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Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads

There are a lot of companies that have a lot on the line this Super Bowl Sunday. And no,  not casinos like Wynn (WYNN) or MGM (MGM), which could be out big time on futures bets should the Giants

There are a lot of companies that have a lot on the line this Super Bowl Sunday. And no,  not casinos like Wynn (WYNN) or MGM (MGM), which could be out big time on futures bets should the Giants win, but the companies that have plopped down big bucks for their ads in Super Bowl XLVI. The Super Bowl is the most watched event on the planet, so the big-name advertisers are looking to make the biggest impression possible with the commercials.

With a price tag expected to peak $3 million per 30-second spot this year, they had better be good. With big bucks in play and viewership exceeding 100 million here in America, one could even say that this Sunday will be the Super Bowl of advertising.

2011’s Big Winners

Last year’s most iconic ads included a two-minute Chrysler (FIATY) ad featuring rapper Eminem and touting the return of the Detroit automobile.

The ad was a smashing success, particularly if one judges by Chrysler’s sales in 2011. The car company saw sales spike and swung back into the black for the full year for the first time since 2005, making $183 million. Another car company also had one of the most-talked about ads. Volkswagen (VLKAY) released their ad featuring a child dressing up like Darth Vader and using the “force” to start his dad’s car before the Super Bowl and created a viral sensation with almost 50 million on YouTube (GOOG).

It didn’t provide much pop for Volkswagen’s shares, though, which declined 6.5 percent in 2011. Finally, Groupon (GRPN) appeared to buy into the idea that any publicity is good publicity, airing a series of ads that appeared to be public service ads only to shift into pitches for Groupon.

Since then, Groupon had its highly anticipated IPO, saw shares spike to over $26 per share on the first day and then plummet over the next month, landing at a price just over $15 a share.  In the end, Groupon lost 8 percent on the year, maybe proving that the Super Bowl isn’t the best time to air risque ads.

On Tap for 2012

The success of Volkswagen’s ad last year appears to have caught on as most of the biggest Super Bowl ads have already hit the internet in advance of the big game. Meaning that many are already the topic of water cooler talk. Which ones are getting the most buzz? Chrysler appears poised to continue its “Imported from Detroit” theme, this time featuring legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood, who filmed his 2008 film Gran Torino in Detroit. Volkswagen also intends to refer back to last year’s successful ad. While this year’s ads feature dogs, they each have Star Wars references or cut aways.

Older comedy stars appear poised to make the biggest ripples. Jerry Seinfeld, who previously engineered a successful campaign for American Express (AXP), is appearing in a lengthy Acura commercial that also features Jay Leno.

Honda (HMC), which owns Acura, is also making a big splash with an ad for its CRV that recreates the iconic 1986 John Hughes comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and features star Matthew Broderick.

Doritos, owned by Pepsico (PEP), had a highly publicized contest for customers to send in their own commercials. Viewers can vote online after the five finalists air during the big game and the winner will receive $1,000,000.  Pepsi’s also supporting their Pepsi Max brand with a spot featuring Regis Philbin.

Finally, perhaps one of the most memorable ads won’t even be airing in the United States. Anheuser-Busch (BUD) is airing a Budweiser ad in Canada that features a flash mob surprising a rec hockey league game with hundreds of screaming fans, announcers, and mascots so that the men can play a game in a professional atmosphere.

Biggest Super Bowl Spenders

Super Bowl advertising can mean a lot of money, and over the last ten years five companies have spent more on the game than any others. Anheuser-Busch leads the way, having plopped down $239.1 million since 2002. Following immediately after is Pepsico with $174 million spent, almost triple the $66.8 million major competitor Coca-Cola (KO) has spent, the fifth most. Compensating for anything? General Motors (GM) comes in third, having dropped $82.8 million despite a three year break during its very public government bailout. Finally, Walt Disney (DIS) has spent $73.9 million between a variety of movie trailers and its memorable “I’m going to Disneyland” ads.

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