From Imagine’s replay booth: our favorite Super Bowl ads

For the past decade, the Imagine staff has gathered the day after the Super Bowl to talk about the best part of the big game — the commercials! We look at effectiveness, those that missed the mark and those that hit the nail on the head, and, of course, we factor in our personal favorites.

But just because we like it doesn’t mean it’s the best ad. The real question is, “Is the ad effectively speaking to the target market in a way that will make it memorable?” Super Bowl ads have something going for them right off the bat — a guaranteed market and captivated audience — which gives them a chance to tell a story.

Creativity may be key, but it can’t carry an ad alone. Do you remember the brand in the ad? Did it sell the product? Do you want to know more?

For any of the above reasons, and for countless more, below are our staff’s favorites … for this year, anyway.

Alex Raffi, Creative Director
As usual, big game commercials allow for a variety of marketing tactics. Different people appreciate different things. Celebrity placement is big entertainment, and pulling at heart strings is a way to make the commercial memorable. The hurdle we don’t worry about on these ads is the interruption. No need for it. There is always a captive audience. My pick for this year is the very creative “Tubi Rabbit Hole” commercial. It told a kind of sinister story of a band of giant, very aggressive and intimidating rabbits that kidnap people and toss them down rabbit holes, where they discover all the amazing programs offered by Tubi. You start the commercial very confused about what is happening — it captures you as you wonder what will become of these poor people who have been captured and are thoughtlessly discarded into seemingly dark holes — and you are then rewarded with the happy faces of the initially presumed victims, who are now entertained as they fall into the programming a la “Alice in Wonderland.”

Brian Rouff, Managing Partner
I love it when the band gets back together, which is why I was so happy to see my favorite band of misfits reunite during the big game on behalf of PopCorners in a brilliant “Breaking Bad” parody.

Yes, Walter White, Jesse Pinkman and even Tuco made welcome appearances during the super ad-fest, looking none the worse for wear as they extolled the virtues of PopCorners using iconic lines from the show. I’m sure not every one of the 100 million-plus viewers “got” the references — just as I still have no idea who Jack Harlow is — but the creative team certainly understood the demographic crossover appeal of the classic series and what will undoubtedly go down as a classic game.

For me, the best moment was when Mr. White, replete with Heisenberg pork pie hat, admonished Jesse, “We don’t eat our own supply.” And the tagline, “Break into Something Good,” provided an appropriate closer for this 60-second gem. PopCorners. “Say. Their. Name.”

Tiffannie Bond, Public Relations Director/Company Photographer
For the most part, this year’s ads went for the easy way out — celebrities, nostalgia (sorry, Brian!) or campaigns with potential that was never realized (talking to you, M&M’s). Maybe it’s the state of the world. Maybe it’s because the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day fell within days of each other. But I think the most effective commercials were the ones that went for the heart.

Full disclosure, I saw the The Farmer’s Dog ad, “Forever,” before the Super Bowl, and I still got teary when I saw it again during the game. It told an effective story about what our four-legged family members mean to those of us who are dog people. I love a good story. I’ll admit, I was afraid the chocolate-colored ball of fluff was going to meet his demise at the end. Thankfully, no Marley-and-Me situations occurred — which would have been another easy way out. In second place is Amazon’s “Saving Sawyer,” for the same reasons: the story showed heart, and as one publication put it, was an effective representation of how we all use Amazon, except for ordering a puppy. And, as the guardian of a 5-year-old golden retriever, it hit close to home.

Celestia Ward, Public Relations Coordinator
Blue Moon got me! After everyman-type spokesguys squared off in a martial arts battle over whether Miller Lite or Coors would claim the (roughly $7 million a pop) ad time, I was genuinely surprised the commercial was for Blue Moon, a seemingly underdog craft brew. I had to look it up: all three beers are indeed owned by the same parent company, Molson Coors, which had released info that it was deciding which flagship brew would be in their Super Bowl ad — even letting the public bet on the outcome via DraftKings. For a moment, though, the ad brought me back to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” days, seeing Mickey Mouse talking to Bugs Bunny. The seeming impossibility of brands cooperating is indeed a memorable trick, which in this case was actually no trick at all!

Bobby Long, Account Director
I might be a little biased about the PopCorners ad, because I loved “Breaking Bad,” but so did millions of other people. I really enjoyed the humor and nostalgia the commercial brought — and a few people who hadn’t ever seen the show laughed along with me while watching. I think that all makes for a pretty effective ad. In addition to that, a bag of PopCorners was visible 90% of the time, so there was no way to miss the brand representation.

Julie Varley, Senior Designer and Webmaster
If a commercial can bring tears to my eyes or make my stomach hurt from laughter it has done its job. This year the only commercial that stood out for me was The Farmer’s Dog, which shows the journey and relationship of a dog and its owner form puppyhood to maturity. I wasn’t only left feeling my heart strings pulled as I related to the story, but I was left remembering the brand and decided to look into their product a little further. Without looking into the stats, I am sure their web developers saw a positive spike in traffic to the company’s website and also had great conversion rates as a result of this advertisement.

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