Films Advertising During the Super Bowl: Post-Game Analysis

Ah, the biggest day for Madison Avenue has come and gone in Super Bowl XXXVII, offering a chance to reach more than 130 million people in the United States. Although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought a 20-3 lead into halftime, a seemingly lopsided score, there was a good challenge made by the Oakland Raiders early in the fourth quarter. In the end, though, the Buccaneers pulled ahead to win 48-21.

But, to many viewers, it was the ads themselves that were the event on Super Bowl Sunday. The challenge here, as I wrote in one of two previous columns on the Super Bowl, is that studios need to deliver the goods in the time allotted. Several of those failed to do so, and ill-invested an estimated $2.1 million per 30-second spot.

While both the 4-hour pre-game and post-game included a number of ads that aired both regionally and nationally, this column will focus on those that appeared during the game itself, after the kick-off at 6:25 p.m. In order to get a feeling of how the public responded to each ad, I volunteered to watch the game at the popular waterhole Brother Jimmy’s (site closed) in Manhattan (we’ll see how the editor responds to the expense report I’m submitting tomorrow). As you can imagine, there was a great deal of trepidation on my part for this assignment (please note heavy sarcasm). With friends in tow, we critiqued the ads for upcoming films and tried to gauge the reaction of the sophisticated Upper East Side crowd.

Among the ads, the clear winner was the spot featuring the next two installments of “The Matrix” franchise, with “The Hulk” not far behind. We grade the films in three different ways-USA Today’s AdMeter tracking, the reaction from the crowd at Brother Jimmy’s (based on a 1-10 scale, with 10 the highest) and my own letter grade. See below and on the next page for more analysis. On to the spots!

1st Ad
“The Hulk” (site closed) (Universal Pictures)
Air Time: 6:47 p.m., 7:46 left in the first half (first ad in commercial break)
30 Seconds; Opens on June 20th

Premise: Based upon the character published by Marvel Comics, this film focuses on a scientist exposed to Gamma Rays and transformed into the Hulk, a creature of incredible strength. Chased across the country by the military, he unleashes chaos as he tries to figure out what he has become.

The Spot Itself: The ad shows the first glimpses of the Hulk, although the trailer and images had been mistakenly released on January 24th. Prior to this week, viewers had only seen a teaser featuring star Eric Bana and banner ads blocking most of the comic book’s physiques. Although this drew a great response from the majority, several others were grumbling that the CGI Hulk was horrible looking and that it looked like an animated feature, which is not a good thing. I am looking forward to this one, but won’t see it immediately upon its release- I don’t think it can outdo the opening weekend of last year’s “Spider-Man.”

USA Today AdMeter Grade: 5.81 out of 10 (39th out of 56, 4th among films)

Reaction at Brother Jimmy’s: 8

My Grade: B


2nd Ad
“The Matrix: Reloaded” and “The Matrix: Revolutions” (site closed) (Warner Bros.):

Air Time: 6:52 p.m., 6:36 left in the first half (first ad in commercial break)

60 Seconds; “Reloaded” opens on May 15th, “Revolutions” is released November 7th

Premise: Six months after the first film concludes, Neo, Trinity and Morpheus continue to battle a war against the A.I.s and free more minds from the Matrix. As they are joined by new comrades in “Reloaded,” there are those who cast doubt that Neo could truly be The One to destroy the machines and free the human race. Meanwhile, a familiar enemy from their past resurfaces as a far more powerful threat, and a new mission looms large for the heroes. In “Revolutions,” there is an all-out war between the two worlds.

The Spot Itself: Laurence Fishburne, resting in a comfortable chair in full Morpheus regalia, introduces the segment as a stream of new images run by, including several fight sequences, an agent jumping from the hood of several cars in a car chase sequence and a shot of Neo flying through a city. It also shows the new camera technique the Wachowski brothers have been hyping for the fight sequences, which looks great. This had as much an impact on the audience as the first film did during its Super Bowl spot-people were cheering. The best ad of the night-this connected in a big way. As Patrick Sauriol of Coming Attractions has said many a time, this is definitely the year of “The Matrix.”

USA Today AdMeter Grade: 6.58 (26th overall, 3rd-best among films)

Reaction at Brother Jimmy’s: 10

My Grade: A


3rd Ad
“Anger Management” (site closed) (Sony Pictures)
Air Time: 6:57 p.m., 5:46 left in the first half (first ad in commercial break)
30 Seconds; Opens April 11th

Premise: A mild-mannered businessman (played by Adam Sandler, in full “Punch-Drunk Love” mode) is sentenced to an anger management program after a mishap on a plane. At the program, he comes to discover that his instructor (Jack Nicholson, coming off a Golden Globe win a week ago) is a crazy psycho with his own problem with anger. When Nicholson moves into Sandler’s apartment, Sandler finds that Nicholson is probably the person most capable of making him fully blow his lid.

