Best “Surprise” Super Bowl Ads #SB48

Sure, people love “Puppy Love,” Budweiser’s sequel to last year’s Baby Clydesdale spot that took “Best of Super Bowl 47 Ads” – and the Cheerios “Gracie" sequel to last spring’s interracial family commercial is absolutely adorable. The thing is, nothing can take the place of a powerful surprise…and I’d already seen both spots before game day, which diminished their impact. So while these to ads both have tons of merit, today’s post will focus on the ones which had the best "surprise" factor: a condiment and a car.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your Heinz!

This was only the second time that Heinz advertised in the Super Bowl – so it was quite unexpected. “Hum” has people humming along to the classic children’s song, “If you’re happy and you know it…” – but instead of hand clapping at the end of each line, they thump the bottom of the glass ketchup bottle two times. We see a variety of groups in different scenes, all happily hitting their Heinz bottles until the end, when Granny lets loose another surprise — she squeezes the nearly empty plastic bottle, causing it to emit song-stopping flatulence. No worries, a glass bottle is quickly handed to her. While the end may be considered in poor taste to those over the age of 7, the rest of the commercial had my group clapping and singing from the moment it started. So far the spot has only 100,000 YouTube views (vs. 36 million for Bud’s Puppy Love), but this was the most physically engaged with commercial in our sampling size of one party – and it saw a lot of good Twitter activity:

Maserati. It ain’t just for 1%ers anymore.

On the other end of the purchasing spectrum, Maserati descended upon football fans with its first ever Super Bowl commercial. Aptly named “Now We Strike,” unsuspecting viewers were treated to the haunting narration of Oscar nominated child actress Quvenzhané Wallis in a 90-second long mini-movie. In this cinematic caliber spot, Wallis describes the old regime of lumbering giants… What are those giants? That appears to be open to interpretation. In my opinion, the brand is referring to other luxury makes like BMW, Mercedes, Lexus…the cars that are automatic choices for people who can afford to drive luxury cars. But now there’s a new choice in town: the Maserati Ghibli, starting at $60K-ish. Again, this ad only has about 100K views on YouTube so far, yet I saw it garner quite a bit of in-person and virtual commentary. Take a look:

Now, if everyone at our Super Bowl soiree had already seen these two ads, they would likely have been less talked about during the broadcast. Both were good spots, but there were may “good spots.” What made these stand out even more was the power of surprise. Coke’s “America the Beautiful" surprised us with an overtly melting pot message; Go Daddy surprised us with a somewhat tasteful spot called "Puppet Master;” and Bob Dylan surprised us too – but not in a good way. Now, I’d heard that he’d be doing a commercial for Chrysler. However, I don’t think any of us were prepared to hear the legendary musician wax poetic about how it’s fine for us to let Germany brew our beer and Asia build our phones as long as we buy American when it comes to cars. What?

Look, I’m all for finding new ways to reach out to consumers. But perhaps there is something to saving the Super Bowl commercials for, um, the Super Bowl. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of that next year…and if marketers find a way to capitalize on the post-airing a bit more rather than focusing so heavily on pre-gaming.

~ @AdvertGirl, aka Denise Blasevick (CEO, The S3 Agency)


We’ve all been there. You’ve boarded a flight, the doors have closed and the flight attendant has told you to power down any portable electronics. What comes next is five minutes of the flight crew doing everything they can to force you to watch their safety video. The optimist says, we’ll be fine. I don’t need to listen to this. The pessimist says none of this information is useful when you’re going down at 600mph. So, you find the Sky Mall and seriously considering purchasing a water proof speaker that holds your iPhone in the pool.

But, what if you had a reason to watch the safety video? What if you actually went out of your way to watch it? Delta Airlines had the same thought process when they completely reinvented the safety video. They found a way to take a consumer’s pain point during flying and flip it by creating the funniest and most entertaining way to talk about flight safety possible. The best part is that the script has not changed one word, but the visuals tell an entirely different story.

The most recent concept is straight out of the movie Airplane, with an 80s theme. A holiday version launched towards the end of 2013 as well. And while some would question what sort of ROI you can get for a video that’s featured AFTER you have already bought your ticket and boarded, the truth is that in the social world we live in, the spot was posted on YouTube on 1/28/14 and three days later, is already well past a million views. How many of those viewers will keep Delta top of mind when they are considering their next trip?

80s themed:

Holiday themed:

And remember: the exits might be behind you…like, decades behind you.

