I hate the Patriots as much as the next red-blooded American, but even I have to admit that there was some damn good football played on both sides of the field last night.
But the important thing is that the Patriots lost, and we got to watch half a billion dollars’ worth of advertising. With 30-second spots coming in at $5 million apiece, how effective were advertisers with their incredibly expensive media buys?
Best Use of $20 Million: Tide
If Super Bowl ads were Super Bowl teams, Tide would be the Super Bowl XLVII-winning Seahawks and everyone else would be the XLVII-losing Broncos (final score 43:8).
This year, Tide was unstoppable. Its ads were hilarious, tied (get it – “tied”) into previous Procter & Gamble all-time greats like “I’m on a Horse” from Old Spice and disturbingly sexy Mr. Clean. And, perhaps most importantly of all, the spot actually focused on an important attribute of the product. You know, keeping clothes clean.
I don’t know if spending $20 million on Super Bowl advertising can ever deliver a positive ROI, but Tide seems to be making a pretty good go of it.
Tide was a clear winner in our office too. They made Roni’s and Andy’s “Best Of” lists, and perhaps Mustafa put it best: “They literally mindf*#ked us into thinking about Tide the whole time, even when it wasn’t their commercial. That’s seriously genius!!!”
Best & Worst Car Ads of the Game: FCA
Leave it to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to run both the best and worst car ads of the big game. By best, I’m clearly talking about the Wrangler Rubicon driving through a lake and up a waterfall.
But, even though I think it was the best car ad of the game, I’ve got a couple of minor nits to pick:
- First, the ad would have been better without any voiceover – just a jeep doing awesome jeep stuff.
- Second, if you’re going to poke fun at car ads with manifestos in them, and you’re FCA, you should first look in the mirror.
FCA (and Chrysler before them) has proved to be the king of manifesto–driven Super Bowl ads … some of which were actually pretty decent. Others were not, which brings us to the year’s worst car ad: FCA automotive brand Ram using a MLK speech to sell trucks.
It has been swiftly and fairly criticized. There are valid arguments to be made here, but I’m pretty sure that at the end of the day, Dr. King’s dream was not to sell cars. I see this ad as a prime example of a great idea gone terribly, terribly wrong in the execution.
The ad’s tagline, “Built to Serve,” is really a bold departure for truck advertising. For the past 50 years, Dodge, Chevy and Ford have all been selling their trucks with variations on the theme of “This truck is big, tough and manly, and you will also be big, tough and manly if you buy it.”
The “Built to Serve” concept is a fresh, appealing departure from that message, which could have actually earned the Ram brand some appeal with new types of customers.
Oh well, too bad they messed it up.
At least we got this masterpiece, where someone dubbed a much more appropriate MLK speech over the same ad.
Nearly Perfect: Kia Stinger
Reverse-aging Steven Tyler, with the help of an affordable sports car, is a great concept. And for 99% of the ad, it was perfectly executed.
Then, the tagline popped up at the end: “Feel Something Again.”
That’s a weirdly pessimistic sentiment for a car ad. Like, we’re all just sitting here – dead inside – waiting for a Korean car manufacturer to awaken our ability to emote?
Don’t get me wrong; I love the Stinger and wish Kia all the success in the world … but Kia, don’t tell me how I do or do not feel.
This is also a perfect opportunity to make tsking noises in the direction of sister brand Hyundai’s oddly manipulative “If you buy any other car brand, you’re literally giving children cancer” ad.
Rap of Ice & Fire: Doritos / Mountain Dew
If you were writing an article for BuzzFeed titled “10 Most Likable Celebrities,” you’d have an awfully difficult time putting anyone but Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman at the top of that list.
It seems as though PepsiCo figured this out and used it to their advantage in their back-to-back Doritos and Mountain Dew spot.
The ad made Alysia’s and Roni’s list of favorites, and no one else had anything negative to say. My only criticism is that perhaps in the year of the #MeToo movement, Dinklage could have lip-synced to a Busta Rhymes line that wasn’t part of a song by someone with a history of violence against women.
Oddly Delightful: Passion in OBJ’s & Eli’s Eyes
No one at Echo-Factory had anything but praise for Odell Beckham Jr. and the NFL’s last-remaining Manning doing a bit of dirty dancing. The spot was great on a surface level, and there were a couple of Easter eggs in there for more obsessed football fans.
After a few years of clamping down on touchdown celebrations, the league finally let players celebrate this year, and seems ready to do more of the same in the future. It’s also nice to see OBJ comfortable with playing Jennifer Gray to Eli’s Patrick Swayze, even when one of Odell’s famous outbursts was reportedly a reaction to homophobic slurs.
Carl, Kyle and Alysia all picked it as a favorite.
When the NFL, Eli and OBJ team up to poke fun at themselves, we all win – except for the Patriots who, let me once again remind you, lost.
Giving Up: Corporate America Embraces Cowardice
Last year, corporate America seemed ready to stand up to the bigotry and racism that were taking over our political discourse.
That was the year Coke re-ran its multilingual America the Beautiful ad, 84 Lumber introduced us to an adorable girl stopped from coming to American by a wall and Budweiser reminded us that nearly all of us immigrated from somewhere.
This year, they apparently remembered that the alt-right has grocery budgets too.
Apart from Blacture’s “Be Celebrated” ad – and perhaps Ram’s incredibly misguided use of MLK’s speech – there really wasn’t a provocative political or social message to be seen during the big game. The closest we got was beer makers talking about water.
That isn’t just a sad moment from a social perspective; it’s also a missed opportunity for marketers to connect with new customers. Statements like the ones made during last year’s game can cause customers to think about brands in new, appealing ways. Backing off that message just confirms what we already know: It’s all just pandering.
Pop Music: Authenticity Wins & Loses
Both musical performances during the Super Bowl were more authentic than average.
In the case of Pink’s rendition of the national anthem, authenticity is exactly what the moment demanded. The best renditions of our nation’s anthem are skillful, bare and largely unadorned. Christina picked Pink’s performance as her favorite moment of the whole event.
Justin Timberlake’s halftime show was similarly authentic. It was clear that the pop megastar wasn’t lip-syncing as he carried his microphone in his hands and danced across nearly the entire stadium. And love or hate his music, it’s clear that Timberlake is good at what he does.
But when it comes to a Super Bowl halftime show, authenticity isn’t enough. We want theatrics: Lady Gaga flying in from the rafters – not, I dunno, a bunch of fans holding mirrors?
In the words of an 8-year-old I was watching with, “This is way less exciting than last year’s halftime.”
Is It Worth It?
So, after spending half a billion on Super Bowl advertisements, the big question remains: Is it money well spent?
In a time of cord cutters and YouTube, the Super Bowl is really traditional advertising’s last great event. But like nearly all traditional media outlets, results are hard to track.
It’s easy to guess that Tide will see a bump in sales, but is that going to account for the $20 million they spent on their ads? Could that $20 million have been better spent elsewhere?
This is likely why, on Friday before the game, when I reminded my coworkers that I’d be canvassing them for their opinions on Super Bowl ads, our CEO Mike Schaffer replied with, “Is it too early for me to say that Super Bowl commercials are irrelevant now?”
At the moment, perhaps. But it seems like it’s only a matter of time.