Posts Tagged: super bowl ads

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. Continue reading →

Feb 12

2012 Ad Bowl: more of the same

Looks like Super Bowl advertising has officially settled into a pattern. Though we cling to this romantic notion that the night will be filled with amazing ads, the reality is that we usually get a couple of good ones and a bunch of forgettable ones.

But before I get into the ads themselves, I’d like to lodge a complaint. Part of the fun of watching the Super Bowl ads used to be that it was a night of surprises — on the field and in the ads. This year, a ton of the ads were released days earlier. I count 28 that I saw before the Super Bowl.

Message to whoever is responsible: cut it out. You’re seriously letting the air out of the balloon before the party starts. Thanks.

So on with the reviews. As I’ve done in the past, I’ll just call out the ads that struck me as comment-worthy. Don’t be offended if I didn’t choose the one that you loved most. I’m flawed that way.

Toyota Camry: It’s Reinvented. Had its moments, but felt like it was trying very hard to be funny. When a 60-second spot feels longer than 60 seconds, that’s not a good sign. (The 2001 soundtrack made it feel longer too.)

Pepsi: King’s Court. This one has everything you could ask for in a Super Bowl spot: major celebrity (Elton John), big production values and some neat effects. Kind of fun — but due to the formula, managed to feel a bit old-school.

Chevy Silverado Apocalypse. With its grand scale, well-done effects, dark humor and a message delivered with absolute clarity, this was my favorite spot of the night. Love the idea of having the Chevy truck survive a convergence of disasters (Mayan prediction, giant robot, flying saucer and meteor), and putting it all against the hopeful “looks like we made it” soundtrack. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard a competitive line delivered in quite the same spirit as “Dave drove a Ford.” The offer of a Twinkie immediately afterward beautifully minimizes the man’s demise.

Chrysler Halftime. Last year, Chrysler created a magnificent two-minute ode to Detroit featuring native son Eminem. It really moved me, and I thought it was best-in-show. This time, Chrysler talks about the whole country, using Detroit as an example, and Clint Eastwood tells the story. I have a feeling I’ll be in the minority on this one, but I didn’t love it. The spot starts like a political ad, painting our current state in a very negative light. “We’re all scared because this isn’t a game,” says Clint. (Actually, I’m concerned but not scared.) Somber organ music throughout adds another level of doom. Creatively, I was turned off by the shadowy narrator at the start. That only tells me there will be a surprising reveal at the end. It would have been more surprising — and less tricky — if we simply heard Clint’s voice throughout and then saw him at the end. Last year’s spot was a wonderful tribute to a city in dire need of a positive image. It was effective because it was so authentic. That authenticity isn’t there this time. Maybe it’s because Chrysler is borrowing Clint’s tough-guy image, maybe it’s because the spot is speaking for a whole country and not the city. All that said, I do appreciate Chrysler’s willingness to spend this kind of money to say something important while its competitors are running more conventional spots on the game.

Acura NSX with Seinfeld: It’s coming. Good to see Seinfeld on his game again. Ending the spot by bringing in Leno as his nemesis was a nice touch, but only if you’re aware that both men are avid car collectors — which I was not. I suspect this one will be rated highly by many.

GoDaddy Body Painting. Never failing to disappoint, GoDaddy goes as low-brow as you can get. Please don’t remind me how successful they’ve been with these ads over the years. It  makes me fear for the future of mankind.

Teleflora Adriana Lima. Like GoDaddy, Teleflora goes the sexual innuendo route. But at least they give it two things GoDaddy does not: a coy sense of humor and good production values.

Kia Dream Car. Good one. Lots of effects, but well done. Fresh creative idea in the notion that even the Sandman can screw up — he drops an overdose of sand on a sleeping man, which triggers a testosterone-laced dream sequence. Kia has done a good job of creating a personality, considering where they started not too many years ago.

Cadillac Green Hell. Boring. If their goal was to outdo the BMW 3-Series as they say, they probably shouldn’t have used a bunch of driving footage that looks like a tired BMW ad.

Hyundai Think Fast. Some ads start with a great concept. Others start with a funny punch line and work backward from there — like this one. The whole ad exists to pay off the last line: “It’ll get your pulse going.” Funny, but in a superficial kind of way.

Century 21. Smarter. Bolder. Faster. And stupider. I’m sorry, but it’s very hard for me to enjoy an ad that features Donald Trump — especially when his joke is so weak.

