Julia Wakefield|Feb 6, 2012

It’s that time again… when the chatter over the commercials aired during the Super Bowl has officially eclipsed the game itself. It’s no wonder. With the cost of producing a Super Bowl commercial reportedly around $500,000 and an additional $3.5 million per 30 second spot, the promise of creative, offbeat, funny, and memorable advertisements carries more draw than the sweaty beefcakes on the field.

What’s more, the most creative, offbeat, funny, and memorable ads have the potential to go viral online, sometimes gaining more views on Youtube than they got during the game itself. They’re even being featured on morning shows across the nation. Clearly, the value of the ads is not only dependent on how many people tune in on game day; their value increases every time they’re shared on Facebook, forwarded via email, Tweeted about, or bookmarked.

Perhaps that’s why a 30-second Super Bowl ad spot cost $800,000 in 1990, and $3.5 million in 2012. It may also be why several advertisers chose to purchase two spots to air a 60 second commercial, including the Toyota Camry spot we discuss below.

It’s not only this “pass along” viewership that compels advertisers to go all out in concepting, producing, and airing their Super Bowl ads; from rbb’s viewpoint, the ads are also an opportunity to support public relations efforts. Here, we’ve given report cards to the top three ads with PR value, and a bonus “time out” corner for one ad that’s making its fans (and this PR pro) cringe.

PR Gold Star: General Electric and Budweiser: “Power and Beer”

The ad opens in a Schenectady NY GE turbine factory, portraying “real” employees describing how fulfilling it is to see their work applied for good in the real world – such as to make and cool beer. Next scene – a bar, where Bud Lights are flowing, and the GE employees play the stars of the evening, for without them, “there would be no Bud.” This is a classic marketing and public relations ploy called “co-branding,” where two companies lend each other their demographics and brand characteristics to leverage for a stronger brand for both. In this case, Budweiser lends its relaxed, Joe Six Pack brand identity to GE, a company often portrayed as a gargantuan corporation removed from its customers’ everyday lives. And Budweiser gets a classy boost from its appeal to the white-collar engineers heading out of the lab and over to happy hour.

While I would have once thought GE and Bud rather strange bedfellows, this mix worked well in allowing GE to connect emotionally with consumers and for lending an up-market air to Budweiser beer.

PR Gold Star Plus: Best Buy: “Who Made What”

I have to say, my favorite ad from a PR perspective is the Best Buy commercial starring the actual developers of some of the most ubiquitous mobile app technologies (Shazam, Square, Siri, and more) to promote their in-store mobile services. This is one of the most effective ways to refresh a classic public relations strategy: articulate a brand by letting real people tell their stories. This ad was timely and relevant (characteristics worth their weight in gold for PR pros) as it tapped into a recent pop culture reference: the makers of “Words With Friends” discuss their app on a plane until a stewardess comes by, compelling them to put their smartphones away. This was a fun play off of a recent incident with Alec Baldwin, who was booted from a commercial flight for refusing to stop playing Words With Friends and turn off his phone when requested. (And like the Baldwin incident, priceless PR for Words With Friends.)

PR Gold Star: Toyota Camry: “Reinvented”

As many of you have noticed, Toyota has been running ads for its Camry and other models on outlets catering to the younger demographic, including on Hulu.com. This particular ad, about the reinvented Camry, shows a number of everyday things “reinvented:” the police patdown turns into a back massage, the Department of Motor Vehicles now has putt putt golf, and a guy walks into his apartment to see that his couch and side tables have been replaced with scantily dressed hot chicks. The couch is then re-reinvented and is replaced with scantily dressed hot dudes. Our hero doesn’t seem to mind. Toyota, great job playing to the more socially-liberal younger set you’ve had in your sights lately as you develop the more environmentally-friendly, tech-friendly cars the younger generations want. This is a perfect example of “knowing thy audience” – a key principle in public relations.

PR Gold Star Extra Credit: Bud Light: “Rescue Dogs”

At a party full of hip young suburbanites, the host introduces his new rescue dog, Weego. If you call him – “Here Weego” – the dog dashes off to bring an ice-cold Bud Light. In response to more calls, he subsequently figures out how to drag a six-pack and roll a keg upon request. In the grand finale, Weego pushes a cooler onto the scene, which displays the message: “Help rescue dogs. Facebook/budlight”

Here, charity PR can indeed “run with the big dogs,” to quote our own Christine de la Huerta Aligning a brand with charitable causes is a great way to reinforce a brand as a “good neighbor.”

Bud Light gets extra credit here for plugging their Facebook page. Normally, we wouldn’t high-five Bud Light for something we consider to be public relations 101 – cross-promoting channels at every opportunity– but since hardly any ads had social media call to actions (unbelievable!) Bud Light gets the prize.

PR Time Out Corner:

Hey GoDaddy – yeah, we’re talking to you. Enough with the sexy lady ads! It wasn’t even funny or fresh the first time one of these aired. 10,000 ad spots later, we’re fed up. And we’re not the only ones. Take a look at your Facebook Wall, GoDaddy – your fans dislike the concept, feel it treats women as objects, think it’s inappropriate for network TV, and (horrors) think it’s boring. And at least one fan, who has three daughters, stated he’s finding a new hosting provider. From a PR perspective, when your fans turn on you in public and viral forums like Facebook, you’ve got a big mess to clean up and possibly irreparable damage to your reputation. We’ll be interested to see how you recover from this one.

So, reader – which Super Bowl ads caught your attention? Did you share any on Facebook, forward to friends, or bookmark on Digg? Tell us your thoughts!


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