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Competition runs hot each year during the NFL’s Super Bowl — and a winning playbook exists both on and off the field. For advertisers, it’s the biggest advertising stage in the world, with major brands competing to capture the attention of millions of viewers. The result? Some of the most iconic commercials of all time have debuted during the big game. 

The Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review, a tradition now in its 20th year, gathers faculty and students on game day to watch and evaluate the ads in real time. Professors Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker, both renowned marketing experts, lead this discussion with students — some of whom have gone on to become marketing industry leaders running their own successful Super Bowl ad campaigns. 

Calkins is eager to see the creative that brands will be rolling out during Super Bowl LVIII. “Many people look at a piece of advertising and say, ‘how hard can that be?’ when, in reality, it’s incredibly difficult to create messaging that's going to build your brand and connect with people in a way that resonates with a huge audience without causing any negative repercussions,” says Calkins. “It has been amazing to watch how the creative, advertising and tonality in messaging have changed over the years.” 

Like Calkins, Rucker shares in the excitement of seeing how brands will approach messaging and campaign strategy.  “One of the wonderful things about how we think about strategy at Kellogg is we use basic principles from psychology, economics and sociology that build our ad assessment framework,” explains Rucker. “The framework allows us to very quickly think about an ad and identify its strengths and its weaknesses.” 

So which ads in recent memory are among the most successful? We sat down with the professors to hear some of their top picks: 

 Amazon — “Alexa Loses Her Voice” (2018) 

“The Super Bowl Ad Review panel has ranked Amazon as one of the most successful of all Super Bowl advertisers. For five consecutive years (2018 – 2022), Amazon has received a top grade, a feat no other advertiser has managed to achieve this since the inception of the school’s ad review event. 

“The 2018 ad features Amazon’s Alexa device losing its voice. To fill the gap, Amazon brought in a collection of celebrity replacements including Gordon Ramsey, Cardi B and Anthony Hopkins.

“It is odd to feature a product failure in a piece of advertising, but this spot works because it highlights all the different things Alexa does: provide the weather, make calls, play music, find recipes and more. The spot has remarkable linkage; the entire story revolves around the product. The unexpected story stands out, making it one of the most memorable Super Bowl spots.” — Tim Calkins 

Doritos — “Crash the Super Bowl” (2007)


“In 2006, Doritos approached development for its 2007 Super Bowl spot a little differently. Specifically, they invited consumers to ‘crash the Super Bowl,’ by submitting their own fan-generated commercial. Five finalists were posted on the creation website and consumers were allowed to vote on it.  

“The winning entry was aired on the Super Bowl that featured reference to the brand’s flavors and included a literal ‘crash.’ The ad received favorable reactions from the industry and consumers alike, and it showed that consumers had some creative chops! Doritos also had lasting impact, with user-generated content more prevalent than before. However, when it comes to ‘crashing the Super Bowl,’ arguably nobody did it better than Doritos (and its consumers).” — Derek Rucker 

Dannon — “Tease” (2012)

“Buying a Super Bowl spot makes a strong statement, and everyone knows that Super Bowl ads are expensive, so investing sends a signal. Dannon’s 2012 spot landed a touchdown for its strong creative and competitive message.  

“In this Super Bowl ad, Dannon was sending a clear message to Chobani, who had quickly become a leading player in the yogurt industry, and everyone else close to the business: We have had it. We are tired of all the share losses, and we are now fighting back. In the spot, the beautiful woman represents Dannon. The handsome man (John Stamos) represents Chobani. What is about to happen? The beautiful woman is about to knock out the man. Dannon was now defending.  

“This spot marked the end of Chobani’s fast growth. The message was spot on, and Dannon followed up on it with aggressive defensive spending that worked.” — Tim Calkins 

Volkswagen — “The Force” (2011)

“Volkswagen momentarily embraced the dark side when it aired a child dressed in a Darth Vader costume attempting to exert his “force powers” in his household. Although the child experienced set back and set back, to his own surprise his powers caused the Volkswagen Passat to rev to life.  

“Unbeknownst to the child, but revealed to the audience, was that his father had used the remote starter. This 2011 ad received massive attention and took full advantage of the Super Bowl platform. It provided a very “top-funnel” recognition of the brand giving dealers something to talk about to start a conversation with consumers. This observation serves as a reminder that Super Bowl ads objectives can vary from brand to brand.” — Derek Rucker 

Google, “Parisian Love” (2010)

“Super Bowl XLIV included Google’s first-ever Super Bowl spot. The ad was simple: a love story told through a series of Google searches. The spot was a surprise; Google had not announced its plan to run the ad prior to the Super Bowl. It received the year’s top score from the Kellogg panel and went down in history as an outstanding Super Bowl spot. 

