Coke, Budweiser win as Super Bowl ad battle gets serious

Mon Feb 2, 2015 1:08am EST
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By Lisa Richwine and Jennifer Saba

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Budweiser capitalized on cuteness with the return of a puppy and Coca-Cola stood out with an anti-bullying message as many brands stirred emotions rather than going for laughs during the annual high-stakes battle of Super Bowl commercials.

Companies paid up to a record $4.5 million for 30 seconds during the championship game on Comcast Corp's NBC network seen by an estimated 100 million-plus viewers, the year's biggest television audience. The New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks.

Brands employed uplifting themes including the celebration of dads and tackled somber social issues in their bids to grab attention among more than 70 commercials.

"There has been an awful lot of stuff tugging at the heart strings," said John Maxham, chief creative officer of DDB Chicago. "I'm struck at how many brands have gone with a serious almost socially minded tone to their advertising."

Budweiser had a hit even before kickoff. The beer maker owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev reprised last year's winning combination of a puppy and his Clydesdale friends. This time, the horses help the lost puppy find his way home.

That ad was watched nearly 42 million times ahead of the game and topped rankings by iSpot, which tracks online views and social media chatter.

Coke won cheers from advertising experts for addressing digital hate speech, showing mean messages sent through texts or social media that were changed to positive missives once a bottle of Coke spilled into the wiring of servers.

The NFL ran a public service announcement that urged an end to domestic violence, a problem that tarnished the league's image during the season. The spot featured a woman calling the police but pretending to order a pizza so she wouldn't tip off her abuser.   Continued...

Anheuser Busch's Budweiser and Bud Light Beer can be seen on display at a new Wal-Mart store in Chicago, January 24, 2012.  REUTERS/John Gress