* Snickers near top of most post-game polls
* Comedy spots still play best with fans
* Audi rated best and worst ad in WSJ poll
By Paul Thomasch
NEW YORK, Feb 8 Critics and academics can complain all they want about low-brow Super Bowl commercials -- but the post-game polls show why advertisers go for easy laughs when they shell out $100,000 for every second.
Nearly every post-game survey on Monday crowned Snickers, Doritos, and Bud Light as champions in the annual advertising extravaganza (and football game) that is the Super Bowl -- and all three relied on slapstick.
The 30-second commercial for Mars Inc's Snickers candy bar casts beloved and elderly actors Betty White and Abe Vigoda in a not-so-friendly football game. In a typical Super Bowl gag, both wind up on their backsides in the mud.
The ad for the chocolate-nougat-peanut-caramel confection took the top spot in USA Today's Ad Meter, one of the polls that covers the game. Thanks to the Web, the number of polls that declare the winners and losers in Super Bowl advertising has swelled. [ID.nN07229464]
Executives pay attention. The polls offer the sort of "right in front of you" feedback that helps a marketer know whether the spot will ultimately benefit the brand, said Scott Keogh, chief marketing officer for Audi of America, a unit of Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), which ran a 60-second spot this year.
Snickers' win removes some of the less-than-sweet taste left by the brand's Super Bowl ad three years ago.
Then, critics whacked Mars for a spot that showed two auto mechanics locked in an accidental kiss while eating a Snickers, then ripping out chest hair to prove they are "manly."
The polls serve another purpose. They can get consumers to watch the spots for a second, third or fourth time, or draw in people who did not see the commercials during the game. That makes it easier for a company to justify paying $3 million for 30 seconds on TV, plus the cost of shooting the ad.
Among the spots that polled the best after Sunday's Super Bowl on CBS:
* Those who responded to USA Today's Ad Meter liked a spot from Doritos (PEP.N) in which a dog escapes from an electric collar that shocks him when he barks so he can chow down on the triangular corn chips (His owner winds up with the collar around his neck). A Bud Light (ABI.BR) commercial that features a house made out of beer cans also rated highly.
* In the Wall Street Journal poll, the Audi spot featuring the "green police" cracking down on anyone using plastic bags, incandescent lightbulbs, batteries or Styrofoam cuts rated as the game's best ad. It also rated as its worst.
* Google Inc (GOOG.O) came out on top in the ranking by Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review, which comprised MBA students. Unlike ads that typically play well, Google's spot does not rely on kooky animals or pratfalls. The ad is sparse and subtle -- a love story told through search terms.
* E*Trade Financial Corp (ETFC.O) extended a hot streak built on a series of talking baby commercials, introducing a new spot that featured a "jealous girlfriend." It ranked highest in an AOL poll.
* TiVo Inc (TIVO.O) said the ad that generated the most fan "engagement" was a Doritos spot produced by an amateur. The commercial, "House Rules," involves a young boy telling his mother's date to watch himself when it comes to his mom -- and his Doritos. (Reporting by Paul Thomasch. Editing by Robert MacMillan)