~ Matt Mauriello, Account Director, The S3 Agency


Recently I found out that a good friend started binge watching Breaking Bad. Initially I was excited to talk to him about (in my opinion) the greatest drama in television history. Walt & Jesse make Don Draper & company look like a 60s era day time soap opera. When I reached out to him I realized that I couldn’t talk about the show because I was having a problem coming up with a frame of reference where the story arc was in season one. I just warned him, “stay off the internet as there are tons of Memes that turn out to be spoilers.” I also recommended that he listen to the Breaking Bad podcast and show companion that is hosted by one of the senior editors and often by show creator Vince Gilligan.

Binge watching? Spoilers? Podcast show companions? Memes? Yes I am still talking about television and I do not consider myself a television junkie. These touch points are now just a few iTunes subscriptions and clicks away. No longer do we go home and record Lost on our Tivos and talking about it Friday morning at work. Some argue that this lack of water cooler chat hurts a television show’s popularity. Thanks to streaming subscriptions and digital on demand, we may all be watching the same shows but not at the same time (and, in most cases, commercial free) – and thus eliminating the water cooler. There are still exceptions to the rules; wildly popular shows like Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead, for instance, still get that immediate post-show chat. But how long will that model continue, I wonder.

Netflix banked on the binge when they released House of Cards in one swift data dump. They followed that up with a re-boot of Arrested Development and some original programming (Orange Is The New Black). Netflix does not care about the water cooler. They do not run commercials, and their revenue comes from their monthly subscription plans. Instead, Netflix wants you to come home every night and watch three hours of television from multiple devices (phones, tablets, XBox, etc.) – to see exactly what you want, when you want it. Beyond their impressive lineup of original programming, they will also reel you in by streaming shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men.

Personally, I am willing to give up the water cooler. I am willing to give up allowing shows to breathe and pace themselves. In closing, I feel the need to mention that I have not spoken about a single current television show broadcast on ABC, NBC & CBS. I prefer to keep it that way.

~ Jaime Hamel (@stophameltime), Digital Strategist, The S3 Agency


Being a child of the pre-internet, pre-Netflix 70s and 80s, one of my biggest loves was going to the movies. As any fan of the cinema and the visual arts knows, those were some great times for movie key art. Walking into the lobby and smelling the popcorn, I could hardly wait to get to my seat. However, there was one thing that always excited me just as much as the upcoming film I was about to see — the movie posters in the lobby and on the theater’s facade. The artwork, most often illustrated with bold visuals and typography, had me mesmerized.

My first vivid memory of movie poster art was from the original JAWS. My father took me to see the hit blockbuster in the summer of 1975 — much to my mother’s disapproval, given my young age. The artwork on the poster screamed out at me: those razor sharp teeth and that scantily clad bather skimming across the ocean’s surface with that beefy blood red JAWS type above her. It definitely set the wheels in motion for me to pick up a pencil and paper and start to frighten my family with my doodles and sketches of monster sharks and dinosaurs. A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Roger Kastell (the artist who painted that classic) at a horror/sci-fi convention. I told him how much of an inspiration the poster was to me and my future as an artist, all the while gawking at the original that was only a few feet behind him.

I don’t get out to the cinema much these days. I can count on both hands the amount of times I’ve actually stepped foot into a movie theater in the past decade. It’s just easier and more affordable to hit a button on my television and watch from the comfort of my own couch. Thanks to the advent of the Internet and Google, I can take a stroll down memory lane with random searching of some classic movies and to see all the poster art that comes up. I’m not saying the movie industry has stopped producing great key art. I just have a soft spot for the days of past when my Dad would take out the newspaper and ask the family what they wanted to see and I knew I wanted to see all that great poster art spread out across the movie section.

Click here to check out some beautiful examples of some modern day classics as well as a few oldies thrown in there.

And if you are a little bitter about some of the recent movie poster design as I am, you can check out this little rant below. This guy does have some strong points. Enjoy!

~ Mike Kolatac, Sr. Art Director, The S3 Agency


It’s not a new notion, there are a lot of companies out there working on alternatives to the dreaded QR code. But why is the QR code so hated by many? I personally don’t blame the concept because there are still many great uses for QR codes in marketing and beyond, like in the medical field. I think what people hate is having to install an app and then search for it on their phones when trying to scan the code.  A company called Ricoh has created a really cool alternative as seen here:

The app is called “Clickable Paper” and it lets you click on an image without zooming in on a code or logo first. After clicking, you’re directed to a range of options and links based on the item you photographed. This is a big improvement from QR codes, which can only send you to one dedicated link. However, you still have to use a special app to make it work.

