04
Feb 13

2013 Super Bowl ads: power outage edition

If money is power, there was no power shortage when it came to Super Bowl ads last night.

Advertisers lined up to fork over their millions for a few seconds (and in some cases, minutes) of our time. Unsurprisingly, some scored while others fell flat.

Note to advertisers: can we please stop with the “pre-Super Bowl” release of the Super Bowl spots? There were quite a few of you out there this year trying to “get a jump” on the competition. You’re seriously watering down what used to be a fun and surprising advertising event.

Here are a few thoughts on some of the more (or less) memorable spots.

Get in. Get happy. (Volkswagen). Very funny. Clearly delivers the brand message: you’ll enjoy driving our cars. And thank you Volkswagen for giving up on the Star Wars theme after your Darth Vader sequel failed to impress last year.

GoDaddy. Bar Rafaelli kisses Walter the nerd, whose nerdiness is accurately depicted right down to his splotchy red skin. One of the nastiest visuals I’ve endured in years — but I can guarantee that GoDaddy will get exactly what it wants out of this one. In their business, name recognition is king.

Coke Chase 2013. This spot had everything: cowboys, Vegas showgirls, motorcycle gang and a stereotyped Arab stuck with a camel. It was a momentary pleasure, urging us to visit the website and to help decide who wins the race. I’ve yet to meet anyone who remotely gave a hoot.

Mercedes-Benz CLA. Might be my favorite of the night. True, it had William Defoe as the Devil, Usher, a bit of Kate Upton, the Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil and a hefty budget going for it. But it also had a good story and a point: the CLA delivers the Mercedes experience at a surprisingly low price. Great spot, well produced.

Choose Your Side (Oreo). Another one with a big price tag, but one that does an excellent job of perpetuating the eternal cream vs. cookie argument. Having all-out war take place in a library where everyone tries to be quiet is a nice touch. Love the end line: Something we can all disagree on.

Baby (E-Trade). Writing the minority opinion on this one: after a ton of commercials, a few movies and a failed TV show, this is the first baby who has earned retirement. This spot didn’t even seem well synced.

Out Of Milk (Milk). Dwayne Johnson stars in the latest in the eternal “Got Milk?” series. Great production values and fun to watch, if not a bit familiar feeling.

God Made A Farmer (Dodge RAM). Beautifully produced, clearly crafted with love, the runaway winner in many people’s day-after list … and I didn’t like it at all. Sorry, but (A) I’m allergic to Paul Harvey, and (B) I don’t respond well to blatant pulling of heartstrings.

Whole Again (Jeep). Ditto. But at least Dodge makes a product that some farmers actually use. Here, Jeep is “proudly supporting our nation’s heroes” simply by giving money to the USO. It certainly doesn’t do this 100% out of the goodness of its heart, even though that’s what the ad communicates. Corporate responsibility is a tricky thing to advertise for this very reason — especially when advertising on the scale of a Super Bowl.

Montana (Tide). Just what the Super Bowl fan ordered. Compelling football-related story, great production, well-written script and a twist ending. Last thought is perfect: “No stain is sacred.” Loved it.

Rav4 (Toyota). Genie of Rav4 granting wishes to members of a family. Kinda fun — but honestly I had completely forgotten it until I started reviewing the ads online.

Wonderful (Pistachios). Somehow I question advertising pistachios during the Super Bowl. But when you crack ‘em Gangnam Style, it all makes sense.

Goat / Fashionista Daddy (Doritos). If you ever need to understand the mindset of typical Super Bowl watcher, the success of these ads historically explains everything. They’re funny in a way that doesn’t tax the cerebrum.

Bravery (Audi). Bravery is a pretty cool attribute for a brand. And this was a very interesting way to express it. Good message for Audi.

Sodastream. Oh, that’s right, you didn’t see this one. It was rejected by CBS on the grounds that it made fun of Coke and Pepsi — both of whom just happen to spend a lot of money advertising on the CBS network. Foul!

Turbo (Hyundai). This is a bit of a sleeper, since it didn’t show up on many lists. I liked it a lot. After we see a series of vehicles on the road we’d never want to be behind, with increasing levels of danger, we get the value of turbo. “Trust us, sometimes it’s better to be in front.” Nice.

Lucky Chair (Bud Light). Perfect example of a Super Bowl ad that never should have been produced. Trying to play off the idea of the football fan’s “lucky chair,” it features a questionable premise, Stevie Wonder, Zoe Saldana and a script that’s trying way too hard.

