Op-Ed: The Winning And Losing Ads From Super Bowl Sunday
Rob Campbell, Chief Strategy Officer at Deutsch Los Angeles, unpacks which spots were most and least effective on advertising's big day
In addition to being the pinnacle of American football, the Super Bowl is also one of the pinnacles for the ad industry. A chance for us to remind everyone what we can do. So with that, I’m going to write about three pieces of work I thought celebrated the highs of ad-land and three pieces that will require me to spend the next 11 months in therapy.
Before I start, I should say:
- I’m cynical and British so I’m not the best person to write this.
- I acknowledge it’s hard to make a Super Bowl spot that stands out for good reasons.
- All ads require a lot of people to work very hard so when it goes bad, there’s a bunch of reasons for it and I assure you they’re all as disappointed as you. Or they should be.
Let’s start with what I think pushes the ad industry forward:
TIDE: It’s a Tide Ad
Thank you for being self-aware enough to acknowledge you simply make clothes clean.
And for doing it in a way that doesn’t just highlight the clichés of ‘the Super Bowl ad,’ but kinda-hijacks and owns all the ads that run after your spot.
For me, you won the Super Bowl.
AMAZON: Alexa Loses Her Voice
No one really needs reminding about Alexa do they? But hey, at least they had fun doing it and poked fun at themselves. Jeff Bezos might be a genius in many things, but no actor is going to worry his acting chops are going to take their job. Except, maybe, Keanu Reeves.
BUDWEISER: Stand By You
Let me be clear, I did not like this ad. At all. I felt it was contrived and patting itself on the back.
But the idea behind it—using their cans to distribute water to those in need—is very good and something they’ve apparently been doing since 1988.
It resonated with me more than the Stella Artois/Matt Damon spot, which has a similar goal, because not only has Bud been doing it without fanfare for a long time, it required them to do something beyond handing over a check.
I know I look a dick criticizing anyone who wants to help those in need but, like the Hyundai spot, you end up wondering if Stella is doing it because they genuinely want to help people or needed a platform to attract more drinkers.
It shouldn’t matter as people are being helped but it feels exploitative, which is why Bud wins the ‘social cause’ category of Super Bowl for me.
Now for the ones I feel holding us back. Seriously, this was hard because there were tons of them. But some reached a lower bar than others, so with that…
MONSTER: You deserve better
What do you do if you’re a guitarist in Aerosmith and your singer is too busy making bad Super Bowl ads (this year, it’s Kia) to make a new album? You have a go too.
Joe Perry shouldn’t have bothered. Not just because his appearance is ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ short, nor because 99.76% of the overtly Gen-Z target audience wouldn’t know who the hell he is… but because the premise of the ad (in-ear headphones are crap) is about five years too late.
The ad ends with the line, “You Deserve Better.” They’re right, Joe does.
JACK IN THE BOX: Jack vs. Martha
There used to be an agency called Cliff Freeman. I loved them and tried to get a job there over and over again, but it never happened.
Part of the reason was because of their Jack In The Box work, which was genuinely mischievous, funny and memorable as hell.
This is none of those things. It’s not terrible—there were worse—but compared to their heyday with Cliff Freeman, it left a bad taste in my mouth.
NFL: Dirty Dancing Spoof
NFL players re-make the pivotal dance scene from the movie Dirty Dancing before a line appears that says, “To all the touchdowns to come.” I rest my case.
I know I said three, but there’s one more I have to give an honorable mention to: that Scientology thing.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find a religion that runs a Super Bowl ad trying to attract members rather than use the cash to try and help those in need very, very strange. Even Stella Artois is trying to help the needy so maybe I’ll follow them instead.
Given the Super Bowl is such a momentous event—where the traditional rules of advertising arguably, can be broken—it’s just a shame that we continue to see the same three approaches each and every year.
I’m not saying funny celebrities, true Americana and/or political commentary don’t work, but if we’re going to show how our industry really understands how to connect with culture, it might be nice if we didn’t approach every year by producing a stream of 30 to 60-second TV ads when we have the technology and brains to develop ideas that can affect how millions behave, literally, as they’re watching the game.
Rob Campbell is the Chief Strategy Officer at Deutsch’s Los Angeles office.