Smartphone OS creators at Apple and Google are the only ones that can truly solve the issue by simply including the technology in their standard camera apps. As interactive print and outdoor ads become even more popular, I believe Apple and Google will do exactly that. We just have to wait a little while longer… 

~ Walid Elshahed, Web Designer, The S3 Agency

Want to stand out from the crowd – or at least the skyline? Try taking video and graphics, adding in some LEDs, and voila: the side of your building is a now an attention-getting billboard. Check out this video from the side of The Intercontinental Hotel in Miami.

(Pharrell’s) Hats Off to the #Grammys Twitterverse

It’s hard to remember back just a handful of years when live event shows like The Grammys were not accompanied by the Twitterverse soundtrack. The ability for complete strangers from around the world to come together via a hashtag never disappoints in terms of polarizing opinions, humor, and surprise “stars.” This year, the undisputed social star was none other than Pharrell’s hat.

The multiple-Grammy-winning artist and producer made enormous waves with his rather odd accessory choice…and I’m guessing he knew exactly what he was doing. While comparisons abounded – Smokey the Bear, Canadian Royal Mounties, the man from Curious George and more – it was the similarity to the Arby’s burger chain logo that took hold of Tweeters everywhere.

Kudos to Arby’s for becoming part of the conversation with this highly retweeted and favorited tweet:

Even Gain laundry detergent got a piece of the hat action with this tweet:

It even spawned a new Tweeter during the broadcast: @PharrellHat (who has over 13,000 followers already just a few hours after the show has ended).

What did @PharrellHat have to say? Well, the hat wondered what some of the other artists would look like donning it:

@PharrellHat, shown here next to Daft Punk in their famous headgear, also asked the age-old question: helmets or hats?

But the Grammy for favorite tweet of the night should really go to comedian Charles Esten, for this tweet that tied together the entire evening’s Twitter hilarity in 140 characters or less:

Thanks for the new lyrics, Charles. I’ll never be able to hear Get Lucky again without thinking of Pharrell’s hat.

~ @advertgirl

You May Be a Wiener, Er, Winner! #TweetToLease

Introducing the Newly Designed, 2014 Wienermobile

Kraft’s Oscar Mayer has found its way into the spotlight once again, this time without even one verse from its beloved jingle. The brand’s freshly launched #TweetToLease campaign has stirred up a bevy of excitement among bologna fans across the country.
The premise is fairly simple: tweet why you deserve a Wienermobile lease with the hashtag #TweetToLease and you could score a day with the legendary vehicle.
Kraft was able to drum up a great deal of anticipation prior to the Wienermobile unveil. Paid placements with Motor Trend hinted at “the biggest car launch ever on Twitter,” much to the curiosity of car enthusiasts. Without the typical and often complicated barriers to entry, Oscar Mayer has created a truly viral sweepstakes. The contest has garnered a great deal of press attention for its unique approach and highly coveted prize.

Kraft put together paid promotions on both Facebook and Twitter to announce the contest and the investment was definitely worthwhile. Facebook post engagement on the Wienermobile video is over 10x typical activity. The brand has been witty and responsive to the slew of fan comments on Twitter. The lucky winner will provide legs for the lease campaign to grow as the Wienermobile adventure is sure to be captured and shared.
Instead of relying on its “b-o-l-o-g-n-a” jingle, Kraft found a new angle to help advertise the contest beyond Twitter. The McGarry Bowen spot is being hosted on YouTube in addition to a variety of television appearances. The piece pokes fun at the tried and true car commercial format. Close-up shots, classical music, and a voiceover promising performance and vehicular revolution, all often seen in luxury car ads, gives the spot a humorously subtle quip just begging to be shared.  Just three days into the campaign, the video already has 2.5 million views on YouTube.

After dramatically unveiling the bright and shiny new Wienermobile from beneath its billowing white sheet of secrecy, Kraft proceeds with its straightforward call to action. The contest details are shared at the end of the spot in the same amusing way: this limited time offer allows you to apply for a one day lease with just one tweet and 140 characters down. Now who can refuse a deal like that?

~ Christine Perez, Account Coordinator, The S3 Agency

Which Brand Will Embrace Duck Face?

Rather than review a particular communications campaign, today’s Stoke This post focuses on what one might consider a social epidemic: Duck Face. Also known as Trout Pout, D-Lips and certainly other names of which I am not aware, for some reason many people believe that extending ones lips into a bizarre facial contortion is the most attractive pose one can strike for a camera. This is doubly true, apparently, when the one posing is holding said camera (aka, a phone).


Whether or not I think this actually is an attractive look (I don’t) is irrelevant: it is a gesture that has permeated the Millennial generation and therefore one that some brand will inevitably seize for a campaign targeted at said market. The question is, who will it be — and how will they do it?

