Super Bowl 2014: Grins and Groans

First off, condolences to the Denver Broncos organization and their fans. That’s what we call a rough day at the office. And for those of you who are fans of Super Bowl advertising, it was kind of a rough night on the couch. Again.

Last year, we had a few “wows” interrupted by a lot of mediocre. Sadly, that trend continued through 2014. And at $133,000 per SECOND, that can mean some rough Mondays for some advertising executives.

SINGLE GRINS:
Radio Shack – good for them for poking fun at themselves as they make their re-rebrand statement. (Remember “The Shack” attempt from a few years back?) Best tweet of the night I read said something like “Radio Shack had to close 10 of their 12 stores to pay for that spot.” At least they’re trying.

Heinz – after sitting on the sidelines (yes, all puns intended,) for 16 years, Heinz returns with a feel-good spot to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it…” Solid, simple, reminder advertising. The right message for a brand that already owns the category.

Wonderful Pistachios – for a brand that is trying to make hay in a highly commoditized category, Wonderful Pistachios made a strong statement for themselves with two :15s wrapped around the H&M David Beckham spot. They did a great job of getting out of the way, and letting Colbert be Colbert. Especially poking fun at themselves about a “lack of branding.” Really fun, really light, and memorably goofy.

DOUBLE GRINS:
T-Mobile’s Tim Tebow spots were absolutely hilarious, and I thought the most on-target/on-focus advertising of the night. Perfect symmetry between his situation (a national figure without a contract) and their basic brand position (mobile network service with no contract necessary.) He’s a good sport (yep, another pun) for poking fun at himself, the ads had high production and camp value, and I think this was a touchdown. (Ugh, that was shameless.)

Doritos brought high value humor to a crop of commercials that were otherwise meh. Add the fact that the spots were created by contest entrants, and you add a level of intrigue. Congratulations to Ryan Thomas Anderson for the winning entry and the $1 million prize. A second level of kudos to Doritos for matching good advertising with strong social activation, and (you may have missed this) an absolutely cool in-stadium activation: recordSetter got 30 people to don orange ponchos to create “the world’s largest human Dorito.” Pretty effing cool.

BIGGEST GRIN:
Chrysler 200 with Bob Dylan
So this was one of the (very few) spots that was not leaked or teased prior to the game, and it really paid off. Chrysler has embraced Detroit/Americana as a stand-in for the brand, and they have wrapped a powerful message around it. (Remember Clint Eastwood’s “halftime in America” ad? And the Paul Harvey “God made a farmer ad from last year for Dodge?” Yeah, same idea.)

They encapsulate this idea in the statement “Detroit made cars. And cars made America.” Overly patriotic? Sure. A tad pandering? Maybe. But powerful advertising? You bet your ass.

The best part is the finale of the 2:00 triumph, (delivered incredibly by a surprisingly articulate and pointed Bob Dylan,) with this: “Let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watches. Let Asia assemble your phones.” Dramatic pause. Cut to Dylan in a pool hall talking directly into camera. “We. Will build. Your car.” Touchdown. Two point conversion. Game over. (Yeah. I went there.)

And now for the GROANS.

WTF GROAN:
Maserati introduces its new Ghibli sedan to America with an overly produced spot about “unleashing monsters” or something. Sure, I get that you can make a “big splash” with a Super Bowl ad…but wasn’t there ANYONE in the room saying “this might not be the best media buy?” And who named “Ghibli?”  If you’re going to introduce a “more approachable” brand extension (the Ghibli starts around $67,000) to an otherwise unattainable line, shouldn’t the spot be more, um, approachable?

SLOW GROANS:
Kia takes a target demographic couple on a spin through the Matrix with Laurence Fishburne in full Morpheus mode. Um, what? Or, rather, why?

Bud Light – Now here’s an instance where the social media leadup was better than the ads themselves. Bud Light’s three and a half minute brand film around the “up for whatever theme” was great. The two spots that got edited out of it…a little disjointed.

Beats Music Service introduces its “we’re better than Pandora” intuitive music service. Sounds like a cool idea. They made a nice spot, riffing on the Goldilocks folktale. Except they chose Ellen DeGeneres. Hmmm…is SHE the target? (Highly doubtful.) Is she RIGHT as being appealing to what we would imagine the target to be? (Still no.) So…why Ellen?

BIGGEST GROAN:
AUDI just completely missed the mark this year with “Doberhuahua.” After such an incredible showing last year with their “prom” spot, they go for the dopey CGI-laden humor trick of a Doberman cross-bred with a Chihuahua. They took their potshots at sappiness with knocks at kennel shows and Sarah McLachlan, and tried to wrap this around the idea that “compromise is scary.” It is. Especially in advertising.

