Sunday, February 5, 2012

Best and worst of the Super Bowl ads

The SuperBowl was unusually close tonight — so much so that I decided to finally watch the game during the final four minutes. However, for the first three hours of the broadcast, I only watched the ads (plus the Geritol halftime show).

Many of the ads were intended to build a brand image — which works best when you’re trying to create name recognition rather than any particular product perception. I thought Sketchers (the shoe company) and Century 21 did perhaps the best job of making their point, at least for those who did not already know the respective brands.

However, most of these brand building ads fell flat, including Coke, GoDaddy and MetLife. Pepsi ran an incomprehensible ad involving Elton John as a king (why not a queen?) The etrade talking baby should have been spanked years ago, and (as always) the beer ads were ineffective with anyone who was even remotely sober (or who had seen the same genre at any point during the past 20 years).

The car ads were unusually awful this year (including related products like Bridgestone and Toyota and especially Government Motors wasted millions of dollars on ads that neither stood out nor communicated an effective message. Even by the standards of Super Bowl hyperbole, it was impossible to believe any of the claims made by Chevy as they pushed their overpriced subcompact out of an airplane.

Meanwhile, I wanted to like Clint Eastwood’s two-minute patriotic paen to Detroit and the US of A. But despite the praise of the Wall Street Journal, the ad failed Chrysler has gone to that well too many times. As in last year, they should be making better products rather than resorting to “the last refuge of a scoundrel”.

It’s not that the other car (or beer ads) were much better: The VW ad was not as good as last year, but at least better than Chevy or GM. The best car ad was that for the forthcoming Acura NSX, which combines over-the-top humor with two celebrities and a trick ending. (In an obnoxious trend, both VW and Acura don’t post their actual commercial but only an “extended version”).
One of the surprises was the Best Buy ad with various innovators from mobile phones and mobile platforms. Supposedly inspired by the Apple “think different” campaign, the ad was more interesting (and genuine) by featuring actual innovators like Phillipe Khan and Ray Kurzweil.

This was nearly as good as the best ad of the afternoon. One ad that aired during the pregame — the Kauffman Foundation ad “Will it be you?” — offered a testimonial to the power of individuals in a free economy to create new businesses and new jobs. In an afternoon of wildly implausible antics, it stood out with its sincerity and the power of its ideas.

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