Kim Donahue, senior lecturer in marketing

The two things I consider when determining if each ad was good or not:

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Screenshot from Honda's "Yearbooks" commercial. Courtesy: http://www.honda.com/

1) The target market and message,

2) Was the Super Bowl the right venue?

One of the issues with the venue situation is a large portion of the viewing population is watching the commercials at a party.

Therefore, some of the commercials that were strong and among people’s favorites, I rank low simply because they didn’t play well in a crowded noisy room.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Kia, "Hero's Journey"

    Kia - Melissa McCarthy – This was entertaining and did a great job of relating the story with the product; Honda didn’t do that as well.

  • Honda, "Yearbooks"

    Honda, "Yearbooks." This was entertaining, uplifting and memorable.

  • Mr. Clean, "Cleaner of Your Dreams"

    Mr. Clean – This was interesting. It caught people’s attention, but bordered on creepy until it got to the end. Then women enjoyed it – and they were the target market – while men still thought it was creepy.

  • T-Mobile, "#UnlimitedMoves"

    T-Mobile – Unlimited – with Justin Bieber (and Gronk and TO). This was effective at reaching a younger demographic, and it was entertaining and reinforced the "unlimited" message that T-Mobile is using to differentiate themselves. It also encouraged audience involvement by sending in your own moves (again, younger demographic).

  • Wendy's, "Cold Storage"

    Wendy’s – This made my best and worst list. See reason below.

Kim Donahue's least favorite Super Bowl commercials
  • Fiji Water, "Nature's Gift"

    Fiji Water - Too esoteric for the Super Bowl.

  • Wondeful Pistachios, "Treadmill"

    Pistachios – Why? Just why? The elephant on the treadmill didn’t do anything to further the brand.

  • Intel, "Tom Brady Everyday"

    Intel – I don’t believe Tom Brady eats pancakes off the floor. I don’t even believe that Gisele lets him eat pancakes. It was expensive and pointless.

  • Wendy's, "Cold Storage"

    Wendy’s – The commercial itself was silly and very short. It showed a man using a blow torch to unfreeze the frozen patties belonging to the ‘other guys’ while Foreigner’s Cold As Ice was playing (best part of the whole night was hearing that song!). The ad was not effective. However, it said to go to www.othr-guys.com. Once I did that, I couldn’t stop laughing. The web site was fantastically entertaining.

Kim Donahue's list of notable commercials

Notable – these were all well done. The issue came down to if people were at parties or watching at home. They didn’t play well in a party setting, but they are very effective in a quieter atmosphere.

I think the advertisements for some of the movies (Logan, latest Pirates installment) were successful in that these are mainstream major releases and that’s exactly the audience they played for…I’m just impressed that the latest Fast & Furious has a chase with a submarine!

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Screenshot from Snicker's "live" Super Bowl 2017 commercial. Courtesy: SnickersBrand YouTube

Losers? There really weren’t a whole lot of duds—I’d say that I did think the Snickers 'live' advertisement just fell flat after a lot of hype and pre-advertising (and expense). I thought the Buick ad was actually OK, but was kind of derivative and a self-depreciating campaign which just isn’t my favorite. This was the first Super Bowl that KFC advertised, and if “Colonel vs. Colonel” is the apex of its creative potential, they might want to go back to the sidelines.

The truth is that a lot of the ads will be losers in terms of probably not justifying a $5m price tag, plus production, pre-advertising, etc. costs. With about 70 or so ad slots and only a handful really standing out, most probably could have spent the money more effectively elsewhere. There were a lot of cell phones, cars, fast food, etc… but honestly, can most people remember them? And if they don’t stand out on the broadcast, they probably won’t get the viral bump over the next few days.