End notes: Other hits and misses…
GoDaddy tried to capitalize on the “real time marketing” concept with a spot where a woman (Gwen) quits her job on live television. Interesting. And better than that gross makeout spot they ran last year. Wheeeew!

H&M’s ad with David Beckham was the first to be truly interactive…for a limited few. Turns out, if you have a Samsung SmartTV, you could have ordered product live through your television. Great strategy for the 327 people who actually own that tv.

Volkswagen’s “Wings” ad starts out as a really smart quality claim. Dad tells daughter that every time a Volkswagen hits 100,000 miles, a Volkswagen engineer gets his wings. Cut to German factory, where white-lab-coat-wearing engineers start sprouting wings. Funny concept, well executed. Major problem with this spot: NO FEMALE ENGINEERS. Not a one. Except that young lady in the elevator who slaps the other engineer. Wrong message to send to the world’s young girls, Volkswagen.

Until next year – keep grinning!

This article first appeared on Technorati.

What were YOUR favorite spots? Post in the comments below.

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Super Bowl 2013: Grins and Groans

Super Bowl 47 is in the books, and with it, so is another chapter in advertising history. Football fans got what they wanted – a very exciting game that came right down to the end, with strategy, comebacks and even a second half blackout to make it interesting.

Advertising fans, not so much. The advertising was generally blah. No real game-changers this year. Just a lot of bland messages delivered in neat packages. Not including a ZILLION CBS promos, there were nearly 70 commercial airings between the National Anthem and the final play of the game. So here are my GRINS and GROANS for Super Bowl 2013.

SINGLE GRINS:

M&M’s doing a funny riff on Meatloaf’s “I Would do Anything for Love”;
Oreo’s “Library” whisper-romp;
GoDaddy’s “don’t wait to register”;
Sodastream’s “bottle savers”;

DOUBLE GRIN:
I loved the Tide “Miracle Montana” spot. Well thought, well executed, and well played by the wife character (who happens to be a Ravens fan, duh) in the spot. Smartly executed. Would have loved to have seen it in the first half, though.

BIGGEST GRIN:
Has to go to Audi for its “prom” spot*. It was one of the very few spots that drew the viewer in with a real narrative tone and you couldn’t help but rooting for the main character. In the spot, we learn of a young man who is clearly depressed about having to go to the prom by himself. But Dad intervenes, throws him the keys to the new Audi, and the kid starts to feel his oats. He races a limo off the line at a traffic light; he parks in the principal’s spot at school, and he walks right up to the prom queen and plants the I’ve-loved-you-since-6th-grade kiss on her. But he pays for all that courage. The final scene: same boy, driving home, black eye: Best. Prom. Ever. The spot ends with the tagline “Bravery. It’s what defines us.” See it here:


* BUT WAIT. There’s an asterisk. Here’s a note on why Audi’s minute-long love story is not a perfect message, especially considering the mostly male 20-something audience. While I appreciate the courage it takes to finally let your feelings be known to the girl of your dreams, it does NOT excuse the behavior of this boy. Kissing a girl without her permission is simply NOT okay, (even if she secretly liked it.) I love seeing a hero, especially in advertising. But NOT at the expense of a young woman’s privacy and dignity. So it makes sense that he gets socked in the eye. But societal norms, or better judgment, or an ad agency that should have known better, should have PREVENTED that scene from happening, instead of him being punished by a jealous prom king boyfriend. If this spot were politically correct, he would have gone stag to the prom, exchanged some nervous glances with the prom queen, and then perhaps they could have met at the punch bowl for a MUTUAL confession of their affections. I would much rather see him drive home with her phone number scribbled on a napkin…the promise of a future rather than the finality of a blaze of glory. The promise is what most of us can relate to. The hope. The hope against hope. The what’s-next-in-this-crazy-story anticipation. And heck, I’d rather do all that waiting in a nice Audi. Too bad – they went Hollywood and did a less-than-perfect spot. But, gosh, it was still really, really good advertising – using storytelling wisely.

And now the GROANS.

The WTF GROAN: I just don’t even get it.
Ram’s “Paul Harvey/Farmer” spot. Wow, what a wonderful sentiment. Wow, what a terrible waste of money for a car marketer.

SLOW GROANS
Taco Bell’s “retirees’; a long way to go and too far-fetched for fast food
Beck’s Sapphire “singing fish”; NOT the bom-diggity it was intended to be
Mercedes “devil”; just seemed like a waste of talent, all those teases and airtime.

BIGGEST GROAN
GoDaddy’s “kiss” spot. Besides being gross, it (again) decided to denigrate women in the process of making a point about style and substance. UGH! At least throw us a curve ball and make Bar Rafaeli the IT girl. Jeez!

What did YOU think of the Super Bowl spots? I’d love to hear!

This article first appeared on Technorati.