The blog team offers its reviews of the spots that soared and soured
In this Age of the DVR, the annual Super Bowl broadcast is the rarest of animals: A national TV broadcast during which viewers look forward to watching the ads, and even watch them again if they like them. In fact, in the Yahoo! offices today, there was more water cooler talk about the commercials themselves than about the Packers’ exciting win.
Of course, not every spot charmed the exclamation points off of us. The Advertising Blog team put its collective heads together and ID’ed several sponsors who clearly fumbled their millions away on crass, clichéd ads that left us colder than the air outside Cowboys Stadium.
So besides the cheeseheads, who won the battle during yesterday’s Big Game? Here are our takes on the ads, both good and bad:
Best Ads of the Super Bowl
Chrysler 200: Imported from Detroit
It’s not every luxury car ad that starts out with images of burned-out Detroit. But then, the point of the Chrysler 200 ad wasn’t so much to sell the car but to sell America on the idea that Detroit can make luxury cars. Everything---from the tagline and the imagery of the song from “Eight Mile” to Mr. Eight Mile himself, Eminem---made us believers, or at least people who wanted to believe. Is the rebirth of Chrysler, of The Motor City, even of American industry, too much to pin on one car? Yeah, probably. But if they wanna own that, we’re all for it.
Coca-Cola: Border Crossing
A line in the sand. That’s all a border is. At its best, Coca-Cola’s “Border” Super Bowl ad was comic riff on the Christmas Truce of World War I, when Allied and German soldiers crossed No-Man’s Land to exchange holiday greetings in the midst of a war nobody wanted. At its funniest, it’s a riff on the infamous “Bicycle Trip” episode of “I Love Lucy.” Sure, in the end it’s just an ad for “the real thing,” but it speaks to the most powerful desire that real people share in common: the desire for individual freedom. Well…that, and a bottle of Coke.
NFL.com: TV Favorites
This was one ad that we immediately rewound to see again---we were that blown away by its technology (how did they make all that NFL gear look so realistic in those old shows?) and its nod to the nostalgia we feel for the classic programs we grew up with. Somewhere, there must be a junior-level agency employee who had to watch hundreds of hours of “Seinfeld” and “Happy Days” to find just the right clips. For our lifelong Angelenos, the only sour note of this spot was that Marcia Brady and the “90210” girls were made to wear Chargers and Raiders shirts. Someday we’ll get another team…
VW Passat: The Force
Volkswagen’s new Passat ad featuring a pint-sized Darth Vader trying to get his force on went viral even before it aired during the Super Bowl, logging nearly 13 million views on YouTube. Not surprising, since it has all the typical ingredients of a memorable ad: a relatable storyline, a cute kid, evocative music and a winking punchline that would rather make you smile than LOL. Add to the mix a brand with strong advertising heritage, and you’ve got yet another VW touchdown. American carmakers could learn a lot from how foreign automakers tell a story with their ads, instead of simply rattling off features.
Everyone remembers the classic Coke tearjerker treacle ad starring “Mean Joe” Greene, in which a shy fan receives a Steelers jersey as payback for a swig of his soda. “Churro,” a parody ad for the Fox show about the surly Sherlock Holmes of Princeton General hospital, closes with a not-so-endearing ending. Soda can to woman’s face: Totally sexist. Baby flattened on plate glass: Not funny! Crutch to kid’s face: Priceless, thanks to the comic genius of some sick writers and Hugh Laurie.
Honorable Mention: All of the Bud Light ads; Chevy’s Camaro and “Transformers” ads; and Doritos’ “reincarnating Grandpa” spot.
Worst Ads of the Super Bowl
Groupon: Tibet Faux PSA
Our “Spinal Tap” fanatic was bummed that this Epic Fail was directed by Christopher Guest, aka Nigel Tufnel. Opening with a mock-serious plea from Timothy Hutton, the faux PSA quickly shifted from the Tibetan cause to concern: a “related” group deal on a restaurant meal. If it were common knowledge that Groupon began as a cause experiment, the creative might resonate, but something got seriously lost in translation here. This one doesn’t go to 11. It goes to “Hell Hole.”
GoDaddy.co: Jillian, Danica and Joan
For a second we thought that the GoDaddy ad unveiling Joan Rivers as the new GoDaddy Girl was some kind of statement on the plasticization of women in America, and that almost made it good. But then we realized that no, it’s just a gross-out joke about Joan Rivers being old, and that’s what we feel the Go Daddy ads are: old. (And Network Solutions and Cloris Leachman even beat them to the punch.) If there ever was anything fresh in all that raunch, it got stale a long time ago. So…go, Daddy.
Pepsi Max: Shooting Cooler/First Date/Can Thrower
PepsiMax had three at bats during the Super Bowl and struck out every time. Really, a cooler that lets a nerd shoot cans at the crotch of his polo-wearing nemesis? That’s so 1980s teen movie. Um, a guy on a first date repeating “I want to sleep with her” half a dozen times? Felt like a beer commercial---without the funny. And an emasculated husband with a harpie of a housewife who watches his weight and knocks out a hottie flirting with him? No man wants to be that guy. Pass the Coke.
Doritos: “The Best Part” (finger licking)
The universal reaction in our office to this spot was a resounding: “Ewww!” The finger-licker/pants-sniffer guy was creepy and gross. This ad aimed for the lowest common denominator in the Super Bowl ad collective, then dug down a few more feet. It’s worthy to note that both this ad and the Pepsi Max ads panned above were the “winners” of ad crowd-sourcing contests, whose moment has hopefully passed. The lesson here: Agencies may be expensive, but they’re worth it.
Audi: Luxury Prison
While this ad had a some funny moments (the “prisoners” banging their crystal goblets instead of tin cups), in the end it felt like the producers tried to cram in so many sight gags and flat jokes that the intended message, being imprisoned by the wrong sort of luxury, fell flat too. Maybe that’s because with so many Americans struggling to pay their mortgages and put food on the table, most of us would take luxury in any form. Mercedes Benz’s Super Bowl ad made a much stronger, more confident statement about its place in the auto world, and did it with understated style and coolness.
Dishonorable Mention: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play “thumb reattachment”; Chevy Cruze senior citizens “misunderstanding.”
--- Becky Ebenkamp, Jeff Hecox, Michael Mattis, Dianne Molina and Jeff Sweat