“The spot works because it does everything a Super Bowl ad needs to do. It grabs your attention. The creative idea is completely unique. Perhaps most important, the spot is simply a product demonstration. There is an incredible linkage between the product and the creative and the product benefit comes across. 

“The Parisian Love spot demonstrates how a Super Bowl ad can stand out while delivering a product-focused message.” — Tim Calkins 

Uber Eats — “Don't Eats” (2022)

“In 2022, Uber ran a tongue-in-cheek commercial to showcase its delivery service. The ad featured individuals ordering things that could not be eaten (e.g., diapers, kitty litter, lightbulbs). This was not only one of the most memorable advertisements of the Super Bowl, but it was a great example of how advertising can be used to fuel a simple but powerful observation—you can use Uber for your ‘eats and non-eats.’ Whereas some brands are not targeting the 100+ million viewers, this ad has broad appeal to anyone interested in food and non-food delivery services. Simple messaging can be sensible and effective.” — Derek Rucker

Jeep, “Whole Again” (2013)

“The best Super Bowl ads capture the mood of the country; they connect with how people are feeling. Jeep pulled this off to an extraordinary degree with its spot “Whole Again” that ran during the Super Bowl in 2013. 

“The two-minute spot is a tribute to the men and women serving in the military, especially those deployed. Featuring Oprah Winfrey as narrator, the spot taps into the national feeling of concern for those serving in Iraq and elsewhere.  

“The spot works for Jeep for two reasons. First, Jeep is a brand with a long connection to the military; this is familiar terrain. Second, Jeep doesn’t overplay its role. Jeeps are visible throughout the spot, but very much in a supporting role. 

“The spot received a well-deserved grade of A from the Kellogg panel and demonstrates how emotion and imagery can build a strong brand.” — Tim Calkins 

Snickers. “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” (2010)

“Snickers ran an execution that featured beloved actress Betty White. In this ad, she is shown playing football with individuals — and it does not appear to be a pleasant experience as she is tackled into the mud.  

“Then something interesting happens: Betty White is approached by a young woman who hands her a Snickers and says, “Babe, eat a Snickers!” Betty White then transforms to a young guy who says, “Better.” What is beautiful about this commercial is it took a core human insight that most everyone can relate to: We aren’t ourselves when we are hungry. Snickers solves this problem by satisfying your hunger so you can be your normal self. Of note, many brands could have used this insight, but Snickers had the foresight to do so. Not only was it a creative commercial, but the entire campaign it fostered is often discussed as extremely effective in growing sales.” — Derek Rucker 

Kia, “Give It Everything” (2019)

“To introduce its new SUV, the Telluride, Kia ran a stunning Super Bowl spot in 2020. The ad stands out with its portrayal of a small town in Georgia and the people living there. The ad states: ‘We’re not famous. There are no stars on the sidewalk for us. ... We hope to be known for what we do. What we build. No, we are not famous. But we are incredible, and we build incredible things.’  

“The spot features local people, living modest lives. It holds them up as heroes. In this spot, Kia is tapping into the great divide splitting the U.S.: There are the high-income achievers, and the hard-working small-town people. This is the same split that Donald Trump focused on with great success during his campaign. 

“The overall message: Telluride is a U.S.-made, remarkable SUV. The spot helped launch what has become one of Kia’s most important vehicles.” — Tim Calkins 

Cheerios, “Gracie” (2014)

“Cheerios aired a commercial that featured a family where the parents were chatting with their daughter about the addition of a new family member. The commercial itself was heartwarming, and it reminded viewers that Cheerios was not just a functional product but one with an emotional connection with the consumer.  

“However, an additional point warrants attention. The advertisement happened to feature an interracial couple. For some viewers, this was a bit of a shock, and it led some to express negative sentiments. Cheerios stood by the ad, and the brand was met with strong support from the fanbase.  

“Their ability to navigate a negative response by some consumers showed a clear understanding of who they valued as a consumer and what they stood for as a brand. As some brands find themselves faced with negative sentiment today, Cheerios serves as a reminder that one way to navigate such waters is by being true to your brand and your consumers.” — Derek Rucker 

More in this series:

Ask a Super Bowl advertiser: Google’s Taylor Acampora

Ask a Super Bowl advertiser: Chris Brody of M&M’S