A Safe Day at the Super Bowl
OK. Another Super Bowl (the 50th!) has come and gone. The Denver Broncos once again upheld one of the oldest, hoariest clichés in sports: Defense wins championships.
But, who cares? We’re here to talk about the ads. Very soon, I’ll tell you about some of the ads I liked, some I didn’t and one I’m still not sure about.
But first, a few general observations:
Animals, babies and celebrities: All year long, we in the ad business talk about risk-taking, disruption, establishing new paradigms and performing “outside the box.” And every year, in the biggest advertising showcase of them all, we get … animals, babies and celebrities. You can set your watch by it. Anthropomorphic animals, incredibly advanced infants and celebrities by the boatload − commercial break after commercial break. When I first got into this business, I never thought that a flock of sheep singing a Queen song, or a Doritos-loving fetus launching itself from the womb, would be considered safe. But here we are. And at $5,000,000 for each half minute, I guess I can’t blame the advertisers (or their agencies) for sticking to the tried and true. That’s a lot of money to risk on disruption.
Dead people sell: Being dead certainly didn’t prevent you from appearing in a Super Bowl ad yesterday. We saw Marilyn Monroe on the screen and heard David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Harry Nilsson on various soundtracks.
Bodily functions: I freely admit that pharmaceutical companies have as much right as any advertiser to spend millions in the Super Bowl. But, as I was sitting at the R&R’s Super Bowl party, enjoying seasoned popcorn, hot dogs, chicken wings, mac & cheese, cookies, cake and all other manner of deliciously unhealthy food, the last messages I wanted to be confronted with were those for opioid-induced constipation or the severe diarrhea associated with irritable bowel syndrome. And the less said about toenail fungus, the better. The animated intestines were cute though.
Finally, I was happy to learn that Hollywood is unleashing sequels to Cloverfield and Independence Day. That’s cool.
On to the ads:
Mountain Dew Kickstart PuppyMonkeyBaby: Lots of people liked this. A lot of people didn’t. But a lot of people are talking about it, which is one of the points. I thought the ad did two things really well. First, it took a not-so-subtle jab at the tendency of Super Bowl advertisers to fall back on animals and babies. They created a memorable character that was both. Good for you, Mountain Dew. And second, their puppymonkeybaby actually helped sell the main idea: three great things in one package. A Super Bowl ad that actually sells its product’s main benefit. Well done.
No More Text Talk: Many years ago, at a creative conference of some sort, when asked to explain his agency’s penchant for quieter, more thoughtful ads, the late Hal Riney replied, “When everyone else is shouting, perhaps it’s a good idea to whisper.” Yeah. So, when almost everyone else was trying to make us laugh with animals, babies and celebrities, this one drew you in with a quiet, effective, scary presentation of a really serious subject. Followed by a call to action that came directly from the production technique they used. Nice.
Audi R8 Commander: Yes, this is theoretically selling a car that goes 205 mph and probably costs close to $200,000. How many of us can actually buy it? But I think the ad is more about the kind of company that will build such a car than the car itself. Liked the ad for a number of reasons. First, it features an old guy. I’m an old guy. We’re under-represented in Super Bowl ads. Second, it told a great story (two of them, actually). And third … Bowie’s “Starman.” Would have been perfect under any circumstances. Absolutely perfect this year.
NFL Super Bowl Babies: Who knew? Apparently, there’s a phenomenon of babies being born to parents who are fans of the winning team nine months after the Super Bowl. Unexpected idea, executed really well. Kudos to whomever came up with this concept and even more to the team who actually found all of the born-nine-months-after-the-Super-Bowl adults and kids. The teasers and the 30-second spot were good, but if you get a chance, watch the three-and-a-half minute video. Here it is.
Avocados from Mexico Avocados in Space: It’s a familiar trope. Pick a setting deep into the future and watch people marvel at how ridiculous our current lives were – or are. But this one was very current and very smart. And it had a few little nuggets for extra smiles: “And they had Chia pets, just like we do.”
Budweiser Not Backing Down: If Donald Trump were a beer ad, this is the beer ad he’d be: loud, obnoxious, boastful, egotistical and more than a little bit xenophobic. Taken together with Helen Mirren scolding Americans for drunk driving (fairly effectively, I thought), it was clear that in Super Bowl 2016, Budweiser wanted to get all up in our collective faces.
Bud Light Bud Light Party – I really like Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen. I think they’re both really funny. They’re just not very funny in this. Not one, not two, but three – count ’em, three – big caucus jokes. Really? Opportunity wasted.
Snickers Marilyn: First, I really like Snickers’ You’re Not Yourself When You’re Hungry campaign. Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi playing Marcia and Jan Brady was probably my favorite ad in last year’s game. But Willem Dafoe in drag as the late Marilyn Monroe is just a little creepy for me. And Eugene Levy: Why is he in it?
One I’m Not Sure About
Apartments.com Movin’ On Up: First, it is my belief that the presence of Jeff Goldblum makes any ad a good ad. He’s great here too. But I have questions. Will the younger, Millennial audience this ad is clearly aiming for, who will know Lil Wayne when they see him, have any recollection at all of a TV show that was cancelled 31 years ago? Secondly, will those in the audience who do remember The Jeffersons recognize Lil Wayne? Will they know one of his nicknames is Weezy? Seems like an odd mash-up of cultural references. But, maybe I’m wrong.
Check out another perspective on the Super Bowl commercials from R&R’s Executive Creative Director, Arnie DiGeorge, here: http://www.rrpartnersblog.com/2016/02/08/super-bowl-ads/