Super Bowl commercial slots were selling this year for around $3.8 million for 30 seconds, which meant it was possible for brands to waste a whole lot of money in a very short time if their ads fumbled the message. And that's exactly what a few advertisers did last night.
Every year, Boston.com holds the Brand Bowl, an attempt to determine which Super Bowl commercials were most effective. This year, it joined forces with analytics firms PointsLocal, which counted how many tweets each brand garnered during the game and then approximated what percentage of those tweets were positive about the brand's ads. At the end of the night, each brand got a buzz count measuring how much people were talking about it, and a sentiment rating measuring whether people actually liked their Super Bowl commercials.
The big winners on buzz were Volkswagen's "Get In, Get Happy" ad (which attracted some pre-game racial controversy) and Bud Light's Stevie Wonder ads, each of which scored more than 86,000 tweets. On sheer sentiment, the big winner was Taco Bell: 81% of users gave its "Viva Young" spot high marks.
But what about the losers?
At the top (or bottom) of that list would be SodaStream. The homemade soda machine tried to gin up some pre-game buzz by talking up an commercial that CBS rejected for attacking Pepsi and Coke. But that controversy wasn't enough to get people talking about the ad it ran instead: Only 158 tweets mentioned the brand.
Another big loser was Beck's Sapphire, a new beer from Anheuser Busch InBev (the same beer giant that makes Budweiser and Bud Light). The perplexing commercial featured a black goldfish swimming around a bottle of the beer and singing Blackstreet's 1996 hit "No Diggity." Not only did it garner very little buzz, it also got poor reviews: Just 57% of users had something nice to say about it.
It wasn't the most poorly received brand at the 2013 Super Bowl, though. That dubious distinction goes to Pepsi, which despite sponsoring the well-received halftime show fell flat on its face when it came to the commercial component of the evening. The brand's spot: Parents break up their kid's house party, kid gives them a Pepsi Next, and the parents are so impressed by the "real cola taste" that they forget how mad they are about the party. It was a forgettable and unoriginal spot, and just 54% of viewers had anything nice to say about it.
Another dud came courtesy of Subway, which ran an ad congratulating Jared Fogel on the 15th anniversary of his diet and another showing a bunch of celebrities trying to pronoune "FebruANY." We like FebruANY as much as the next sandwich lover, but the ads didn't knock America's socks off: Just 59% of viewers liked what they saw.
Finally, Wonderful Pistachios decided to jump on the "Gangnam Style" bandwagon just as everyone else was getting off. Putting Korean pop sensation Psy in a commercial might have made sense a few months ago, but at this point the craze has died down considerably. Just over 4,000 people thought it worth mentioning on Twitter, and just 60% had anything good to say about it.
But in our humble opinion, even the good ads weren't all that great. Dodge's Paul Harvey-narrated "God Made a Farmer" ad attempted to capture the spirit of Chrysler's "Imported From Detroit" spot from a couple years ago, and while it got high marks from viewers, we don't think people will be talking about it for months like they did with Chrysler's spot. Likewise, we got a kick out of Volkswagen's spot, but don't foresee it becoming an all-time great like VW's "The Force" ad from 2011. And while Bud Light's Stevie-Wonder-as-voodoo-football-shaman commercial got a lot of people talking, we think they would have been better off sticking with the "stupid animal tricks" formula that gave us "Here Weego" last year.
In the end, only Budweiser made a serious play for the pantheon of great Super Bowl ads: Its tale of a Clydesdale being reunited with the man who raised it took the top spot in USA Today's annual "Ad Meter" poll. And it's probably the one commercial from this game that we're actually going to remember next year.
What were your favorite and least favorite ads of the evening? Sound off in the comments.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.