Feb 10

Ad Bowl 2010: lowering the bar

Man, being an optimist is getting depressing. Every year, I’m filled with hope that creativity is about to make its big Super Bowl comeback. And every year, I go away feeling thoroughly unfulfilled. Not that there weren’t a couple of highlights. Here are my reactions, and I’ll be curious to hear yours.

Best spot: Google. Some have seen these Search On things before, but this is the first mass exposure. I’ll tell you, it’s a thing of beauty when a spot you could produce in your bedroom outperforms the biggest Super Bowl productions. The spot is charmingly human without showing a single face, outlining a love story through multiple Google searches. How many advertisers can keep their logo on the screen for 90% of a spot without annoying the hell out of us?

Biggest fall from grace: Intel. Well, I gushed profusely when Intel finally did something great a few months ago. And what do I get in return? A two-course serving of disappointment. First, an unfunny commercial featuring cheesy acting and a silly forlorn robot. Then a horribly conceived online contest: What Is Your Core Moment?  Here, we’re invited to share a “pivotal Core Moment” in our life to celebrate the “life-changing speed and smart performance” of the 2010 Intel Core Processor family. Gag me. “Smart computing is here,” the site proclaims, in the total absence of a smart message. I should have known Intel’s marketing DNA would drag them down in the end.

Most appealing to the beer crowd: Bud Light. Varying degrees of success for these guys, though that’s to be expected when you buy up half the ad slots. Holy cow, there were a lot of these things. I’m just thankful that someone out there is teaching our children that valuable life lesson: beer = wildly fun times.

Least differentiated beer: Budweiser. Their Human Bridge spot was actually very entertaining. I’m a sucker for a well-done “cast of thousands” spot, like the Cliq ad I cited a while back. But I do have to ask: ad-wise, what’s the difference between Bud and Bud Light again? If they stuck a Bud Light logo at the end of this spot, it would have worked just as well.

Most Pant-less People: Career Builder & Dockers. It’s a tie. I didn’t have the patience to count. Not only did Casual Friday and Wear No Pants have a similar visual joke (a lowbrow joke, I should add), they ran in succession. Does CBS give refunds?

Best celebrity: Coca-Cola. Using a celebrity is always an iffy thing. Homer & friends have a different kind of celebrity. The Simpsons spot was a great way to suck us in without turning us off. Coke’s mission was to come across as a really fun brand, and they did. Another Coke spot, Sleepwalker, was interesting as well. Nice music, cool idea.

Most unexpected: Cars.com. What better way to empathize with us ordinary folk who can’t quite figure out the whole “car buying” thing than to tell the tale of Timothy Richmond. This is a great example of an intelligently crafted ad that captures a human truth. And for cars.com? Didn’t see that one coming.

Biggest embarrassment: GoDaddy. Aren’t we a little past the pre-pubescent humor yet? If you did as you were told and went to the website to see the “too hot for TV” version (I went for research purposes only), you were treated to an even more deeply embarrassing video. Lame, lame, lame.

Biggest dinosaur: Homeaway.com. The problem with bringing back people who were really big 20 years ago is that they’re 20 years older now. He may have been cheap, but Chevy Chase doesn’t exactly have his edge anymore. I’m pretty sure you could get him really cheap after this one.

Most done to death: E-Trade. The talking babies were back. If one baby is funny, four or five have to be even funnier, right? Personally, I’m sick to death of talking babies. After all the TV commercials that have used this trick (for different companies, no less), a couple of movies and a failed TV series, it’s time for these babies to retire. Please? At least do a better job with the effects and syncing.

Worst non-ad moment: The Who. Roger, Pete… I love you and all, but it might be time to consider, uh, you know…  Note to Super Bowl producers: it’s cool that some big names will happily perform for free to get the exposure, but you’d probably do better if you actually paid someone. Don’t tell me you don’t have the cash.

The drama of the Super Bowl is that there can only be one winner. The Ad Bowl has room for infinite winners. But year after year, we prove that creativity is something money can’t buy.

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  • David

    It doesn’t look like you mentioned the BEST ad, which was Doritos: House Rules with the little kid slapping his mom’s date. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rsEnwKrsvc

    Also, no one at my Super Bowl party understood the Intel robot commercial. Epic FAIL.

  • Mostly agree. Very disappointing. Liked the Who. But my favorite was the Letterman spot. Hilarious. Love that Jay would do that.

  • Laura B. Whitmore

    Ha! I actually loved the Snickers ad where they tackled Betty White. But overall I agree. I usually fast forward through the game so I can watch the ads. This time I was underwhelmed…

  • I agree with you on the Google ad. Amazing how effective it was when you compared it to the zillions being spent on the other ads just to lead up to a punchline. We all liked the screaming chickens (we hardly EVER see anamorphic animals!), but we had a hard time remembering what the ad was for.

  • T

    All that Google ad makes me think of is just how frighteningly much they know about their customers…