The Spot Itself: This spot shows several different scenes from the one currently running in theaters, including more actions shots like Nicholson taking an object to a car window. The downside here is that there was given little background to the premise of the film, as Sony seems to be banking in this spot on the film’s two stars. For this particular audience, it didn’t work-the audience mostly kept on talking and imbibing on their drink of choice; watching the audience there was akin to the Raiders’ solemn faces shown on the bench during the third quarter. Sony should have gone with “Identity,” by and large.

USA Today AdMeter Grade: 6.87 (22nd overall, 2nd-best among films)

Reaction at Brother Jimmy’s: 4

My Grade: D+


4th Ad
“Daredevil” (Warner Bros.)
Air Time: 7:30 p.m., 11:10 left in the second half (first ad in commercial break)
30 Seconds; Opens February 14th

Premise: When Matthew Murdock (played by Ben Affleck) is hurt rescuing a man from being hit by a truck, he becomes blinded by a strange radioactive isotope. Although he can no longer see, Murdock has gained a radar-like ability that he kept secret. When not an attorney by day, he uses his ability, along with years of physical training and a souped-up billyclub, he dons a horned mask to become a superhero named Daredevil.

The Spot Itself: This is a far better spot than what viewers have previously been shown, and bodes well for the film’s opening in 19 days. Comprised mostly of action shots involving the leads (Affleck, Farrell and Jennifer Garner, this makes it look to be more of a winner than the “Spider-Man” retread it appeared to previously be. Suspiciously, I don’t remember seeing that much of Michael Clarke Duncan’s Kingpin, the main villain of the picture.

USA Today AdMeter Grade: 5.44 (45th overall, 7th among films)

Reaction at Brother Jimmy’s: 7

My Grade: B


5th Ad
“Bad Boys II” (site closed) (Sony Pictures)
Air Time: 7:36 p.m., 6:24 left in the second half (first ad in commercial break)
30 Seconds; Opening on July 18th

Premise: Narcotics detectives Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Bennett have been assigned to a high-tech task force investigating the flow of designer ecstasy in Miami. There inquiries inadvertently lead them to a major conspiracy involving a vicious kingpin, whose ambitions to take over the city’s drug trade have ignited a bloody drug war. But the working relationship between the two detectives becomes frayed when Lowery begins to fall for Bennett’s sister. In danger of blowing the case and the friendship, they battle on solve the case.

The Spot Itself: Beginning with Smith and Lawrence shooting from a magnificent fireplace, the sequel to the 1995 films immediately re-establishes the easy dialogue between the pair. The rest of the spot, which shows a freeway chase with some nifty visuals, is a letdown.

On an interesting note, the mansion shown during the commercial, which is subsequently blown to smithereens, was once the home of the heir to the Coca-Cola fortune, Mark Bird. As reported by the New York Post’s Megan Turner, Bird sold the house to developer Mark Pulte after an armed gunman tried to kidnap his family in the house they were renting across the street. Pulte, in turn, realized he could parcel the house and land worth $40 million- and including amenities including 40-foot ceilings, a home cinema and a 15-car garage-into three land plots and placed an ad in the Hollywood Reporter, suggesting it could be used for a film. According to Turner, this scene is one of the final for the film.

USA Today AdMeter Grade: 5.16, rated among five worst spots– ouch (52nd overall, dead-last among films)

Reaction at Brother Jimmy’s: 6

My Grade: B+


6th Ad
“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (Warner Bros.)
Air Time: 7:47 p.m., 2:00 left in the first half (first ad in commercial break)
30 Seconds; Opens on July 2nd

Premise: This third film in the franchise will show the first battles between humans and the artificial intelligences of the SkyNet network, including a new terminator in the guise of a female cyborg.

Other Activity During the Super Bowl: At 6:02 p.m., a pre-taped piece had Arnold Schwarzenegger, in full Terminator regalia, setting up the segment that introduced the players on the field. “I am back,” he says. “It’s my mission to warn the human race…,” then flashing to Warren Sapp and Jerry Rice. At the end, he says in 20 minutes the human race will be changed…is he talking about the coming teaser for the film, or the kick-offr No matter, this placement is essentially a free plug for Warner Bros. Also, at 4:50 p.m., Arnold Schwarzenegger gave a one-minute interview to sideline reporter Robin Roberts about the film, as well as whom he thought would win (being the politician-hopeful he is, Ah-nuld straddled the fence).

The Spot Itself: But this was all to lead up to a new teaser, which begins with a Terminator’s red eye blinking out atop a mound of rubble. What followed was a great tease of what filmgoers will see in five months– terminators in their true form attacking an unseen foe, the female terminator glaring menacingly and Schwarzenegger fighting off his adversarial brethren. The final shot of a floating orb of liquid metal wreaking havoc is also great-what is thatrr But what detracts from this teaser is the trailer already seen, as well as no clear focus of why the filmgoer should opt for this.

