Super Bowl Ads: The Best, The Worst, The Movies and NBC

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 writes: Super Bowl advertising is almost invariably overrated, which doesn’t spare us from the impulse — even the need — to rate it.

“As usual, the hype surrounding the ads turned many into a super-bust, suggesting that the folks on Madison Avenue are either bereft of ideas or, in some instances, taking too much advantage of liberalized pot laws.”

There was some excitement going into the game about an influx of relatively new advertisers, offering the promise of new blood. But just as a wave of newcomers in 2000 preceded the dot-com meltdown, this year’s crop of novice sponsors merely exposed a lot of not-ready-for-primetime players in the marketing world.

Of course, the criticism isn’t limited to the new guys. Car companies in general had a bad day. And Budweiser– which traditionally wields the biggest stick during the game – didn’t so much come up with new creative as recycle it, going back to the cross-species love affair between puppies and Clydesdales and erecting a giant Pac-Man maze to prove that, um, what was the point of that Bud Light spot again? (Admittedly, the puppy ad will no doubt be one of the day’s most popular in snap polls.)

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“There was also a surplus of poorly utilized celebrities, including Mindy Kaling for Nationwide; Kim Kardashian for T-Mobile, along with Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman; and Pierce Brosnan for Kia. And while Liam Neeson was great, can anybody remember what the product was?”

The overall mix once again seemed to careen from the hopelessly schmaltzy (“Care makes a man stronger,” says Dove) to the simply goofy (Doritos strapping a rocket to a pig) to the borderline bizarre, such as Snickers dropping Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi into an old “The Brady Bunch” episode.

There was also a surplus of poorly utilized celebrities, including Mindy Kaling for Nationwide; Kim Kardashian for T-Mobile, along with Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman; and Pierce Brosnan for Kia. And while Liam Neeson was great, can anybody remember what the product was?

Another subcategory would be the overproduced extravaganza, such as Mercedes’ CGI “Tortoise & the Hare” retelling or Bud Light’s aforementioned Pac-Man spot. Some of these fare well in audience surveys, but the link between creative and advertiser is so tenuous the benefits often seem exaggerated. And while it’s not necessarily fair, both Microsoft and Toyota’s ads featuring people walking thanks to prosthetic blades were undermined in part by the specter of Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius, who was found guilty of murder last year.

“Finally, there were the public-service announcements, with the sobering NoMore.org domestic violence spot – which resonated in light of the NFL’s Ray Rice fiasco – and Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ campaign. Yet as compelling as those spots were, they almost have to be broken out separately from more directly commercial advertising.”

So what were the principal highlights and lowlights? Separating out movies (which are essentially their own animal), public-service announcements and NBC’s promos for its midseason lineup, they loosely breakdown as follows:

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THE BEST

ESurance: Tapping Bryan Cranston in “Breaking Bad” mode was a genius move, mostly because of the instant cool the association creates in the mind of the show’s fans. In this case, they really did have a lot of us at hello.

Fiat: Look, we all know car ads are essentially about sex. Fiat made the connection overt by dropping a Viagra tablet into one of its cars. If not the best ad of the day, it was the most truthful, since it’s hard to think of any other reason to drive a Fiat.

Carnival Cruises: Wedding John F. Kennedy’s voice discussing man’s love affair with the ocean to beautiful imagery of ships at sea accomplished the near-impossible: It almost made me forget Kathie Lee Gifford and think, at least momentarily, about taking a Carnival Cruise. Plus, in practical terms, the Kennedy-era contingent probably a big part of the company’s target demo.

Coca-Cola: While it’s unlikely spilling Coke on the Internet will sap the venom out of Web comments and our political discourse, it’s hard not to applaud the underlying sentiment and idealism. Notably, McDonald’s went for a similar uplifting spiel with its “Pay With Lovin’” ad, which is probably effective from a marketing standpoint but felt cloying as a commercial. Read the rest of this entry »