For the past couple of years, MB has taken a fairly small American game day (some of you may have heard of it, they call it the Super Bowl) as a prime excuse to take a look at the shifting atmosphere in American advertising.
As far as ad spots go, 2013 was not a year for bold statements, nor hard hitting messages. In their place was a lot of silliness, play and some out and out weird – with varying degrees of success. Whilst I didn’t miss the schmaltziness of last year (the likes of Clint and Chrysler were notably missing), a reliance on light-heartedness and cheap laughs felt a little forced. Campaigns appeared to born from wanting to talk about anything but the sticky issues.
This year MB’s Scott writes from our SF studio on the good, the bad and the downright absurd.
Super Bowl commercials have unequivocally hit super-sized expectations, to the point where this year’s ads have left many with a rather ho-hum feeling. We were not privy to charmers like VW’s Darth Vader spot or epic social infiltration like Budweiser’s infamous “Waz Up!” but rather something a bit more pulled back.
While an over-the-top shock factor, whether funny, sexual or action fueled, was missing there were some quality works mixed in with some huge duds. Oreo and Samsung created smile-inducing spots. Samsung came off particularly confident in their brand after holding the viewers attention a full two minutes.
In the automotive department Mercedes and Audi both produced solid and fairly clever ads while Jeep and Dodge went for sentiment to varying degrees of failure. Dodge’s farm themed spot succeeded in a lot of ways. There was something so captivatingly different in their ad that it silenced a room of 15 friends all wondering ‘what is this for?’ When the ad ended there was a bit of a let down, as if Dodge had reached the ultimate advertising objective, undivided attention, and wasted it with a still of truck. There was no bigger purpose, no call to change our relationship with food and the people who produce it. Definitely a missed opportunity. Jeep’s foray into sentiment was far, far worse and was truly cringe-worthy. What could have been a rallying call to support veterans ended as a callous product placement and fully deserved the boos that rang out in my living room.
Another let down came from our friends in the beer industry, the usual masters of the hilarious, risqué and absurd. Budweiser’s Black Crown spots were so tired and wrought with trite imagery and narrative that it actually made Beck’s Sapphire ad look half-way decent. From the confusing name (don’t sapphires conjure up blue?) to a singing fish everything about Beck’s product launch was strange. Bud Light’s New Orleans flavored, voodoo themed series was cute and entertaining but it certainly doesn’t have the stickiness of years past.
And if there is one ad you don’t want to hear on a pair of Bowers and Wilkins speakers it was GoDaddy’s make out scene. Too much of a not so good thing.
On the social side some companies were well prepared to listen, respond and provide commentary in real-time, most notably Oreo and Audi, the later hitting a new, retweeting record with some punchy, blackout themed tweets. The trust factor brands are placing in their social teams, considering the potential fallout from an inappropriate tweet, is telling to the sophistication and penetration social media teams have made into progressive organizations.
On a closing note, Jell-O and Volkswagen have tapped into the highly targeted capabilities of YouTube with some smart post-game ads that attempt to cheer up my defeated and depressed city. On Tuesday Jell-O handed out free chocolate pudding to brighten up “bitter” San Franciscans. Much appreciated.