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Super Bowl ads: Winners and losers

Last night’s Super Bowl was exciting on the field but pretty somber between snaps. That is the commercials were decidedly darker and more emotional than in year’s past. One key theme that we discussed last week was a key cause: dadvertising. Gone are the days of the buffoon dad getting hit in the groin or proving he’s unable to take care of the kids without mom.

Nissan, Dove, and Toyota (TM) all pulled at dad’s heartstrings and then Nationwide saw to it that his very status as “father” was under attack from accidents that could kill your kid. But more on that later.

Ken Wheaton, Managing Editor of Advertising Age stopped by to break down which ads worked and which missed the mark.

Super Bowl Ad Winners

The king of beers' (BUD) first ad got people talking with a traditional appearance by the clydesdales and a cute puppy. Still, as Wheaton notes, “that ad never sells any beer.”

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Later in the game Bud took a swing at the competition (notably craft brews, many of which they now own themselves). “This ad was sort of like bud being bud and coming out swinging,” Wheaton says. The result is actually selling beer. While there were no cute puppies or regal clydesdales this too had people talking.

Always - Like a girl
Procter & Gamble (PG) saved some money re-airing a spot that his been around in one way or another for a while Wheaton says. The spot in question - “Like a girl” - aimed at ending the stereotype that “like a girl” is a bad thing (see: running, throwing, fighting etc.).

“This is sort of girl empowerment,” Wheaton told Yahoo Finance. “You see little girls, sometime in puberty they start changing their self impression and to me that’s sort of a perfect target for a feminine napkin brand. You’re getting at young girls, puberty age and maybe their dads and moms that see this and feel warm and fuzzy about this and they’ll remember the brand name when they go into the store.”

Related: 4 themes to watch for in this year's Super Bowl ads


It has been well publicized that the NFL gave up some lucrative ad space for this public service announcement about domestic violence. While Wheaton says the message was effective it was just as much about NFL PR as it was about combating the scourge of domestic violence.

The NFL waded hip deep into the issue thanks to the Ray Rice saga at the beginning of this season and partnered with NoMore.org to try and use their cache to bring awareness to the problem. Did it work or is it overly transparent that this was just as much about the NFL as it was about domestic violence? You decide.

Super Bowl Ad Losers

Carnival  (CCL)
“Oh my God they’ve contracted Chrysler-itis,” Wheaton says, referring to the recent spate of two minute epic Chrysler ads in the Super Bowl.

The ad for the embattled cruise line featured audio of John F. Kennedy giving a speech to a yacht club in 1962 as beautiful imagery of cruises flooded the screen. It left Wheaton and just about anyone else that saw it scratching their head. “Maybe if your target market is boomers, boomers love JFK, that will work for you but it just seemed weird.”

The insurance company had a fun ad featuring the cute and quirky Mindy Kaling and Matt Damon in the first half. Eagle eared viewers didn't miss the Julia Roberts voice over and “Pretty Woman” playing in the background either. It was effective and reasonably memorable.

But no one is talking about that ad today because they followed it up with an ad starring a dead child.

“Today they’re gonna be defending themselves by saying ‘we wanted to start a conversation about child safety,’” Wheaton believes. He says while the conversation is a good idea, starting it during the Super Bowl decidedly is not. “The reaction where I watched it was ‘what the hell just happened’ or ‘thanks for bringing me down.’”

More Super Bowl commercials on Yahoo:

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