Why I Think Coke Won The Super Bowl Ad Contest. Not Bud.

David Kiley

So, Marketing editor Burt Helm and I reviewed the Super Bowl ads. And while Burt misguidedly chose the lesser of two Chevy ads as his favorite, I selected the two Coke ads as the best of the bunch.

But, at the end of the day, we are just two guys. I have been covering marketing for 20 years, and worked at two major ad agencies. I have the benefit of experience, while Burt, in his 20s, is perhaps closer to digital pop culture than me.

Our picks were subjective, I know, while those of AOL and USA Today were based on tracking a large audience sample.

Be that as it may, I'm often surprised at how my picks differ from the larger samples. USA Today's AdTrack, for example, indicates that Budweiser's "Crab" ad was the top rated. It was a nice ad. Clever, I thought. But the best? Nah. The Budwesier Dog? I like that the ad had a little story--a stray labrador who gets regal treatment at the parade after being splashed with mud and left looking like a Dalmatian. Ad Track had that ad number 2.

I rated the two Coke ads Best In Game.


Wieden & Kennedy

“Videogame” and “Happiness Factory”

Coca Cola, whether you approve of sugary soda for kids, is, at the end of the day, a feel-good brand; or at least it should be. I’m against the habitual drinking of soda-pop as anyone. But I confess that about once every six weeks or so, I have a hankering for a real Coke. No diet Coke. No Pepsi. No Dr. Pepper. A Coke. And the two spots from Coke’s new ad agency, Wieden & Kennedy, do an excellent job of conveying Coke’s special status in the world of soft drinks and colas. Not only do the ads rise to the challenge of the Super Bowl ad contest, but they are best Coke ads I have seen in years.

It’s tough to choose which none of the two computer-generated animated ads are the best. So, Im giving “Best In Game” to both. In one, a hard looking leather-jacket-jeans guy pulls up on a city street in his car, and is first seen as a menacing character. A c-store clerk, in fact, thinks he has come to rob him. But he actually just pays for his Coke, and then sets off down the street in a series of random acts of kindness. He gives his jacket to a lady, stops a purse-snatcher and changes “The End is Near” signs being worn by a couple of sandwich-board walkers to “Give A Little Love” ads.” All the while, a catchy song is playing: “You give a little love and it all comes back to you….You’re going too be remembered of the things you say and do….”The key to the ad, is that the hero becomes a pied piper and everyone on the street surrounds him with all the good feelings and affirmation of the message.

The ad is catchy, hummable, feel-good, and best of all, dead on right for the Coke brand.

The second ad is called “Happiness Factory,” and it is, again, a sweet magical tribute to the good feeling a person has when they drink a Coke, especially if you don't drink one all the time. A young man drops a coin in a Coke machine, and we see that the coin travels to a wonderful world of gnomes, fairies and other CGI creatures. It is a world that looks to have been generated by a combination of Disney Imagineers, Dr. Seuss and Steven Spielberg. The 60-second ad shows how a bottle of Coke is created inside the machine: The soda comes from a hole in the sky; the carbonation comes from magic bubble-creatures; the cap is put on with a catapult and the final magic is added by way of a musical parade by all the creatures from Happiness Factory. The young man gets his Coke from the machine, takes a swig as he walks away, but then pauses, looks back at the machine, wondering where such a jolt of happiness came from. That last look back perfectly captures how I feel every six weeks or so when I have a real Coke.

Congratulations Wieden & Kennedy.

I didn't dislike the Bud ads. I was, however, very conflicted over the "Slap" ad in which the male tradition of bumping clenched fists to signify agreement, brotherhood and celebration is replaced by a hard face slap. It was, I suppose, funny...er....slapstick. And who doesn't like that? But the Three-Stooges aspect of it made me wince just a bit. And it was hard to choose it over what I thought were very masterful pieces of work from Wieden & Kennedy.

In case you miss it in the Helm-Kiley slide show on www.businessweek.com. my pick for the worst ad was the Snapple ad in which a backpacker climbs to what looks like a Tibetan temple looking for enlightenment about the importance of Green Tea. For a dynamic brand like Snapple, there should have been a sharper, funnier story. The wiseman in the temple tells him what the importance is. The backpacker asks how he knows. And the wiseman says it's on the back of the bottle. Ho ho. The ad from Cliff Freeman & Partners was lame.

Like I always say about the Super Bowl. If you are going to come to the field to play, bring a gameplan and a ball. Otherwise, stay home.

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