Feb 03, 2014 • By

What makes a great big game ad?

Let’s just admit it. The football part of last night’s big game was a bit of a letdown, unless you were rooting for Seattle of course.

But what about the commercials?

Here at General Mills our Cheerios team was overwhelmed by the positive reaction to their “Gracie” ad before the game, during it and afterwards – in the media and across the social web.

I sat down with Mark Addicks, the chief marketing officer at General Mills, for insight on some of the other memorable commercials.


Mark Addicks, chief marketing officer, General Mills

Mark agrees with many pundits that outside of a few ads there weren’t many that met the entire recipe to be a big hit during the big game.

“The things I look for are very much how we look at creative development here,” Mark says. “You want something that captures your attention and engages you. So it should be suspenseful, highly entertaining, provocative and relevant.”

He also says a memorable ad, no matter when it airs, needs to be unique to the brand it represents.

“There also has to be a benefit or a reward, and then the link to the brand has to be as believable and as proprietary as possible … all of this helps to build the brand in somebody’s head and heart over time.”

So what did Mark like last night?

-He thought Hyundai’s “Dad’s Sixth Sense” spot worked well. It featured a dad always seeming to be a step ahead of his son until he no longer needs to because of the auto emergency braking feature on the Hyundai Genesis.

-Mark also thought Radio Shack’s “Phone Call” commercial deserved to be rated high by ad-watchers. If you recall, that spot featured many familiar faces from the 1980s.

Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” ad got most of the kudos last night, and Mark says it’s deserved. He cites the high brand recognition for the Clydesdales.

-He also liked the Doritos commercials (“Cowboy Kid” and “Time Machine”), “They’ve turned crowd-sourcing into an art form – using the wisdom of the crowd for ideas. I think it’s a really smart idea. They let people vote and get a sense of what works and what doesn’t,” says Mark.

So what did he like about the Cheerios commercial?


“I think it stayed true to the brand of Cheerios, which is about nurturing, optimism and family. But fundamentally, it’s about nourishment and nourishing each other. The storyline – using Cheerios on the table, and the archetype of all that – was very powerful. I think that was very strong.”

Mark also says “Gracie” wasn’t like the other ads last night.

“The tone and feel of it was so different from most of the other spots, so it broke through,” he says. “It’s so much more noticeable when you yin to somebody’s yang. So many of the big game ads, they start at a certain high point of energy and emotion, or satire, or visual vibrancy. This was something that went closer in, and really lived with that little girl’s face. This had a built-in story to it.”

Overall, Mark says the risks to any brand with a commercial in the big game may be high, but the size of the audience is undeniable.

“The theme is appointment TV,” says Mark. “You can run an ad 20 times and have an audience of four million, or you could run it once and have 80 to 100 million people see it. It’s a wonderful way to start a conversation and to push a brand out there. You’re going to get a level of attention – undivided attention – that you’re going to have trouble getting in other mediums.”

Editor’s note: For more reaction to last night’s commercials, read the coverage in Adweek, Good Morning America and USA TODAY.