Who Won This Year’s Super Bowl of Ads?


Who Won This Year’s Super Bowl of Ads?

By Vinny Warren, Executive Creative Director, The Escape Pod.













I spent 7 years thinking about the Super Bowl for various Anheuser-Busch beer brands. What distinguishes the big game from all other nights is the sheer size of the audience (100 million plus) and the fact that those watching are actually looking forward to seeing the ads.   It’s anomalous to say the least. But a lot of people in American business understandably get a bit freaked out by the fact that their brand will be seen by such a massive audience in a commercial that cost the best part of five million dollars to produce and air.  

This anxiety can infect the ideation and production process to the detriment of the finished product.  And it can show up on the screen on Super Bowl night. By contrast, the winning ads are those that don’t try to entertain 100 million people at scale, but rather win over millions of small groups of friends and family who have gathered to eat snacks and drink beer and forget about their troubles for a while. 


The Winners and Losers of Super Bowl LI

I watched the game.  A rare case of the game delivering a genuine shock.  I had to get beers and snacks and go to the bathroom just like a regular American, so I didn’t see everything. But it looked like a shutout for a long time.  So, you know consumer interest was waning going into the third quarter.   A problem if your ad was in this dead zone. But, boy did the game come to life later on! If the viewing public aren’t amped about the game when your spot airs, it can kill the vibe.   Hope you’re funny!


Things I remember:

First spot of the game was a rather dull demo of Google Home.  I already know how to turn on my lights without the assistance of a potential surveillance device, thank you very much!

I remember some great TV show trailers.  “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu looks amazing.  And timely!



The Skittles ad played it safe in a good way.  Simple, funny and it built nicely.   Something for everybody.


Snoop and Martha have chemistry.   T-Mobile pushed real hard in the game and it worked, I think. 



You had to give props to whoever did the Terry Bradshaw Tide ad.   You went all in.  I hope it worked.  Terry Bradshaw truly frightens me, so making him appealing is no mean feat. 


I loved the Michelob Ultra spot.  They have been successfully plowing this furrow for a long time.  “Cheers” meets the gym supports their ‘it’s kind of water, let’s face it!’ strategy.  It popped and it made sense. 



H&R Block meets IBM Watson was a great use of the Super Bowl as awareness vehicle.  It wasn’t fun but it was interesting and made strip mall accounting seem cool.  Jon Hamm was in it too, right? 


It is mandatory for all Americans, at all times, to love any film starring Christopher Walken.  Bai wisely took advantage of this fact.


Budweiser was founded by a German immigrant!   I knew this one.  As an immigrant, I applaud them for pointing out Adolphus was one too.  What a genius Adolphus Busch was.  The Henry Ford and Steve Jobs of American beer.  


That Walking Dead promo!










The Bad

That Bieber awfulness for T-Mobile.   It was excruciating.   Let me guess what happened here.  “Justin wants a :60 in the Super Bowl and he needs complete creative control!”.  Looks like Justin got it. 




























Vinny is the creative force behind The Escape Pod. For more than two decades, Vinny’s passion for advertising and signature hard-hitting style have left a permanent imprint on pop culture and earned him every major award and industry accolade.

He was born and raised in Galway, Ireland and learned his craft in New York working for legendary advertising writer Ed McCabe. In 1995 Vinny moved to Chicago to work on the Bud Light advertising account. The very first commercial he wrote was voted Best Beer Spot of the Year by Advertising Age magazine. In 2000 Vinny created the globally popular Budweiser “Whassup!” Campaign—the most awarded beer campaign in history, winning the Cannes Grand Prix, the Grand Clio, Best of Show at the One Show Interactive as well as garnering two Emmy Award nominations and being named one of the Top Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century. In 2005 Vinny was part of an international team that created a TV commercial for Volkswagen Germany that went on to become the fifth most awarded ad of that year. In 2006 he was inducted into the Clio Hall of Fame.

Later that year Vinny struck out on his own, co-founding independent agency, The Escape Pod. True to form, his fresh, attention-grabbing work ignited widespread recognition from the industry and revenue gains for clients. In 2008, he transformed boring into branded entertainment with Office Max’s “Schooled” reality TV series and “Penny Pranks” viral hit, creating category-busting work that dominated industry awards, from the Clios and American Advertising Federation to retail-focused Racie and RAMA Awards. His “Twitterventions” campaign injected new life into the stale Wheat Thins brand, driving 12 straight months of revenue gains after 24 months of decline, and earning multiple Cannes shortlist honors. He brought the world’s greatest toy store to life, launching Toys”R”Us’ YouTube Channel with a Buy Now button to drive e-commerce sales, and creating the “Come On, Let’s Play” campaign that forged a year-round emotional connection with consumers, increased gross margins and earned a top spot on Nielsen’s most effective TV spots for Holiday 2014.

Vinny is married and has three children.