Who Won the Super Ad Bowl? Women's Choices Go to the Dogs

Ratings show 51 million women paying attention; choices differ between women and men
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There's been plenty of coverage of how the ads played on the Super Bowl last Sunday. After all, the "game" for Americans is not just about football. Though XLVI was, thankfully, a terrific football contest, marketing is also one of Americans' favorite spectator sports. In fact, research confirms that more and more of us tune in to the Super Bowl as much or more for the ads as for the game-over half of us, in fact, according to a Hanon McKendry poll.

As usual, the USA Today Ad Meter is a good source for advertising winners and losers, and, no doubt, the champs and chumps are already savoring their victories (Doritos) or licking their wounds (Century 21).

At Open Mind, we found ourselves wondering about whether men and women shared the same top and bottom picks. After all, women notoriously make more than half of the purchase decisions in America (80%, according to some measures), and women were 46% of the Super Bowl viewing audience this year. In fact, 51 million of the 111 million viewers were female (to put that in perspective, the Oscars, considered by many advertisers to be "the female Super Bowl," had 38 million total viewers last year).

Also, according to the Hanon McKendry poll, women are particularly likely to follow the marketing game as much as the football game (66% vs. 45% of men), which means they're likely to be paying more attention to the multimillion-dollar efforts advertisers are putting on the air.

But which were women's favorite Super Bowl ads? Not finding anything on the topic-other than the predictable decrying sexism in the predictably awful Go Daddy ads-we conducted our own informal poll among women. These are our results.

The big standout was David Beckham's ad for his new H&M line, which was our No. 1 winner among women (by comparison, it was close to the bottom in the USA Today Ad Meter). Apparently, what's good for the gander is good for the goose.

These responses among respondents were typical:

"Looove the fact that finally they want to sell us s--- using a very hot man!"
"Like the objectification of a male-as opposed to the gawd-awful Teleflora and Fiat spots-but not sure it's gonna move the ‘bottom line' (no pun intended!)"

Of course, not every woman enjoyed this close look at Victoria's Spice-man. ("He's getting a bit old. I was a little uncomfortable. There are younger players with fewer tattoos.")

Most of the women's other top picks fell in line with the favorites of viewers in general. In other words, this year, women, like men, went to the dogs. They loved the Doritos dog, the Sketchers dog, the Volkswagen dog and the Bud Light dog.

You can't go wrong with dogs. According to USA Today's Super Bowl coverage during the past 20 years, ads featuring animals win the No. 1 slot fully half the time, and specific ads featuring dogs rise to the top five times. This year, women weren't as kind to other animals, saying to Coke, "Enough with the polar bears," and, to CareerBuilder, "Didn't you use chimps last year?"

Women took note that Bud Light's 2012 dog Weego (as in, "Here We Go!") was a "rescue," which registered in a positive way. ("Thought the rescue dog spot was nice, liked the tie-in to a broader cause, and this was a big hit with the other women in the room as well.")

In general, women seemed much attuned to the "stories behind the ads." They said of Chevrolet's post-apocalyptic ad, "This was in my top-five in part because of the CMO's response to Ford's cease and desist order." And regarding the Budweiser post-prohibition ad, "It got the room talking about what companies did during those thirteen years to make money," and about GM's post first-half ad, "It feels good when a brand thinks about the real world and what is going on in America."

But in our poll among women, this year's GM ad was a field goal compared to last year's touchdown, which featured Eminem, and it did leave some cold. ("I might be the only one in America who hated it, but to me that Clint Eastwood spot was a snoooozefest.")

As important as what women liked was what they hated. Among the choices: the Go Daddy spots ("So old, so formulaic, so horrible-and not in an ironic way.") They hated Fiat's "Seduction" spot. They hated Teleflora's Adriana Lima spot. Super Bowl advertisers might seriously consider whether running such laddish fare in front of 51 million women was a good idea. Do women really not register domain names? Buy cars? Notice what company their guy buys flowers from? These brands may have done themselves more harm than good.

Finally, one ad on the Super Bowl went directly after women, and generated . . . a yawn. Dannon's ad, featuring John Stamos being head-butted by his breakfast companion, has gotten industry flak for being a bit too like a 7-Up ad that also featured a woman similarly head-butting a teasing man. Our respondents didn't raise that issue, but rated it in the middle of the pack. As one woman noted, "How would you feel if you were once famous and are now doing yogurt commercials?!?!?"

Here are our top and bottom rankers among the women we polled:

Winners With Women

  1. H&M Beckham
  2. Doritos Dog
  3. VW Dog
  4. Sketchers Dog
  5. Chevy Halftime Eastwood
  6. Chevy Silverado
  7. Budweiser Prohibition

Losers With Women

  1. Go Daddy Body Paint
  2. Go Daddy Cloud
  3. Fiat Seduction
  4. Bud Light Platinum ("Boring-and who are they kidding? It'll taste like Bud Light.")
  5. Movie Trailers ("They all ran together and none of us could remember any of them.")

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