H&M: David Beckham Bodywear. Let’s put it this way: I’m not even remotely tempted to buy any new underwear today. Though I’m thinking seriously about the tattoos.

Bridgestone Performance. Give them credit for finding a way to make tire commercials not feel like typical tire commercials. They ended up with more of a “heh heh” than a “ha ha,” but I imagine they’re dancing in the aisles at Bridgestone today.

Honda CRV: Get Going. Another celebrity spot, this one featuring Matthew Broderick doing a takeoff on his classic Ferris Bueller. One problem with reprising a 25-year old role is that the star looks 25 years older. This ad probably felt much funnier back at the agency than it turned out on TV.

E-Trade Fatherhood. Am I a bad person if I’m sick to death of talking babies?

MetLife Everyone. Here’s an idea — bring together a whole bunch of cartoon characters that never appeared together before. Oh wait. Didn’t Roger Rabbit do that 24 years ago? That aside, this spot should have been far more charming than it was.

Audi Vampire Party. I liked this one a lot. Great solution from the creative team. The new LED headlights are as good as daylight, so how do they demonstrate that? Well, daylight kills vampires, right? And vampires are a pretty good trend to tap into. Favorite moment: the clueless vampire who tries to get in a “hello” wave before he’s turned to ash.

Coca-Cola Polar Bears. Now I’m just getting cranky. Please add Coke’s polar bear commercials to the list of things I’m sick of. They were terrifically charming when they started out many years ago, but these spots just weren’t very appealing. The Catch was the only one that seemed at all interesting. Time to freshen up your Super Bowl presence, Coke.

Hulu with Will Arnett. Hulu has a cool product, and they’ve been doing some smart and fun advertising. I like Will Arnett. Made me laugh.

Droid Razr. To be honest, this is a spot I would have left out of this article, but some are making a big deal of the product so I feel bad ignoring it. If the RAZR is really that cool, it deserved a more interesting ad. A robotic assembly line, spraying colors onto the RAZRs? Pretty lame.

Hyundai Rocky. When a frustrated Hyndai employee indicates he can’t solve a problem, the entire facility breaks out in an a cappella version of the Rocky theme. I thought it was one of the most awful and embarrassing spots of the night. I can only imagine how they felt when they were filming it.

Hyundai Cougar. Marginally better.

M&M Chocolate. M&M characters meet The Full Monty. Never imagined it would happen, but there it is. Got some laughs in my house.

Best Buy Innovators. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever liked a Best Buy ad before, but I do like this one. Offering a tribute to people who have changed the world is a nice way to put your own values on display (like Apple did with Think different).

Doritos. Doritos has established itself as a reliable laugh-getter, and did well with Sling Baby and Man’s Best Friend. Just keep in mind that squeezing comedy out of a tortilla chip is a bit easier than some of the other products on the game last night.

Camry 7 Million Stories. A few one liners from people talking about their Camry. Then “There are 7 million Camry stories out there. Tell us yours.” Another spot that feels about 20 years too late in idea and execution.

The Voice promofeaturing Betty White. I was wondering if we were going to get through the night without an ad that used Betty White. Nope.

Ford, with Derek Jeter. I’m a much bigger baseball fan than football fan. Still, I couldn’t help but feel like Jeter was crashing the party here. One of the spots featured a bunch of video clips of him playing baseball too. It’s like asking me to watch basketball clips during a baseball game.

Samsung: Galaxy Tablet. Apparently they made enough of a splash with their first Apple-mocking ad that they spent the big bucks to do it again here. Fine with me. Two things, however, made me gag. First is Samsung presenting a stylus as a “feature.” Second is the big concluding line: “The next big thing is already here. Again.” Huh? I guess I missed the last next big thing, because as far as I can tell, nobody has yet put a dent in iPad’s stranglehold on the category. We may have to wait for the next next big thing.

There’s another honorable mention here, but it’s an ad that apparently only ran in the Canadian broadcast. Take a look at Budweiser Canada Flash Fans when you can. It’s a fun, feel-good kind of spot — an interesting idea executed well.

Now, on to the Oscars…

Feb 11

2011 Super Bowl ads: two gems and a bunch of other stuff

My bet is that around water coolers all over the nation this morning, someone was heard to say, “wow, the commercials on the Super Bowl were pretty lame this year.”

It could be that it’s our nature to be negative. Or that advertising just brings out the vicious critic in all of us. Or it could be the painful reality that this bubble burst a long time ago.

