Over the last few years, the relevance of television advertising has declined primarily since we have so many other ways to be both informed and entertained and because we carry the device to inform and entertain us in our pockets. With this has come a paucity of good commercials.
If you still watch television and don’t skip the commercials you know that it’s pretty much devolved into lease deals from the car companies, pizza outfits telling me how many pizzas I can get for $10, cell phone companies throwing crap at each other and pharma informing me that the drug is effective but can have side effects (my favorite being hallucinations, increased gambling, sexual and other overpowering urges. Geesh!).
While Super Bowl ads used to be a closely held secret until the day of the game, now savvy advertisers release Super Bowl commercials online ahead of the game simply because that’s where people are. Bottom line? There are very few reasons to watch broadcast television and sports is one of the last.
Enter the Super Bowl. Since 111 million people watched it last year, it has become huge stakes for those advertisers who have the guts and the wallet to spend $5 million dollars to run a :30 second commercial. That’s not the only cost, there’s major production costs and often famous talent costs that run the bill up even higher.
Combine the viewership numbers and the fact that people are actually interested in watching the commercials almost as much as the game, the math might work. But only if your commercial is good, because part of the effectiveness is not only the memorability, but also the post-game ratings and social media that go along with a great commercial.
The amount of money on the line creates a choke factor, which makes great creativity exponentially harder and a great commercial exponentially less likely. If you see a funny or poignant commercial, applaud, because even in normal circumstances, making a good commercial is very difficult. With the pressure of the Super Bowl on the line it gets nearly impossible.
Here’s a few that got their money’s worth and a couple who might’ve needed to try a little harder.
Doritos/Mountain Dew Ice:
This commercial is sort of brilliant in combining two Pepsi products into one 1:00 commercial. There are a lot of moving parts here, two stars, Morgan Freeman and Peter Dinklage lip syncing. Actually, make that more star power because there’s the musical background. Busta Rhymes & Lil Wayne with Peter Dinklage and Missy Elliot with Morgan Freeman. It combines star power with break through music and a concept that pays off heat and ice. The online build-up for this one shows the stars getting their mouths in shape with tongue-twisters which is a nice tease to the spot.
In this spot, Amazon’s Alexa loses her voice and what occurs is very entertaining. We also find out Jeff Bezos can do a pretty good job of acting like Jeff Bezos. You have to love the satire here and big brands that can have fun with their products gain a lot of likeability. This spot might just be the winner.
The “commercial within a commercial” approach. It looks like a commercial for a really bad version of Crocodile Dundee, but then comes clean and announces it’s a commercial for Australia. This technique makes interesting ideas, but Tide did it better.
The battle of Agincourt, the Battle of Hasting and now the battle of Dilly, Dilly. Pretty big production and has a classic twist. Fairly entertaining and a good compliment to the Dilly Dilly idea.
No Clydesdales? Holy shit! The world is turning upside down. You know this had to be a major decision at the client level. This is essentially Budweiser trying getting some credit for bringing water to people affected by natural disasters. You can almost hear the C-Suite saying, “Damnit, we sent all this water all over the place and who knows about it!?” With the the Sklyar Grey version of “Stand by Me” as the track, everything here should be gold, and I’m sure for a many people it will be touching, but somehow, for me, this falls short. Maybe, I’m just too cynical (a disease of advertising creatives). Is it a little too self-serving? Is it not quite poignant enough? I can’t help but think there might be a better way to tell this story. And will it make me grab another beer? Sorry, I miss the Clydesdales. It might be worth mentioning that AB has an exclusive on alcohol advertising on the Super Bowl.
Too bad the Vikings didn’t get into the Super Bowl on this one as a truckload of Vikings make their way to Minneapolis. But they didn’t.
Ram Trucks #2:
“Built to Serve,”, set to a Martin Luther King speech. A big important speech to sell trucks driven primarily by white men? Just wrong.
The only man whose bleep don’t stink. Another example of a pre-release that might actually get people to buy the product. I mean, who hasn’t had the Super Bowl party where someone’s bleep does stink? Everyone. Although this spot is a little derivative of “I shipped my pants,” it might be effective to sell the product. Will it be in the top 10? The idea might have been more hilarious than the spot.
Tiffany Haddish asks us to support local businesses and then asks, “Who wouldn’t want to do that?” and supposed hilarity ensues. Only it’s not hilarious, relying instead on a cheap shot to the balls (literally). Might as well have thrown in a fart joke at the same time. Given the talent here and the message I think there’s a better execution.
Kraft gets the award for combining online and offline involvement. A commercial that first asks people to #FamilyGreatly and send a photo that might make it into their second-half commercial. A way to not only get people to engage with the idea but also ensure that that they watch the commercial in to see if they made the cut. This is not only a good tactic, the campaign idea, Family Greatly, taps into an insight about the pressure parents feel to be perfect. A nice global insight that resonates with the family meal. That said, I like the idea better than the commercial.
When a commercial starts with the words, “I’ve had three people try to eat me today,” you probably have to see what’s going on. And this commercial brings more star power, Danny DeVito asking, “Do you want to eat me?” Makes me wonder if this will be the words people at Super Bowl parties will copy. Oh, that’s probably not a different kind of party. Anyway, pretty funny.
Chris Pratt in a self-depreciating spot for a low-carb beer. Makes sense to bring a star with a body to show off for this brand. It’s a pretty charming spot.
The dance production with Odell Beckham and Eli Manning was marvelously entertaining.
Here’s a hard-working commercial showing a new way to enjoy Pringles by mixing the flavors to make the Whopatooli of potato chips. I don’t feel like Bill Hader is used particularly well in this spot, but pre-releasing the commercial and pointing out a reason to buy a bunch of flavors for your Super Bowl party is a pretty good strategy, if not the best Super Bowl spot ever made.
Finally, someone blurs the line between online and off line. Teasers are as brilliantly strange as you would expect.
Robots laugh at a scientist who still has Verizon. Funny idea. And for God’s sake, get rid of the ex-Verizon guy.
This is interesting because it’s another Anheuser-Busch commercial talking about clean water. This time with Matt Damon. Less poignant, but perhaps more effective than the Budweiser clean water version because it lets people participate in giving clean water to developing countries by buying a limited-edition Stella Artois “chalice,” (aka, a glass with advertising on it) through Matt Damon’s water.org. The commercial clearly states that only 1% of the people watching have to do this to make it successful. Frankly, it just doesn’t seem like a Super Bowl commercial because it’s neither funny or poignant but maybe that’s okay given the cause and the huge audience it reaches. It’s been proven over and over that brands with a cause get a brand lift.
David Harbour from Stranger Things asking us if this is a car ad or a beer ad or maybe a razor ad. No, it turns out it’s a Tide ad. Why? Because everything is clean. Commercials that are unashamedly advertising are sort of refreshing. It’s a commercial, we know it’s a commercial so let’s point it out. This idea continues with a second ad that’s a send up of an Old Spice commercial, a Clydesdale mis-direct and that’s when the idea starts to get interesting.
Overall there are some themes here. It used to be: Use animals. Dogs, monkeys, lizards, frogs you name it. Now it’s celebrity. The star power rubs off on the brand if the person aligns with the brand and aligns with the creative concept. The commercials that win in this space are the ones that used the celebrity in the best way possible. But the Bud Light Dilly Dilly idea proves that you can get Super Bowl traction with a big repeatable idea without a celebrity.
The winner? I give it to Alexa. Second place to Tide.