Madison Avenue went for laughs with Sunday's Super Bowl commercials but might have tried too hard this year, Wall Street Journal reporter Suzanne Vranica said.
Ad executives were under pressure from a turbulent economy and had difficulty determining the mood of the country, Vranica said on "Good Morning America" today.
"The problem is you have advertisers that are afraid to waste money," Vranica, who analyzed the best and worse ads, said. "You've got 2.5, 2.7 million [dollars] for 30 seconds, so they are trying so hard and that's what happens, they over-try. ... Some of the ads just took a long time to get anywhere."
But a Super Bowl commercial for Snickers candy bars was among the most popular, she said.
"During our calling last night, it looks like Snickers with Betty White definitely stole the show," Vranica said.
In the ad, former "Golden Girls" actress White is tackled on a muddy football field. But following a bite from a Mars Snickers bar, the actress turns into a 20-something man and the words "you are not you when you are hungry" appear on the screen.
Vranica described the ad as a "great comeback story for Snickers" after a previous Super Bowl ad was accused of being anti-gay because two mechanics pulled back in disgust after kissing while sharing a Snickers.
Another television spot that was popular with the audience turned out to be a promotion for CBS's "Late Show With David Letterman."
In the spot, Oprah Winfrey is sitting on a couch between late-night hosts Jay Leno of NBC and Letterman.
"This is the worst Super Bowl party ever," Letterman says.
"Now, Dave, be nice," Oprah replied.
Then, Leno chimes in saying, "He's just saying that because I'm here."
Super Bowl Success and Flops
Vranica said CBS has a history of surprising audiences with promotions, and people responded well to Leno.
"People we called last night were saying this is great for Jay Leno's image," she said. "He can make fun of the situation, he is taking a real hit in terms of his popularity and his PR, and I think this is a brilliant move on his part."
As for the ads that may not have been worth the millions of dollars, Vranica said the Taco Bell commercial featuring former NBA player Charles Barkley was a flop.
"We just expect more," she said. "You've got Charles Barkley, he just didn't come off well. A lot of the experts we talked to said, 'You know what, Taco Bell just didn't show up."
The advertisement that generated the most buzz before it even aired was the anti-abortion message from Focus on the Family, featuring 2007 college football Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
"[Audience members] were surprised, they were like, 'This is nothing, what's the big deal,'" Vranica said, adding that it was a successful ad.
"For that organization, what a Super Bowl story. ... They dominated the headlines for weeks."