Super Bowl ads: An appeal to family

While the themes in this year’s Super Bowl ads ran the gamut from poking fun of emasculated males to take-offs on popular TV shows, experts agreed that a simple appeal to motherly love seemed to speak strongest to viewers.

The highly anticipated spot from anti-abortion group Focus on the Family, featuring Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother Pam, managed to avoid controversy, they said, mainly through the vagueness of its message.

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“That was a surprising ad because it was incredibly understated and very gentle,” said Tim Calkins, marketing professor at the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review. “You could see that they were trying to avoid polarizing people.”

The ad, which ran during one of the earliest and most coveted spots in the game, was successful in the sense that it would draw people to the Christian organization’s Web site, he said, but its effectiveness of its message was somewhat hampered by lack of detail.

“It was also very confusing, because you couldn’t figure out what was the point,” said Calkins.

Steve McKee, president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland Advertising, said the Focus on the Family spot seemed to be “trying to raise people’s awareness on life,” with Pam Tebow’s reference to her fifth child Tim as her “miracle baby” who “almost didn’t make it into this world.”

McKee also believed the ad was successful, in that it will draw viewers to Focus on the Family’s Web site.

Other featured themes

In particular, the Charger ad featured headshots of various men with an voiceover narrating their thoughts.

“I will empty the dishwasher and carry around your lip balm, but I will cut lose in my Dodge Charger,” said Calkins, describing the content and message of the ads.

Calkins said this “very down ad about a guy who has been domesticated” might resonate with recessionary workers who have lost their jobs.

Anheuser-Busch, the top advertiser with five minutes of ad time in the game, had one of the best ads, he said, which borrowed heavily from ABC’s show “Lost.” In the ad, plane-crash castaways realize their situation isn’t so bad when they discover a cache of Bud Lite. “Were going to be OK,” says one of the castaways, clutching the beer and panting in a near-hysterical voice.

“That may well go down as one of the most popular spots,” said Calkins, because it was humorous and it tapped into the popularity of the fact that “Lost” is in its final season.

McKee said that Google’s ad, entitled “Parisian love,” was drawing the most viewer interest on his company’s Adbowl site. The ad tracks a Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) search that begins in the blossoming stages of a trans-Atlantic relationship with a French woman, ending with a search on the phrase “how to assemble a crib.”

“It was the least expensive ad and the best ad so far,” said McKee. “It was basically a product demo on the Super Bowl.”

Several ads, from Careerbuilder.com, Dockers and a Sumo-themed ad from text message informational service KGB, tapped into the changing roles of men in society by featuring scantily-clad men as a source of humor.

McKee noted that Careerbuilder.com and Dockers ads ran back to back. With their similar visual theme, he noted, they ran the risk of overlapping products and confusing them for viewers.

“Does it further the awareness of both, or does it hurt both?” he wondered

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