Did Ray Lewis kill the lights? Was it Beyoncé’s lights out performance? Did the city of New Orleans take its collective revenge on Roger Goodell and the NFL for the “Bountygate” punishments? We may never know what caused the power outage in the Superdome, but we do know that the resulting 35 minute delay didn’t stop Super Bowl XLVII from becoming the highest rated Super Bowl in metered market history. While last night’s game may have been a high-water mark for ratings, most of the armchair media critics here at the agency don’t think it was a banner year for Super Bowl ads. While there wasn’t a transcendent, timeless spot, there were some winners, and, of course, some losers. Here is a look back at a couple of themes we noticed and my favorite and least favorite ads:
TELL ME A STORY
Aside from equating the word “bravery” with walking up to a woman and kissing her without consent, the Audi ‘Prom’ spot told a good, culturally relevant story and delivered a pretty resonant message about Audi being an aspirational luxury car brand. Likewise the Mercedes-Benz ad with the impossibly creepy Willem Dafoe as Lucifer told a good story. It managed to engage the audience and take us along on a fun ride. Although, if I’m going to sell my soul to the devil, I want a Ferrari, not a Mercedes, and I’m definitely hanging with a celebrity who is cooler than Usher.
It may not have been the best commercial, but GoDaddy.com’s cringe-inducing ad, featuring a computer nerd with an afro and psoriasis sucking face with Bar Rafaeli, was the most memorable of the night. The spot was both fascinating and repulsive. On the flip side, Best Buy’s “Asking Amy” ad was milquetoast and forgettable, while the Samsung ads featuring Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan didn’t show much product but were at least funny. By the way, where was Apple during this year’s Super Bowl? Below is the “unrated” GoDaddy.com spot. Watch if you dare.
Every Super Bowl Sunday, it’s time to max out the maudlin. “So God Made a Farmer” was Dodge Ram’s entry in the sentiment Olympics. The ad just didn’t work for me. The stirring Paul Harvey speech, the breathtaking photography and the tug at the American heartstrings were all fine, up until the reveal at the end. I felt like my sentimental side had been exploited only to have a Dodge Ram logo slapped on my soul. Chrysler’s Jeep ad, featuring Oprah reading a heartfelt letter from Jeep to America’s service men and women, worked much better. That’s probably because there was some bite to the ad’s sentimental bark; the ad actually introduced the Jeep brand’s “Operation SAFE Return” (OSR), an initiative raising money and moral support for our troops. But I thought the best of the night’s sentimental ads was the Bud Clydesdale spot. The story of a foal, a trainer, and an emotional reunion was a nice take on a Clydesdale theme that has seen more than 100 commercial iterations over the years. As far as tying sentiment to product, this ad hit home.
Taco Bell clearly thinks octogenarians are irresponsible. This ad features great casting (nice nipple on that one old guy who presses against the glass), great music (cool Spanish language version of “We Are Young”), and a fun message that somehow jives with Taco Bell’s late night munchies target audience. Is it a classic? No. But this is a commercial that does just about everything right and will hold up to repeated viewings.
Many would argue that the GoDaddy.com nerd porn spot earned this distinction. I would argue that GoDaddy’s spot was calculated to offend, and I would rather have a memorable ad than a ‘meh’ spot. That is why I believe the Bud commercials for its new Black Crown beer earned the distinction of worst commericals of the night. If you are going to have your Super Bowl moment in the sun, do something memorable with your ad time. This spot featuring a secret society of douchebags was anything but memorable.
So there are some of my thoughts. Feel free to share yours in the comments section.