The Super Bowl Winner? Mr. Clean, Say MBAs

2017 Super Bowl Ad Review at the Kellogg School of Management


Bai also captivated the Kellogg students at the Super Bowl Ad Review. A new antioxidant infusion drink, the ad used Christopher Walken and Justin Timberlake as spokespeople and tied their tagline to NSYNC’s catchy “Bye, Bye, Bye” chorus. In doing so, the brand made an impression on Rucker. Before the ad, he shares, “I’m not sure I would’ve known how to pronounce it, but I don’t walk away from that spot mistaking it for something else. It’s Bye, Bye, Bye. it’s the Bai spot! There is a nice fluidity there. Of course, they used Christopher Walken, which was an interesting way to draw attention. They did it in a way that kept the brand focal. It’s clever creative, but sound strategy.”

Febreze, an air freshener, also scored high by linking the product to something every audience member would encounter that night: the need for a potty break. “It tied into the halftime Show coming up,” Rucker emphasizes.” It made its point in a clever way. When you’re the only brand like this that shows up, you almost have an immediate advantage that pairs you with a very clear emotional benefit. On all the dimensions, it’s clever creative, it’s relevant, and people got it.”


That said, some ads performed better than others. While Rucker doesn’t believe this year’s spots included any “catastrophic failures,” there were a few spots that left viewers scratching their heads. Exhibit A: 84 Lumber, which depicted a migrant family’s journey across unfriendly terrain. For de la Torre, this ad fumbled where Mr. Clean excelled in the ADPLAN framework: positioning. “It’s not really clear what Lumber 84 is to the uninitiated,” he explains. “You’re left wondering, is it just a lumber company or a union? While I really liked the full online ad; it was definitely one of the most touching and captivating ads. The ad, by itself, left people very confused. You weren’t sure if they were pro immigration or against immigration. That’s something you don’t want to leave your audience wondering regardless of what your position is.”

Rucker echoes with de la Torre’s assessment, adding that it was packed with missed opportunities. “It asked a lot of the consumer. They had things set in motion around it. But you had to go to their website. We were looking at, what can you do with the time you have in front of us? A lot of us were left with not being engaged with what was a longer story and not knowing much about the brand when the spot ended.”

Similarly, the ambiguity surrounding the American Petroleum Institute’s ad turned off many Kellogg reviewers. Rucker was struck by the ad’s “weird vibe,” while Prasad struggled to make sense of what the takeaway should be. “It took me a while to figure out what was even going on,” she concedes. “It was visually appealing, but it didn’t seem to link back. I actually had to look up what company was after the fact to even know what they were talking about. I thought their messaging was a little muddled and it wasn’t particularly distinct against all the other visually appealing ads that you saw yesterday.”


Besides boasting the greatest comeback ever, Super Bowl LI produced a few surprises on the advertising side too. Rucker cites the Snickers live action spot with Adam Driver, which features a collapsing set, as one. Rather than groundbreaking, the ad fizzled in Rucker’s eyes. “I had gone into that one wondering, ‘are they going to do something creatively brilliant or will it be more gimmicky?’ I thought it was more gimmicky. That was one where I was disappointed because I was hoping they were going to wow me.

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