The truth is, the spots we’ve seen on the Super Bowl in recent years have rarely been any more special than the commercials we’d see any other day of the year. The only difference is that the Super Bowl attracts a great variety of advertisers due to the size of the Super audience (over 100 million last year). The quality of ads is all over the map.

Two companies rose to the occasion this year. Their commercials stood head and shoulders above all the others. They are both car makers — Volkswagen and Chrysler. Their ads were as different as night and day — since their issues were as different as night and day — but both proved that creativity, insight and good taste can work wonders.

The rest of the spots: not so much.

These are the Super Bowl XLV commercials I thought were worthy of an award, for better or worse:

Lowest Common Denominator Award Bud Light

Year after year, Bud Light plays to the stereotyped football party animal crowd, normally with success. They had four spots this year. Two of which were pretty funny (Hack Job and Product Placement), two of which were only funny if you’d already filled your glass a few times (Tiny Dancer and Dog Party).

Most Offensively Unfunny Award Doritos

It’s been a while since I’ve seen an ad as gross and unfunny as the Finger Licking spot. This is what happens when someone gets the notion that being bizarre is the same thing as being funny. It ain’t.

Most Shockingly Unfunny Award Chevy

In their Misunderstanding spot, we see hard-of-hearing senior citizens failing to understand the words they hear on a Chevy truck commercial. One can’t help but be amazed that spots like this ever see the light of day. Trite in every way possible, badly cast and just not funny.

Searching For A Good Ending Award Pepsi Max

Pepsi Max needs to bring in the Special Team to finish off their commercials. They had two spots that pulled me in, then turned me off. I know, there’s nothing funnier than hitting an innocent woman in the head with an unopened can of soda, then leaving her unconscious on the ground and hoping no one will notice. Throwing a can of soda into a guy’s crotch always gets a good belly-laugh too. Somehow I think they could do better.

Oh, They Did Get One Right Award Pepsi Max

In First Date, we hear the thoughts of two people getting to know each other. She’s concerned with major life events, he’s got the one-track male mind. Then Pepsi Max arrives at the table. Funny bit. Well acted and simple. No cans hitting body parts. Plus, it reminds us that boys don’t think like girls.

All Bow To The Pun Award Kia Optima

This spot features a thrilling sequence of special effects that takes the Kia Optima through different times and places using spectacular special effects, ending in front of a Mayan pyramid. Fun to watch. But a lot of time and money spent just to pay off their big pun: “One Epic Ride.”

Worst Use Of Eminem Award Brisk

How do you breathe new life into a tired product like Brisk Tea? Hire a cool celebrity and hope for a little ruboff. They snared Eminem, who at least had the good sense not to appear in person. It’s all animated. And not very funny. Celebrity ads rarely succeed when there’s absolutely no connection between the celebrity and the product.

Best Use Of Eminem Award Chrysler

Chrysler’s ode to Detroit is arresting in many ways, superbly produced and written. It’s also a daring two minutes in length. Contrast this against Chevy’s five spots, and ask yourself who got the best bang for their buck. Chrysler paints a picture of a city that can rightfully make luxury cars because it’s been to hell and back, and so perfectly embodies the resilient American spirit. Eminem performs a great service to Chrysler, as well as to himself — a thousand times more than that wretched Brisk spot. Great music, great images. This is a commercial that exudes authenticity. If advertisers haven’t yet figured this out, authenticity is what makes people connect with a brand. There was a whole lot of connecting going on here. It’s actually enough to make me admit I’m from Detroit. Go Tigers.

Not Nearly As World-Changing As They Think Award Motorola Xoom

We knew this one was coming, thanks to the 15-second sneak preview Motorola dangled a few days earlier. It’s the story of a young man who wins the girl’s heart by using his Xoom tablet to make juvenile animations. As far as I can tell, the only thing here that iPad can’t do is take a photo — which iPad 2 will address shortly. The concluding thought is that Xoom is “the tablet to create a better world.” This jumbled mess tries to do it all — reference Apple’s 1984 commercial, insult the iPad users they might like to attract, and claim to change the world without suggesting how. Unfortunately, the world changed over a year ago with iPad, and Motorola is the one who is late to the party.

Please Get Off My TV Right Now Award GoDaddy

Every year, GoDaddy does an amazingly good job of living up to its reputation as the tackiest advertiser on the Super Bowl. The fact that they can afford to be on the big game every year is testament to the fact that their advertising works, which is annoying enough. But not nearly as annoying as their commercials. Their Joan Rivers ad takes advantage of a joke that got old a couple of decades ago: Joan Rivers. A second spot teases us with female body parts and tells us to go to GoDaddy to “See more now.” If you keep sleazy girlie magazines hidden in your drawer, this is the web hosting company for you.