In the pre-game interview, the few people at the bar didn’t bother to watch, instead concentrating on their pint of choice. In the earlier taped segment at 6:02 p.m., people giggled. When the commercial finally hit, it was something we were straining their necks to see. But the end result wasn’t the best, as people shrugged afterwards. Given the tepid response the first trailer recede, this was a necessary buy by Warner Bros. But it might not have turned the tide; more effort is needed by the studio to prop up this tentpole release.

USA Today AdMeter Grade: 5.70 (42nd overall, 6th among films)

Reaction at Brother Jimmy’s: 6 Overall

My Grade: 6


7th Ad
“Bruce Almighty” (site closed) (Universal Pictures):
Air Time: 8:35 p.m., 13:22 left in third quarter (first ad in commercial break)
30 Seconds; Opening on May 23rd

Premise: Having a particularly bad day, Bruce Nolan (played by Jim Carrey) curses God for all that’s wrong in the world. God confronts him on this, and challenges him to try to do a better job if he were to take on his mantle. He has just one week to make the world a better place, or God will bring forth an apocalyptic cataclysm that would hurtle mankind back to the Dark Ages.

The Spot: Great set-up and great delivery. This was probably the best of the placements in explaining what the premise of the film-even those in a crowded Brother Jimmy’s, as the bar minstrels were handing out shots of a mysterious substance, people understood what the film was about-Jim Carrey and the power given to him for a day. Still, I have to deduct points for the use of a song by Snap, as people here were snickering there.

USA Today AdMeter Grade: 7:16, highest among films (17th overall, first among films)

Reaction at Brother Jimmy’s: 7

My Grade: B


8th Ad
“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” (site closed) (Sony Pictures):
Air Time: 8:51 p.m., 5:30 left in third quarter (second ad in commercial break)
30 Seconds; Opening on June 20th

Premise: The “Angels,” three investigative agents (played by Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu) who work for the Charles Townsend Detective Agency, return for another adventure as they investigate the theft of a database of witness protection profiles after five of the people on the list are murdered. They’re aided by a new Bosley, in an adventure that pits them against a “fallen angel.”

The Spot: Honestly, with this being the second ad in during this game break and nothing that drew me to screen as a film commercial, I missed the first few seconds. I’ll blame the shot given to me by a gorgeous redhead tending bar. Beyond that, this gave a great glimpse of the film and is thankfully different teaser than the awful one currently in theaters. The dirt-bike racing, the glimpses of the gals in bikinis, Bernie Mac as Bosley-this was a great sell. But with yet another touchdown by the Bucs, how many of the 130 million people tuning in to the game saw thisr Still, this is among the best jigglethon spots here since the Miller Lite ad featuring the two grappling ladies and the in-house ABC ads for next week’s All-Star Weekend.

USA Today AdMeter Grade: 5.79 (40th overall, 5th among films)

Reaction at Brother Jimmy’s: 7

My Grade: B+


9th Ad
“The Recruit” (site closed) (Touchstone Pictures):
Air Time: 8:57 p.m., 4:4530 left in third quarter (second ad in commercial break)
30 Seconds; Opening on January 31st

Premise: Set at a “secret” CIA training facility in Virginia, a young agent trainee (played by Colin Farrell) is pushed by his instructor Agent Burke (Al Pacino). The trainee might not have the attitude of a typical recruit, but he is one of the smartest graduating seniors in the country. But just when James starts to question his role and decides to “wash out,” Burke taps him for a special assignment to root out a mole. As the suspense builds toward a gripping climax, it soon becomes clear that at The Farm, the CIA’s old maxims are true: “trust no one” and “nothing is as it seems.”

The Spot: Nothing really here that hasn’t been seen in previous trailers or television commercials, which look to be ubiquitous, but Touchstone attempts to gain even more viewers for its coming opening weekend this Friday with this placement. It looks like a great thriller, but this was probably money wasted so close to release. I think a better fit for the studio would have been “Bringing Down the House,” which has been doing just that with its trailer in theaters right now. As someone said at the bar, “Argh! Stop roping me in further to see this flick!” (For what it’s worth, I think this was the same fellow who passed out during the fourth quarter).

USA Today AdMeter Grade: 5.41 (47th overall, next to last in films)

Reaction at Brother Jimmy’s: 4

My Grade: B-


Final Thoughts
So, there were 9 placements for film during the game, although no real surprises. Nothing that was so new that it gave a film with relatively little buzz a jolt in the arm like ads for “The Matrix” and “Gladiator” did in previous years.

Those that did well this season featured new content previously not seen before, as well as were geared toward the demographics of the game, which is largely male. The impact can be immeasurable to raise awareness of films, although the results for those opening down the road as harder to gauge. As Larry Jenkins, senior vice president for marketing and media at Columbia Records recently told the New York Times, “Every household in America has a television set, so we know we’re reaching eyes and ears. We’ll be able to tell the next day whether that will translate directly into sales.” Films don’t have that luxury. But it’s an interesting benchmark nonetheless-consider these nine films blessed with an extra advantage in the marketplace.