A look at Super Bowl ads, past & present

posted by Design

Last night’s big game gave people a lot to talk about, but as always, offices everywhere are abuzz about everyone’s favorite (and least favorite) Super Bowl commercials.

Here at thunder::tech headquarters, we decided to take our day-after analysis one step further with our look at some of America’s favorite brands. Check out our department managers' takes on some of this year's commercials - and their counterparts from five (and, when applicable, 10) years ago.

Budweiser – Melanie Eyerman, Communications team manager

The iconic Budweiser Clydesdales first appeared in the “Extra Point” Super Bowl commercial in 1996 and have been a staple in the big game ever since.

In the 2003 and 2008 spots, Budweiser humanized the horses, a zebra and a dog to give them a personality and get a good chuckle from viewers. From a zebra “under the hood” for the official review in the Clydesdales football game to a Dalmatian training a horse through a Rocky-inspired montage, Budweiser created memorable ads that they hoped would inspire us all to buy from the King of Beers.

What Budweiser didn’t do was slap us in the face with too much branding; something Budweiser has been sensitive to in the past (see the 9/11 Clydesdale commercial), but some could argue the Clydesdales themselves are recognition enough. There also wasn’t a strong call to action in the ads either. It seems they were just hoping to generate overall awareness, not encourage the viewer to further engage with the brand.

This year’s ad is a complete overhaul from the previous “let’s make them laugh and then hope they buy our beer” approach. “Brotherhood” tugged hard on the heartstrings as people took to Twitter admitting the commercial brought tears to their eyes. Even the macho Hall of Fame WWE super star Stone Cold Steve Austin tweeted:



Not only did the emotion change with the soft melody of Stevie Nicks, but we saw the Budweiser name A LOT more often as it appeared at least 13 times with majority of the scenes having the main character sporting a Budweiser hat. Bud was smart with the inclusion as well, placing a Budweiser beer on the table as the guy was reading a headline in the newspaper that included “Budweiser Clydesdales.”

The commercial also had a very distinct call to action. Budweiser made a bold decision to not launch their @Budweiser Twitter account until Jan. 27, days before the Super Bowl. It seems the King of Beers wanted to make a statement and spent time planning out exactly how and when to capitalize. It all culminated with the campaign to name Bud’s newest foal.



Kudos to Budweiser for including a hashtag with a specific campaign tied to it, something no other Super Bowl advertiser did. Unfortunately, I don’t think it spurred the type of conversation they were hoping to get. I’d love to know how many times the hashtag was used. Hopefully Bud or an over-achieving social media analytics software company will release the number. UPDATE: Budweiser received more than 60,000 name suggestions via Twitter, Facebook and phone calls.

Favorite names I’ve seen so far? Sandcastle, Surge and Raven. A lot of people have written Bud or Buddy. C’mon people, we can do better than that! There’s still time to put in your vote. According to the Budweiser website, “Duke, Captain, Mark, and Bud are just a few of the names given to the Budweiser Clydesdales. Names are kept short to make it easier for the driver to give commands to the horses during a performance.” Keep it short, people. UPDATE: Budweiser named the Clydesdale "Hope." Read more here.

Prior to airing the ad, Budweiser had 6,149 followers and added 2,000 more in about 20 minutes. The brand eclipsed 10,000 followers on Monday. It sounds great until you compare that against a quick-lived spoof account making fun of the power outage. @SuperBowlLights had 20,000+ followers in 35 minutes. I guess cynical, timely and funny always wins.

Regardless, it was fun to see Budweiser respond to the recent trend of social TV and the “second screen.” As a social media nerd, I love the concept. I had hoped it would attract more interaction, but longevity of the new Twitter account is more important than gaining tons of followers that may (or may not) even care about the brand. They got a follow from me and I’m interested to see how this all plays out.


Pepsi – Andrea Aber, Account Services team manager


Do you remember the Super Bowl commercial in 2003 where Jack and Kelly Osbourne turned into Donny and Marie Osmond? I’ll admit that I didn’t remember the commercial, but I do remember Pepsi Twist. I never tried it myself, but Pepsi at the time was looking to hire the celebrity or even the celebrity family for their commercial.

Ten years ago, the Osbournes had their reality TV show, everyone was talking about them. But what was with Donny and Marie Osmond? They didn’t become well-recognized again until Marie joined Dancing with the Stars in 2007 and Donny in 2009. If you are asking yourself, “What ever happened to Pepsi Twist?,” the production ended in the U.S. in 2006. Oh but just wait; Pepsi wasn’t going to stop there!

