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2015 Super Bowl Ads: The Best and Worst

02/02/2015 03:31 pm ET | Updated Apr 04, 2015

The 2015 Super Bowl was a tremendous football game that came down to the waning seconds. But, as the game unfolded, so did an interesting and eclectic set of ads. This year, companies seemed to share a general approach to creating ads that were serious and that attempted to appeal to consumers' emotions. Though they lacked the level of humor compared with previous years' ads, many of the spots were crafted in a manner that will likely resonate with viewers.

Every year, a panel of MBA students at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, assess the advertisements from a strategic perspective. We ask more than what brands showed up to the game with flare; we look at what brands delivered a performance that was strategically sound and hold the potential to build the brand and the business. Here are the best and worst ads we saw last night:

The Best:

1. McDonald's

This year, the fast-food burger chain ran a charming spot, highlighting its unique promotion: customers can pay by sharing some love instead of giving some money. The ad had very strong brand linkage and a clear message about its new message. In doing so, the brand made an effort to return McDonald's to the hearts and minds of the consumers once more. It was the top spot in our ranking.

2. Coca-Cola

It's almost always tricky to address a serious societal issue in a way that connects a brand. Coke pulled off this delicate balance it when the company reinforced the idea of happiness while talking about the issue of negative speech and cyber bullying in the digital world. As part of this process, Coke built upon its emotional equity tied to happiness.


3. Fiat Chrysler

The automaker's ad featured a misplaced little blue pill that eventually lands in a tiny Fiat 500 that transforms into the brand's new 500X crossover, which goes on sale in the United States in the second quarter of this year. The ad was distinctive in that it started off with a story that was different from the typical mold of focusing on the car. However, when the car entered the picture is was central, and the little blue pill made an attempt to clearly communicate the benefit of the car.

4. Budweiser/Bud Light

Budweiser and Bud Light ran three spots during the Super Bowl. It is hard for a brand to create one excellent spot. The team at ABInBev created three. The ads were very distinct in their messaging: one championed Budweiser over craft brews, another told a sweet story about a puppy and a third, for Bud Light, took the idea of "up for whatever happens next" to a new level. These ads were not run-of-the mill beer ads that focused purely on taste or made a claim that just any brand could make. Instead, each ad gave its message in a unique and clever way while showcasing the brand throughout to maintain strong linkage.

The Worst:

1. Squarespace

For a few seconds, the Squarespace spot intrigued people and they looked for to hearing the big reveal. Unfortunately, after an extended period of the unending "om," the payoff fell flat. Besides mentioning the brand name, the execution provided little reason to motivate consumers to attend to Squarespace. With consumers having so many other brands to follow online, the hook to draw them to your website has to be enticing, and this execution was not.

2. Heroes Charge

This spot was also for an online game. However, whereas Clash of Clans ad made its point in an interesting way, Heroes Charge seemed like a run of the mill ad. This was a simple overview of the product that did nothing to make itself stand out or be memorable when you are going against ads that make their point in clever or profound ways. Showing a spot typical of prime time or the internet can produce disappointment in the consumer. Lesson: if you are going to appear on the Super Bowl, you want to do something Super Bowl worthy; this was not.