Guess Who Really Won The Super Bowl? Coca-Cola & McDonalds

Inside the new home of the Kellogg School of Management

Inside the new home of the Kellogg School of Management

Each year, sophomoric hijinks compete with high sentimentality to build brand and goose sales. And this year was no exception. Pitchmen like Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson lampooned their action hero images. In a season marked by domestic abuse by players, men were depicted as gentle caregivers (before a game-ending brawl, that is). Always defined girls as graceful and confident, while Victoria’s Secret reduced them to sex objects. GoDaddy shunned their usual objectification to present a real value proposition (and got slammed for it). Pigs and blue pills soared, while Snickers playfully twisted The Brady Bunch. For some strange reason, eSurance tied its brand to a meth cook and a recovering alcoholic.


So which ads were effective – and why?

Wei-Leun Hwang chose Budweiser’s controversial “Brewed the Hard Way.” While some construed it as a full on assault on craft beer, he thought it reflected authenticity. “They were clear and embraced their actual position in the market. They’re not going to change who they are.” Khorshid Gizelle Rahmaninejad, a first year who grew up in New Mexico, chose Carnival’s “Come Back to the Sea” as the best execution of the framework. She cited the distinct way it positioned itself against competitors. Even more, it fashioned strong amplification, in her view, by using a speech by John F. Kennedy to sway viewers to think beyond the moment of the ad.

McDonald’s – Pay with Lovin’

Aside from Coca-Cola, Rucker cites McDonald’s as popular among the Kellogg students (neither Rucker nor Calkins vote on the outcomes). The ad touts the restaurant’s “Paid with Lovin’” campaign, where cashiers randomly select patrons to receive free meals for goodwill gestures like calling their mothers to say they love them.

“It got my attention,” Rucker confesses. “You’re wondering, ‘What is going on’ and you have People doing funny things. What I like particularly is what brand is trying to communicate about themselves from a positioning perspective. McDonald’s is more than just a place. There is a feeling associated with it. There’s linkage. This is an ad that tells a story about the brand…These are Indicators that things are good by framework.”

Rucker also points to the spot’s significance in the larger context. “If you’ve been following [McDonald’s] advertising for last month or two, you know they’re looking for a way to reinvent themselves. And this was a good first step.”

Budweiser – Lost Dog

Another brand that earned points is Budweiser, a perennial winner at the Super Bowl. Among their offerings was a tear jerker where a puppy is rescued by Clydesdales and an “Up for Anything” spot where an unsuspecting man plays Pac Man in a real maze.  “Budweiser released three spots,” Rucker shares. “All did well. That’s one where they know the consumer. But it’s not just the puppy, but the story behind it. Budweiser was the one that executes strategically on building emotional ties to the consumer. They almost always nail it.”


However, Rucker doesn’t regard any of the 2015 ads as an instant classic like Apple’s “1984,” McDonald’s “Showdown” (Jordan vs. Bird), or Volkswagen’s “The Force” (featuring a mini Darth Vader). “I don’t see anything in that class in that respect. In five to ten years, we might recall a few [of this year’s ads]. But none that would go to that level.”

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