Super Bowl Ads with Millennial Appeal

Okay, I’m a little late to weigh in on the topic of Millennials and the Super Bowl, but I have a great excuse – I was busy teaching two marketing classes today.  Both classes kicked off with a brief discussion of whether or not the students watched the game (they did!) — and what they remembered and liked about the advertising.

The results are a little different than other Gen Y Super Bowl reporting (e.g., YPulse’s astute observations by Dan Coates).  The results were also slightly different between my MBA Brand Strategy class and the undergraduate Principles of Marketing class.

In both classes, funny commercials were the first mentioned, with Doritos (child slaps would-be suitor), the Snickers’ ad starring Betty White, and the E-Trade ads are at the head of the list.

Although it wasn’t funny, both groups also liked the the Vizio spot featuring Beyonce Knowles– and especially the fact that you weren’t sure what was being advertised until the end. The MBA’s also liked the Dodge Charger “Man’s Last Stand” commercial and the Google Parisian Love spot, but the undergraduates did not mention the Google spot until prompted. They liked it, but it didn’t stand out for them. Interestingly, both groups first attributed Google’s decision to advertise to the popularity of the spot on the Internet, not competitive pressure from Bing.

The MBA’s also mentioned the Dove for Men ‘Manthem” spot, and Hyundai which never came up with the sophomores.  Several commented that the Dove spot was refreshing in contrast to the  ‘pants-less’ (taste-less) ads featured in adjacent spots for Dockers and CareerBuilder.

I think it’s notable which widely admired ads which were ostensibly targeted to Millennials were NOT mentioned by the students: Megan Fox for Motorola was barely mentioned. Coke, Focus on the Family, and Audi “Green Police” (my personal favorite) never came up. Go Daddy was the hands down favorite for worst commercial in the Super Bowl.

What does this tell us? First and foremost, in the hoopla that is the Super Bowl and young adult viewing situations, funny wins over subtlety. Why even enter the Super Bowl unless you intend to evoke a very loud laugh?

I also think it provides confirmation a Super Bowl ad can be a good investment. How could Snickers possibly afford the buzz they are receiving today any other way? Finally, I think it calls into question the wisdom of Pepsi’s decision to sit on the sidelines this year. No one is talking about Pepsi, despite the good advance publicity. A single spot on the Super Bowl featuring “Refresh Everything” would have given that effort extra attention and probably not diminished the good will that motivated the decision to invest the marketing dollars differently.

To see all the spots, visit Creativity magazine’s Super Bowl 2010.