USA Today’s Ad Meter: Dude, that is one BIG focus group.

Well, I went 50-50 on my predictions for what would show up in the Top 10 of USA Today’s Ad Meter.

I guessed kinda right that a Bud Light spot would make it in. I guessed that another user-generated Doritos spot would make the top 10. That Weiden would a cool spot for Coke. That Pepsi would do something cool (the mind-reading one). And of course, the CareerBuilder monkeys would show up and win. And I was also right in guessing that Crispin (as much as I love ‘em and I do love ‘em) that Crispin would step in it with a misfire.

You can read all about it on USA Today’s Ad Meter page. Here’s their Top 10.
1. Bud Light “Dog Sitter”
2. Doritos “Pug’s Revenge”
3. Volkswagen “Darth Vader”
4. Doritos “Grandpa resurrected”
5. Pepsi Max “Can to girlfriend’s head”
6. Career Builder “Chimps return”
7. Pepsi Max “Reading thoughts”
8. NFL “TV show clips of fans”
9. Bridgestone “Beaver pays back good deed”
10. Coca-Cola “Border crossing guards”

I spent the entire game screwin’ around on Twitter and pretty much had a blast watchin’ the game with thousands of other ad geeks. (Best two tweets, both below, were about how bad the half-time show was.)

I had one eye on the spots and the other on a Twitter feed that was scrollin’ faster than the movie-credits on a late-night rerun. Since I pick the people I follow, I think my Twitter buddies picked pretty much the right stuff; at least compared to the spots picked by that august group of judges, the Ad Meter council.

Here’s my thing about the Ad Meter. It’s basically a big-ass focus group and we all know what happens in those sad windowless rooms with their plastic plants, M&Ms, and mall shoppers, people who were paid a small amount of money to feel temporarily in charge of something. If I may get even more elitist here for a moment, here’s what one of their “judges” had to say about her criteria.

“I just like it to be funny. Sometimes I don’t even pay attention to what the ad is about, just that it is funny,” says Brenda Moore, 51, of Bakersfield, Calif., an Ad Meter panelist. She has reason to want to laugh. There are rumblings about cutbacks at her company. “My philosophy is pray on it and hope things turn out your way.”

Yes, I’m elitist. And I will be an elitist until the day I die. Because I simply refuse to adjust everything downward to appeal to what passes for the “common man,” which in America is basically anyone who watches Fox News. I can’t do it. Won’t do it. I don’t believe hitting people in the crotch with a can of Pepsi is funny. If that’s elitist, sue me.

But I can’t be that elitist. I have to admit I laughed when the stupid chimps wrecked that guys car in the CareerBuilder spot. Still, I wasn’t one of the many others online goin’ on about “Man, all the Super Bowl spots suck!” Dude, … the half-time show? That sucked. Or the local commercials that ran during half-time, they sucked. In my opinion, spots on every Super Bowl are generally a little better than what plays the rest of the year. (Why clients and agencies try so hard for the Super Bowl is a mystery I wrote about in a previous posting.)

In America’s defense I was glad to see there wasn’t the same high level of sophomoric humor this year. Nothing as puerile as the “farting horses” (from Bud Light a few years back), nor was there any poop humor or pee-pee jokes. I was also heartened to see the Ad Meter judges correctly put that annual national embarrassment of GoDaddy at the bottom of the list.

My personal top two picks were both from VW. Damn I loved that kid in the Darth Vader costume; such a good physical actor he was. And the animated “Beetle” was also stellar. (Ex GSDM-er Mark Peters did that one.) They tied in a great YouTube page takeover that was also pretty cool.



I liked the “Border Guards” one for Coke, but it bugs me that it’s kinda like a spot done in India for some brand of booze. But, people, there is NO way in hell Weiden copied anything. This is just another one of those unfortunate duplications that happen from time to time in this business.

For instance, it’s no slam on Doritos that years ago GSDM did a One Show silver-winning spot for 7-Eleven (below), complete with the same creepy finger-licking. This stuff happens. (Well, sometimes it’s intentional, like those horrible Verizon ads which are clones of “Mac vs. PC.”)

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Skechers posted something particularly bad. And I enjoyed watching GoDaddy auger in.  And while I didn’t like seeing Crispin tank with their bad Groupon spot, c’mon guys, you shoulda seen that one misfiring from miles away.

In the end of course, the big cool new thing in Super Bowl 45 was the undercurrent of the web running through it all. It wasn’t the explosion of social media tie-ins I was expecting, but you could see a change beginning to happen. Social media was used before the game to build buzz and then during the game to redirect viewers back online.

“This is the new water cooler,” said Ann Mukherjee, Frito-Lay CMO. “Digital space is helping to re-create that human behavior of talking at the water cooler.”

Final note. I’ve been in the business a long time and I can tell you for a fact that nobody ever gathered around any  water cooler. Where the hell did water coolers come from?

POSTSCRIPT: I forgot to mention one other spot that really KILLED me, and it was the Chrysler spot about Detroit. Damn that spot was cool. And it was a hybrid in that it starts off as a copy-driven spot, then at about forty seconds it becomes a visual story, and at the very end, it’s a celeb spot. Damn, it was good.

POSTSCRIPT #2: Does it PAY to air a spot on the Super Bowl? Article in Austin American-Statesman where we discuss this question at some length.

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