In 2008, Pepsi was the one brand to bring Justin Timberlake back into the Super Bowl scene. It was 2004 when he performed the halftime show with Janet Jackson, and we all know what happened there. At that time, he decided to put a hold on his singing career and move into acting. After several years of no music, Justin started releasing songs again and then he showed up on a Pepsi commercial. At least in this commercial, Pepsi had a call to action at the end, directing people to their website to sign up for an offer they were promoting with HGTV and Amazon.

Pepsi did it a little different this year; they grabbed the viewer’s attention not by the celebrity in their commercial, but by creating a drink with 60% less sugar with Pepsi Next. Maybe after 10 years, they are getting away with the celebrities and focusing on the health of their audience. What else Pepsi did this year was sponsor the halftime show. I followed #pepsihalftime throughout the game and with the number of viewers talking about Beyoncé, Pepsi was always there, but not Pepsi Next.

The next time you are at the grocery store, will you be purchasing Pepsi Next? Remember, “Drink it to believe it.”

Go Daddy – Craig Israel, Creative director


Say what you will about GoDaddy’s Super Bowl ads, they have always had a consistent point of view—and that point of view is “sex sells.” GoDaddy made a big splash with their first Super Bowl ad in 2005:

Here, a buxom brunette highlights the, ahem, “selling points” of GoDaddy in front of a panel of leering old men (and the token frowning spinster), when her tank top strap suddenly breaks. GoDaddy didn’t deviate much from this format in subsequent Super Bowls, showing skimpy-clad dance parties, wet t-shirts, implied nudity and the like.

As an aside, I always cringe when I see Danica Patrick in these ads… Danica, you’re a top-ranked NASCAR driver, a trailblazer in the sport, an inspiration to little girls everywhere… you’re better than this!

So, imagine my surprise when GoDaddy pre-released one of their 2013 Super Bowl ads and it featured neither T nor A!



It highlighted genuine benefits for their service! It was funny! It wasn’t belittling to Danica! Wow… was GoDaddy actually growing up? Did they finally fire their frat house marketing department?

Sadly, no.

Their next Super Bowl spot was right back on familiar ground.

All the tied shtick was there: hot girl, sex, boobs and Danica again reduced to playing MC to this horrible pointless, sexist tripe. Did you catch the copy at the end? “When sexy meets smart your small business scores.” What’s that? You didn’t realize that this ad was targeting small business? Well, neither did anyone else in the world since they were too skeeved out by the over-miked face sucking sound effects. Ugh.

Again, Danica, you’re better than this. And GoDaddy, your first spot showed us that so are you.


Tide – Bruce Williams, Data team manager

Though its 2008 Super Bowl ad for Tide to Go was fairly well-received, Tide waited 5 years to spend the money to advertise during the big game.

In its 2008 spot, Tide’s marketing team tried to answer that age-old question: How do you communicate that a product is impactful in your customer or client's eye? The answer they chose was: Present it as a career-enhancing alternative to the crash-and-burn interview.

It’s immediately relatable, and you feel for the poor schlub that didn’t realize his grande bold spilled as he waited for the interview.

The humor was so infecting that I would probably hit up the online address after.

So, they must have thought they were kings of comedy after 2008, because they really felt their inner comedian was ready to be marched out on stage again this year with its "Miracle Stain" ad.

Only this time, its material was tried and rehearsed a bit too much. Where I thought the prior ad was smart and subtle, this year's ad smacked you upside the head with frat boy humor.

Overall, I didn’t relate to the spot and I was not 100% on the product's value proposition overall.


About the authors::

Melanie Eyerman is the Communications team manager at thunder::tech. When she’s not brainstorming ideas with her team, interacting with clients or strategizing the best use of content and analytics, our Georgia Bulldog loves playing rec. sports, cheering on her favorite football teams and enjoying a good bottle of wine with close friends.

Andrea Aber is the Account Services Team Manager at thunder::tech and is our resident process guru. When she’s not working with her team members on client strategy and meeting with clients, Andrea enjoys spending time with her family and friends and venturing to local Cleveland restaurants.

Craig Israel is the Creative Director at thunder::tech. When he isn’t helping strategize, envision, and execute amazing marketing and advertising solutions, he’s probably being pelted by pillows from his wife and two daughters.

Bruce Williams loves a good database schema and watching his team astonish clients with new JQuery tricks. He is the Data tea¬¬m manager at thunder::tech during the day (and occasionally at night). When he isn’t programming, he and his wife are pulling their kids through the neighborhood in their favorite wagon.

POSTED IN: Marketing


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