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Super Bowl Ads: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

At first I thought it was an act of corporate suicide.

I’m talking about the Doritos’ commercials on the Super Bowl last Sunday. Pepsi’s Frito-Lay division (owner of the Doritos brand) ran a series of Super Bowl ads that cost them some serious coin.

CBS charged $2.6 million for a 30 second Super Bowl spot this year (up just a bit from the $42,500 for Super Bowl I). If Frito-Lay paid the sticker price were talking $10.4 million for a couple of minutes of air time. But with 106.5 million viewers– the largest in television history – they had an historic opportunity to sell some chips.

So with about $10 million invested and 106 million prospects to talk to, they communicated a message of great clarity: Eating Doritos will bring you physical pain.

I kid you not.

One of the ads takes place in the exercise room of a gym. One guy – headband, sweat pants – offers his buddy – tank top, gym shorts – some Doritos, which he takes.

Then headband tells gym shorts that he got the Doritos “out of Tim’s locker.” This comment strikes such fear in the heart of gym shorts that he spits a mouthful of partially eaten Doritos onto the floor and says, “This is bad. Tim loves Doritos.”

Gym shorts no sooner utters these fateful words when he is struck in the side of the neck by a Dorito in the incarnation of a steel, ninja throwing dart, and falls over.

Cut to Tim: a psycho, covered in Doritos like the creature from the Black Lagoon with orange splotches, who attacks headband screaming.

Fade to black.

Makes you hungry, doesn’t it?

There was another commercial in the series that has the young son of an attractive black woman sharply slapping his mother’s suitor for checking out his mom as she walks into the kitchen and then taking a Dorito from a bowl on the coffee table. Junior is peeved and the sound effects of the slaps are loud and vicious.

Yet another shows a man sitting on a bench eating Doritos. A dog approaches and looks at the man longingly. The man won’t give the dog a chip unless he barks for it. The dog, unknown to the guy on the bench, is wearing a bark suppressing collar. The clever canine somehow gets behind the bench, removes the electronic device, and straps it around the man’s throat, who falls to the ground spasming from a series of agonizing electric shocks to his larynx.

See, here’s the deal: ads are supposed to sell something; they are supposed to create a want for the product in the mind of the viewer.

I know these commercials are supposed to be funny. And maybe some people were amused by Fido’s electric revenge or the attack of the Dorito-maniac. Maybe.

But the question is, did they increase the desire for a bag of Doritos? Sorry. No sale.

I later found out that these particular ads were the winners of a contest created by Frito-Lay for consumers to shoot home based commercials for Doritos to be played at Super Bowl commercial breaks.

Clever marketing idea on Frito-Lay’s part, and well done to the budding filmmakers for winning the contest. But the marketing executives that approved the multi-million dollar ad buy should be ordered to read Positioning The Battle for your Mind by Al Reis and Jack Trout on pain of having their corporate Blackberry accounts cancelled – because they sure as hell don’t have a clue what positioning is.

Newsflash: associating your product in the minds of your prospects with slaps, electric shocks, and steel darts might be better suited to promoting a psychiatric hospital than a snack food.

Google’s Super Bowl ad, on the other hand, was piece of marketing simplicity and effectiveness. It’s called Parisian Love.  It starts with a picture of the Google search box. You don’t see the person, but he types in “study abroad paris france.” And it rolls from there. The viewer watches a love affair develop between the searcher and a woman in Paris all played out in the sequence of terms rapidly typed into the Google search box.

When the commercial finishes, the viewer knows that he or she can find anything on Google from cafes near the Louvre to how to assemble a crib.

The ad works – just like Google.

Frito-Lay didn’t ask for this assessment of their Super Bowl commercials. Neither did Google. And while the pluses and minuses of these advertisements may seem all too obvious, some of the nuances of many marketing strategies are not so glaring.

This is why corporations large and small have us conduct reviews of their marketing materials. They get a professional viewpoint regarding the impact and communication potential of their websites, brochures, direct mail pieces and public relations messages.

The service is fast and inexpensive and provides them with an external perspective as to how they are communicating to their customers and prospects.

If you think this service might be of assistance to you in some way, please contact us at 818-397-1401. Or via our website at www.ontargetresearch.com

Best,

Bruce

President & CEO
On Target Research