Best Buy. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Best Buy ad I liked. But by employing the comedic talent of Amy Poehler, they make it clear that Best Buy is a place to get answers.

Samsung. I have every reason to pan two minutes’ worth of Samsung saying almost nothing of substance. In this spot, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad) basically spend the time trading one-liners and doing little to promote Samsung devices. But guess what — I liked it. That’s because it was entertaining and, along with the hundreds of millions the company spends on advertising elsewhere, helped tip the scale of like-ability further in Samsung’s direction. Remember, ads can work in many different ways. If this creates positive perceptions about a company that will profit from them, it’s doing its job. This is a topic that’s worthy of more detailed discussion — coming soon.

Sorento (Kia). This was my favorite effects-driven commercial of the night. “Where do babies come from?” is the question, and the answer is a preposterous story told by Dad and brought to life by the production company. The end line here is also great: “It has an answer for everything.”

Forte (Kia). This is probably the only spot that made me laugh audibly during the game. How perfect for an elegant female robot to suddenly start kicking the crap out of a customer simply because he kicked the tires on the showroom car. “Respect the tech” pays off the concept well.

Z10 (Blackberry). Given Blackberry’s past ad efforts, this is a bit of a stunner. It’s actually good. As the voiceover says, “In 30 seconds, it’s easier to show you what it can’t do.” Unfortunately, there remains the little matter of over-hype. Given the first reviews, the new Z10 is a decent phone, but not likely to threaten Apple or Google. Empty blustering.

Clydesdales: Brotherhood (Budweiser). Kind of like War Horse, but featuring a horse that went off to be in parades instead of war. To be honest, my eyes were more watery after watching this than watching Dodge’s farmer.

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  • TheDisco

    You forgot Taco Bell. Party foul.

  • http://www.tumbleintopeace.com cbee

    I know it’s the Super Bowl and all – and the typical viewer audience – but way too many male vs female (read sexist) elements in most of these ads for me to like any of them… except of course the Clydesdales one. :)

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  • Greg

    Well Ken, a while back when you said you preferred Jeff Daniel’s voiceover to Peter Coyote’s, I was a little taken aback, but thought OK, maybe he’s seeing something I’m missing, but now, “I’m allergic to Paul Harvey”! Are you just trying to personally hurt me now?

    And you “don’t respond well to the blatant pulling of heartstrings”, yet you tear up watching the Clydesdale spot? I’m confused, whereas before I was just hurt, I’m now hurt and confused.

    I’m begging you, please reconsider your position.

  • ksegall

    I’ll be the first to admit that it’s all subjective. So forgive me in advance, but…

    I find Harvey’s voice grating — plus I can’t separate the voice from his right-wing politics.

    As for my Clydesdale opinion, it’s really just that I have an extreme love of animals. I’ve never been a fan of the Super Bowl Clydesdale ads of the past, but this one was about a human being’s relationship with the horse — which is the type of thing that melts my heart.

  • Greg

    Ken, I too have a love for animals and I too was taken with the Clydesdale ad. I always liked this one too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOG0LBpol0c

    As for Paul Harvey, I’ve learned to view Right Wing politics as a mental condition, and as such, try to sympathize and empathize with the those afflicted. Although I like Mr. Harvey’s voice, I think it was more the copy I liked, and would probably have worked with any number of voiceovers, perhaps Richard Dreyfus.

  • ++sC

    Great review Ken! Audi won the nerd war against GoDaddy. Arguably going after the same demo… or at least the same psychographic. It was much more clever. Plus it was sweet, ballsy, and entertaining. It shows how the same general premise an be done differently – It was the only spot I went back and watched again. AUDI wins!

  • ++sC

    Apparently the Harvey/Farmer concept has been used several times by other companies for less high profile, more regional spots… So it is also derivitive. I agree by the way. Emotional needs to be genuine. The Sandy Hook kids singing was emotional. The Farmer ad was marketing, and not the least bit genuine. Farmers are more likely these days to be analyzing GPS data in the morning then tilling wheat by hand. Is wheat tilled? Is tilling a thing?

  • http://twitter.com/jamccallister Jeff

    Excellent review but I have to say I love the pre-release of the commercials!

  • http://twitter.com/JessiDarko Jessica Darko

    How do you like those new Apple ads? “Alive” and “Together”? Personally, I’m impressed they were able to get Children’s Television Workshop out of retirement to make them.

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