, stepping back for a moment from creativity, production values, and virality, let’s take a look from the point of view of Clarity. Which of these ads, in a succinct and memorable way, made a relevant point about the company, product, or service represented?

Here are my votes:

Best:¬†Clash of Clans “Revenge”

I’m not a gamer. But my kids play Clash, and the use of Liam Neeson in this piece was absolutely brilliant. He captures the kind of attitude that goes on when people play Clash, even down to the user names (BigBuffetBoy85) (AngryNeeson52). The spot was totally on message – “I’m going to get you!” – and Neeson was the perfect choice to deliver it. Plus, there was great background music and a touch of humor as Liam’s name was mispronounced.

Worst: Nationwide.

Not only was this ad a depressing¬†buzzkill, it doesn’t really have anything to do with Nationwide’s offering – insurance. Unless you take the most cynical view possible (“hey! It’s a dangerous world out there! Insure your kids so can collect on them in case of accident!”), which is an even more depressing contemplation. Sure, I get the idea of making the world a safer place for kids, but you’re an insurance company. This ad definitely does not lead me down the pathway toward buying a policy. And how did it make the people feel who tragically lost a child to an accident??

The lesson: if you’re going to spend millions of dollars (or just hundreds of dollars) making a point, sharpen your arrow and take careful aim at your bullseye. Making an “impact” of some sort isn’t the way to communicate with clarity.

There were other ads that were funny, creative, or moving, but these two stood out to me on the Clarity scale.¬†(I guess the Loctite ad was on message, but for crying out loud, I hated it…!)

What’s your view? Which ads did you feel were totally on message – or, left you scratching your head?


  1. Elliott Wood says

    Honorable mention of worst messaging might go to Nissan, who posited that you can skip your kid’s childhood to pursue your dreams, so long as you show up in his teen years in an Altima.

    Toyota took the fatherhood idea, and showed how their Toyota helped a dad be present for his daughter throughout all her life moments.

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