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Juanita Berge | Philly Creative Guide Event Reporter

Philadelphia American Marketing Association (PAMA) ::
6th Annual Super Bowl Smackdown
by Juanita Berge, 1 Mar 2008

The American Marketing Association, one of the largest professional associations for marketers, has 38,000 members worldwide in every area of marketing. For over six decades the AMA has been the leading source for information, knowledge sharing and development in the marketing profession.

For more information on the Philadelphia American Marketing Association (PAMA), please visit: www.amaphilly.org


The 6th Annual Super Bowl Smackdown was held February 5th by the Philadelphia American Marketing Association (PAMA). Philadelphia American Marketing Association is the region's organization for professionals in the marketing arena. Dave & Buster's on the waterfront was the venue for this much anticipated annual event. The Smackdown takes a critical look at the commercial spots that have found their way onto the biggest ticket network event there is – the Super Bowl. It was an evening to hear what branding, advertising and marketing experts in our region thought of the year's most talked-about commercials. Ten spots were examined by a panel of four experts who provided intriguing insight to the method behind the madness. TV's Vai Sikahema from NBC-10 was special emcee to this year's debate.

A large contingent from the area colleges and universities were there, including two Drexel students in advertising who hoped to glean the formula that made for the perfect ad. They hoped to discover what clients and ad professionals were looking for by viewing these so-called perfect ads. One woman was there for sheer love of the form. An observer of commercial award shows, she was there for the entertainment value of the evening. As a student of the commercial form, she was fascinated with segment marketing. Yet another two people told me they were unimpressed with this year's Super Bowl offerings. "Uninspired," and "lacking in creativity," were their exact words. "I wasn't able to remember what the most memorable ads were even for," remarked one.

"The spots were not that memorable this year," was a sentiment heard from many of the evening's guests, including those on the dais. Despite all their action, quirkiness or just plain craziness, several asked the same thing, "Were they memorable or not?" 'Not' was the overwhelming response.

After an hour of cocktails and networking the formal portion of the evening began with introductions by Angela Morsa, president of PhilAMA. The 6th Annual Super Bowl Smackdown is their signature event of the year. Opening with Vai Sikahema's commentary about last year's Super Bowl offerings, ten spots were chosen by PhilAMA for review this year. Our panel of experts included: Marc Brownstein, President of The Brownstein Group; James Gilbert, Director of Global Advertising at the Campbell Soup Company; Patrick McKenna, co-founder and CEO of DMi Partners, a full-service, interactive marketing and e-commerce management firm; and Kevin Mayer, Director of Marketing Communications for Subaru of America, Inc.

Why an entire evening devoted just to Super Bowl advertisements you ask? Well aside from the sheer amusement and entertainment of the event (and the entertainment value cannot be discounted – many attendees remarked that they wait for and faithfully attend this event every year) the bottom line is 50% of the country is exposed to these ads on Super Bowl Sunday. So they influence quite a lot.

Philadelphia American Marketing Association (PAMA), 6th Annual Super Bowl Smackdown

Audi was the 1st spot, and the 1st spot to catch Vai's eye during the game. Remember, that was the godfather discovering the oil-soaked front grill of a Bentley under the bed covers with him. He lets out a horrified wail. Vai confessed that it freaked him out. The pros on the dais thought the spot hit the mark. Their (Audi's) attempt to sell high-end cache was successful in this ad.

A Pepsi ad with Justin Timberlake was second. He's drawn across the streetscapes every time a faceless young thing draws on her straw from a can of Pepsi. The pros said they felt as though any product could have been put in that spot. Messaging and celebrity endorsements did not pay off here.

The Bud Light/Cheese ad was next. At a party the guys all hide a 6-pack from the women under a giant block of cheese. The pros all felt it was formulaic, just more of the same from Budweiser, but still effective. They clued us in to the fact that the agency filmed a dozen different spots for Bud Light, then decided a week beforehand which ad would run in the Super Bowl. That's formulaic.

Philadelphia American Marketing Association (PAMA), 6th Annual Super Bowl Smackdown

Budweiser – Clydesdale Training followed. Hank is a Clydesdale who doesn't make the Budweiser team. The team mascot Dalmatian decides to take Hank under his wing, as it were, and train him for next year's team. We see Hank put through his paces with lots of slo-mo footage of dog and horse galloping to the slowly rising Rocky theme music. Lo and behold, Hank makes the next year's team. Triumphant and happy, all is sweetness and light. Life is good. 'Budweiser' in script appears bottom screen, then fade to black. Our pros called this spot an all-around winner. It called to mind everything a Super Bowl fan could want: an underdog, Rocky, tradition, horses, dogs, overcoming the odds, beer. All of these elements layered to create the quintessential feel-good ad. In point of fact, this was rated America's favorite spot of the Super Bowl. Does anyone wonder why?

Then we had a White House anti-drug message. This one left our pros scratching their heads a little. They felt as though the anti-drug network which placed the ad, missed the mark in terms of getting the most bang for their buck. Their thought process was, in essence, "Why would you put such a downer ad, at $2.7 million a pop, in such a high-spirited, high-flying paean to sports in this country? No one wants to see that then. It will essentially be overlooked. They flushed their money away." The pros thought it a questionable placement.

Philadelphia American Marketing Association (PAMA), 6th Annual Super Bowl Smackdown

FedEx was up next. We enter the scene with an employee explaining to the boss how he's solved their company's shipping problems. His solution is carrier pigeons. "What about the big stuff?" asks the boss. The camera then takes us to scenes of monstrously huge pigeons attempting, and failing badly, delivery of oversized packages. When a small car that a giant pigeon has mistakenly picked up comes crashing through the window, the boss says, "Switch to FedEx." Our ad pros were not too impressed with this one, stating that it was good theater, but not very effective. Certainly not as effective as their previous campaign of, "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight..."

Philadelphia American Marketing Association (PAMA), 6th Annual Super Bowl Smackdown

Coca Cola – It's Mine was the final ad. During a NYC parade a giant balloon bottle of Coke breaks free and starts to float skyward through the buildings. Giant balloons of Underdog and baby Stewie (from The Family Guy) come on the scene trying their best to get that bottle of Coke under control and for themselves. They bounce off of buildings and each other, never able to wrest control of the Coke. Then, out of the blue, a giant Charlie Brown balloon appears through the cavern of buildings and seizes control of the Coke. Triumphant music wells up and the Coke logo and tag line appear. A couple of our pros felt this was the best ad in the Super Bowl. They pointed out that while the audience watched, there were smiles throughout the room. That, they point out, is outstanding advertising.

Other ads that warranted some talk time were for Tide Detergent, Sales Genie and Planters Peanuts. Our pros thought the Tide spot was among the best. Sales Genie (a B2B) and Planters they rated among the worst. And from the audience the E-Trade ads generated plenty of discussion. Those featured a baby in a highchair speaking in a grown man's voice. A menacing clown appears in the background of one, and in another the baby loses his lunch. They were quite the crowd pleasers.

Our panel pointed out that the top spots were all exceptionally visual in strength. You could watch them at a noisy party and still know what they were and what they were about. Super Bowl commercials have to be original, impactful, relevant to customer and client, and be entertaining. "We're really lucky to have a celebration of our industry (advertising), which is what the Super Bowl has become," commented Marc Brownstein.

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