Could it be a traditional brand trying to up their hipness? Perhaps King Arthur Flour, founded in 1790, can grab this opportunity by the lips with a social media campaign that has consumers take selfies with their best “bake face” – ie, covered in flour so that only their pout shows.

Maybe a forward-thinking brand will use it as a way to continue to “own the now.” Couldn’t you see Google setting up unmanned “fish tanks” randomly around the country, encouraging passers by to step into these photo booths and give their best trout pout? Then suddenly, without warning, the best ones would make up one or both of the Os in the Google Doodle, rotating so that people would be forced to stare at the screen all day, hoping to have their own 15 seconds of fame.

Or might it be one of the newer brands who has been transforming marketing, much like D-lips have transformed Facebook profile photos? It wouldn’t surprise me to see Dollar Shave Club embrace the face for men with a sequel to their legendary viral video. This time, the video could be called “Our Blades Are Ducking Great,” somehow showing that only clean-shaven visages make the best pout.

It’s really anybody’s guess who will do it first. Meanwhile, let’s end this post with a throwback to Ally McBeal, whose star’s trademark pout is probably behind this seemingly permanent facial phenomenon.

~ @AdvertGirl, aka Denise Blasevick, CEO of The S3 Agency

Old Spice Stages an Internetervention

Four words: executive spray tan party.

It’s an ad that pops up on YouTube. So horrible you can’t believe it. And you shouldn’t.

My only issue with it, it’s a little too long. But you’ll watch the whole thing anyway.

~ Adam Schnitzler, CCO, The S3 Agency


Guess what day it is? Why, yes it IS Wednesday – the perfect day to blog about Geico’s new direct mail campaign. Which, not surprisingly, features a spokes-dromedary from the insurance company’s popular commercial. In case you just returned from your year-long sabbatical on a remote island with no internet or TV access, take a look at this spot before reading on:

Love him or hate him, the Geico camel has quickly made its way into our vernacular. In addition to asking each other to “guess what day it is,” it’s not uncommon to hear someone muttering “Mike Mike Mike” on any given Hump Day. Therein lies the kernel of genius that Geico has leveraged for their latest direct mail campaign:

This simple, not-flashy-or-expensive-to-produce letter embraces personalized direct mail marketing. This is a photo of the actual letter sent to my husband, Peter. The camel at right saying “Peter Peter Peter” is an attention getter, and you can almost here him saying your own name just like the commercial. It’s an instant get – and an instant reminder of the brand – that’s suddenly made personally relevant. Great job, Geico. Of course, people named Mike won’t realize the genius of your direct mail, but then again their name gets called out on TV every time the commercial airs.

~ @AdvertGirl (Denise Blasevick, CEO, The S3 Agency)

Football & Taxes: Neither Is Avoidable

With less than two weeks until Super Bowl, it seems that even those with zero interest in the pigskin sport are suddenly “in the know.” How can they not be? Wherever you go – from grocery aisles to websites – football is there, an omnipresent reminder that the big game day (and big advertising day) is coming. Now this is also the time when some of us start thinking about our taxes. I say some, since I know many who wait until April…but nonetheless, just as Super Bowl players want their rings, Uncle Sam wants his money – ahem, your money.

That’s what makes H&R Block’s new campaign, “Get Your Billion Back, America,” so strong. The tie in of football and taxes may seem a bit of a stretch. But when you see the concession attendant placing $500 on each stadium seat – and then hear that Americans overpaid on their taxes by a billion dollars, enough to put $500 on every seat of every NFL stadium – it all seems to make sense.

Of course we want our billion back. To paraphrase Charlie Brown’s little sister, all we want is what we have coming.

H&R Block strikes a real nerve with this ad, its quiet yet solemn message breaking through the noisy clutter surrounding the game. Now, I have no idea what it costs to hire H&R Block – hopefully less than the extra $500 this commercial makes me think I’ll get back if I use their services. That’s ok, though – because the point is, it has me wondering about H&R Block. Mission accomplished…although I’d have liked a little more #social integration. (Maybe next year…)

~ @AdvertGirl (Denise Blasevick, CEO, The S3 Agency)


Hyperlocal marketing can work for businesses of all sizes, but today I’m concentrating on the single-location retailer who relies on foot traffic to stay in business. You need immediate attention in an immediate area – and that’s what hyperlocal marketing can provide. Here are some tips on what you can start doing to up your hyperlocal marketing game… immediately:

  1. Start with a good product or service – otherwise all the work you do to get customers won’t keep them. Figure out ways to enhance the customer experience so that you are truly differentiated from your competitors.
  2. Use the power of local marketing giants like Groupon or Living Social to get the word out. You’ll make less profit on those who participate, but you’ll reach new customers without running a hugely expensive advertising campaign. Again, it’s up to you to keep those customers.
  3. Have events for local bloggers and media to let them experience what’s so special about your product or service – then let them amplify your message as they share it with their readers. Having something “new” helps draw media attention – launching a new business, a new product or a new service. If you don’t have anything new, try offering something they can’t get everyday – like behind-the-scenes access. For example, a restaurant can offer media a chance to watch the executive chef in action, giving cooking tips or shares a special recipe.
  4. Connect with other local businesses by providing a benefit to them that benefits you in return. You’re a florist? Offer complimentary arrangements to some local businesses with front desks. They get something free to spruce up their décor – and you get your work in front of potential customers.
  5. Start a loyalty program. Everybody enjoys being rewarded for their loyalty. The right loyalty program can be one of the least expensive ways to turn first-time triers into repeat buyers. Whether it’s a percent off, something free after a number of purchases, or a gift with purchase, this is one of the quickest paths to the local community’s heart.

These tips came from my most recent segment on MSNBC Your Business, hosted by JJ Ramberg. Click below to watch how Slava Rubin, CEO of Indiegogo, and I tackle the issues of Hyperlocal Marketing, International Expansion, and Competing with No Competition.

~ @AdvertGirl (aka Denise Blasevick, CEO, The S3 Agency)

Would It Actually Be Yummy As A Chip?

Lay’s Brings Back its Flavor Contest – With an Earworm You’re Sure to Be Singing: Wouldn’t It Be Yummy?

Ever want to eat a banana split…potato chip? Lay’s has brought back its beloved flavor search contest to find the next “it” chip.

While walking through the supermarket last night, I stumbled upon Lay’s “Cheesy Garlic Bread” chips. My first thought was: if you wanted cheesy garlic bread, why wouldn’t you just make yourself cheesy garlic bread? Why would you feel the need to eat that in a chip? We do live in a fast nation, where availability and convenience must be at our fingertips.

The new commercial marks the inevitable return of Lay’s crowd-sourcing promotion, “Do Us a Flavor,” where participants can create their ideal chip. Fans then vote on their favorites, giving those fans the power to turn ideas into reality. A win-win: the brand utilizes a new form of product development and gets some publicity – and the chip designer gets $1 million.

If talking food is your thing, then this commercial is right up your alley. The video features everything from hero sandwiches to pancakes to spaghetti – all singing about how yummy their flavor would be as a chip. The spot does get mildly desperate when the half-melted ice cream scoop chimes in about needing some cash, but overall Lay’s keeps true to its fun-loving roots with this cheery, colorful spot.

Props to the brave souls… ahem, chip connoisseurs… for testing some of these outrageous flavor combinations. It would take a lot more than a singing soufflé to get me to eat a meatloaf chip!

~ Nicole Mazewski, Account Coordinator, The S3 Agency

The Commercial for Butterfinger Cups’ Super Bowl Commercial

The Commercial for One Candy's Super Bowl Commercial

It used to be that Super Bowl advertising was sacred. Hush hush. A really big secret about what would happen in between plays of the really big game. Not so anymore. Over the last few years, in an effort to stand out in the ever-crowded content universe, some Super Bowl advertisers have begun releasing their full TV spots days before the game airs. The first few to do so experienced exactly what they were looking for: a nice buzz build and a feeling of in-the-know familiarity for those who saw (and shared) the spot before it ran…then saw it again during the game. But then, one might argue, too many brands began embracing this tactic – removing the breakthrough quality it once provided. So what now? Butterfinger Cups has the answer.

The highly anticipated competitor to market dominator Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups has just released a teaser for their Super Bowl spot. Only it’s not a few-second video just long enough to whet your viewing appetite. Instead, the Butterfinger Cups Super Bowl teaser is a full-on, longer-than-a-minute, commercial for their commercial. That’s pretty innovative – which bodes well for the snack that purports to be an all-new kind of peanut butter cup. The word “teaser” is equally appropriate, given the flirty-bordering-on-racy nature of this spot that centers on “edible couples’ counseling.” Take a look at the video:

While the concept alone is enough to cause chatter, marketers will be fixated on the fact that Nestlé has found a new way to up the Super Bowl ad game: by creating a commercial for a commercial. In a few weeks, the football-watching world will see if the #CupTherapy payoff was worth the wait.

~ @AdvertGirl (CEO, The S3 Agency)

Note: This post first appeared in my Examiner column.