Celebrity Abuse Award Teleflora

I feel sorry for Faith Hill, seduced with visions of being featured in a real, live Super Bowl commercial — only to become the straight person for a lowbrow sexual joke.

Fading Icon Award BMW

BMW has now thoroughly squandered its legacy of brilliant ads. First they bring us the BMW X3 commercial, “designed in America, built in America.” A meaningful message delivered in the most boring, formulaic way. And then there’s Changes, set to Bowie’s overused song of the same name. After documenting the smoky downside of old diesel, we’re treated to BMW’s new diesel, with a title card that tells us “Diesel has ch-ch-changed.” Such cleverness. If you ever loved a BMW, this spot makes you cringe and pretend you didn’t see it.

Most Memorable, Charming, Entertaining, Effective and Best-Acted Award Volkswagen

The Darth Vader Kid spot made the rounds a few days before the Super Bowl and got millions of views on YouTube. You feel like you’re watching the world’s cutest kid, yet you never even see his face. There are no words, just body language — and this kid can really act. Utterly charming, and utterly simple in what it tries to accomplish. By seeing just one cool feature on the car, and seeing dad get to make a kid’s day, we feel emotionally connected to Volkswagen. Far, far more, I should point out, than you get from watching either of BMW’s commercials.

Least Funny Use Of Chimps Award

Multiple chimpanzees normally equal guaranteed laugh. Must be a defective batch of chimps here, because they are only borderline funny — which is the kiss of death for all chimp-based humor.

Jekyll & Hyde Award CarMax

In their I Feel Like commercial, CarMax makes us endure a painfully unfunny series of parallels to “I feel like a kid in a candy store” to express how we will feel using their service. We get such hilarity as “I feel like a geek at a robot convention” and “I feel like a mermaid at a swim meet.” But then they serve up Service Station, in which a man is terrified by something he’s never seen before: good service. “We believe good service shouldn’t be a thing of the past.” Nice thought. Schizophrenic creative.

The Baby That Won’t Die Award e*Trade

The talking baby idea has been floating around in ads, movies and TV for so long, I personally can’t watch it anymore. But the idea obviously amuses many. In Suit Fitting, the baby does his job. In Cat, I find myself wondering why they bothered. When your baby talks, every spot should be a knee-slapper.

Most Disappointing Award Mini

Not so long ago, these guys were the envy of the ad biz. Now they stoop to using the extremely tired “game show” idea. Let’s see. We want to make a point that you can stuff a lot of things into this car, so we’ll invent a wacky game show called “Cram It In The Boot.” Genius.

Please Tell Me I’m Imagining This Award Groupon

I was stunned enough by this one that I had to watch it multiple times. Sad to see that Timothy Hutton needs a paycheck this badly. The spot starts with Timothy reading what sounds like a script for a public service ad, on a very believable topic. “The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy…” Then he follows it with, “But they still whip up an amazing fish curry.” He describes how he and 200 others got a really nice discount at a Himalayan restaurant in Chicago by using Groupon’s group purchasing power. I’ll bet they’re rolling in the aisles in Tibet.

The Why Diddy Award Mercedes

A gorgeously produced spot, as you would expect from always-classy Mercedes. We see all the old Mercedes models magically finding their way to the factory to toast the latest models. It all leads to the line, “125 years in the making. The new line of Mercedes Benz.” The “it all led to this” concept has been way overused in the car biz, but it’s executed so well you hate to complain. I just keep asking myself why they needed Diddy.

Rub It In Their Face Award Verizon

Verizon probably didn’t need to spend Super money to run this spot on game day. Everyone on earth knows they’re selling iPhones now. But it’s hard to resist an opportunity to slap AT&T around, making the point that you can actually use a Verizon iPhone as a phone. Looks like an Apple commercial for the first 20 seconds, then closes in for the kill.

Most Predictable Award Wendy’s

When one guy at Wendy’s asks his friend “Hey, what’s that taste like?” he gets a surprise loud slap to the face. Since normal people might use words more like, “Is that any good?” or “How’s your lunch?” this is what’s known as bending over backwards to make your joke work. Once we break for the food shots, we’re overwhelmed with the realization that the commercial can only end with another slap. Spoiler alert: it does.