Friday, February 13, 2009

Super Ad or Super Bust?

The Super Bowl is the Mecca of advertising. A single thirty second spot cost nearly $3M for this year’s game, which only secured the time slot. I’d venture to guess that more than an additional million dollars went to production, creative, editing and all of the other facets necessary to create a television commercial suitable for viewing by nearly 100 million people.

Did this year’s spots pay dividends? We asked two Strata-G Communications veterans to give us their take on the ads.

Jeff Bucalo is an industry veteran with more than 16 years experience working with such clients as Bosch Power Tools, Alcoa, Fidelity, and Cadbury Schweppes. Jeff offers his observations of this year’s crop of ads.

As an account executive, I can’t help but watch Super Bowl commercials and determine if they meet two criteria; are they entertaining/memorable and do they help sell product or build a brand. You can have all the animation, special effects and sophomoric humor you want but, if there is nothing in a spot that delivers on a brand message or specifically pushes a product’s features and benefits then, it doesn’t deliver. On the flip side, you can hit home on a message but, if it isn’t done in an entertaining and memorable way, I will wonder why you just threw away a cool 3 million!

That being said, I thought there were very few ads this year that delivered on both premises. Here are some that did and a few that DEFINITELY did not.

Those that worked:

5. E-Trade: Golf Locker Room
Last year the E*Trade infant ads were the hit of the game. It’s hard to follow up a campaign like that and this one was a nice evolution. The sarcastic, blackberry wielding baby heads out of the bedroom and into the locker room where he gives his elder golf partner a hard time. “Try reading the rules book Shankasorous” is a great line but the reality of his partners “401K shrinking” is the reason E-Trade is banking on consumers signing up for their services.

4. Denny’s: Serious Breakfast
This ad would have worked with just the humor and the nice slap at IHOP with the whipped cream. Add an unbelievable offer that is sure to drive traffic and pack a nice PR punch and this one serves it up nicely.

3. Pepsi: Bob Dylan/Will-I-Am Generations.
As a sucker for the pairing of great music, imagery and advertising, this spot had it all. The juxtaposition of the 60’s folk legend with the hip-hop innovator worked quite well for both entertainment value and getting the Pepsi generational message across. I question whether big Dylan fans know who Will-I-Am is and vice-versa but who cares, the back and forth footage and changing of tunes were a feast for the eyes and ears.

2. HULU: Alec Baldwin Brain Goo
The honesty of this spot didn’t pull any punches. The writing was superb and Alec Baldwin’s delivery was drag down knock out funny. “It just softens your brain” was the most memorable line of the evening. If you left that spot not wanting to get HULU or at least find out more about it then you just didn’t get it.

1. CARS.COM – Abernathy’s Confidence
Fantastically written spot. From the moment this spot started I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to this kid. The “call me” note to the older girl, the applying for Dean of Princeton to the open heart surgery with the ball point pen my fascination with this character only grew. I had no idea whose ad this was and when it all wrapped up communicating “confidence when buying a used car” all I could do was simply smile, nod and give kudos to the creators of this ad.

…And the worst? Carlos Boozer Bling
Can someone tell me how Carlos Boozer ties in with the audience of a mostly female online shopping portal? And bringing in the children to show off the bling was a lame attempt. Just plain stupid.

GoDaddy: Danica/Enhanced
Frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t like this one. The message paid off in the end (enhance your business/sales/marketing efforts with a URL from Go.Daddy) and I’m usually OK with gratuitous sex in a spot but this once didn’t click and was annoying. It’s Time
It’s bad enough when a spot ends and you say to yourself, “I never want to see that again.” It’s worse when you say that 20 seconds into a 60 second spot. Thumbs down all around for this spot.

Ron Gerlach worked in radio broadcasting for six years before entering the advertising industry. Ron was been in the ad game for 12 years and has worked with such notable clients as Husqvarna, Hard Rock Café and Bosch Power Tools.

Here’s his review of the ads from a copy writing point of view.
As a creative, I tend to look at Super Bowl commercials a bit differently. Yeah, yeah, I know—they need to sell the product. But this is the Super Bowl, so show me production value! I want to see Ben Hur in 30 seconds! Some I did, but less so than previous years.

Overall, the stuff was…eh. OK, I guess. Not really sure what to expect, considering the downturn in the economy and how some of the advertisers (i.e. car companies) would be perceived. There seemed to be a heavy emphasis on nostalgia—take a look at what Audi Pepsi’s Bob Dylan spot did—Coke kept up its recent line of over-the-top animation spots, and Budweiser did a nice job of keeping the Clydesdale, but twisting the storyline just enough to make it refreshing to watch.
With that being said, here are my Top 5 favorites from Super Bowl Sunday…

5. Coke Zero: Polamalu
One of the best Super Bowl ads ever was Mean Joe Greene tossing the jersey for the kid’s Coke. So it made perfect sense to parody that and update it — and they did a pretty good job with this one. It’s an added bonus that the Steelers were playing in the game. But you just knew there would be a twist to the storyline. Troy Polamalu was cool in the Joe Greene role and watching him tackle a bunch of suits was a nice touch.

4. Bridgestone: Potato Heads
Not only could every guy in the male-dominated audience relate to the spot, when’s the last time you thought about how much fun Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head were as kids? Plus, we all wish that would happen while driving with our wives and girlfriends. Admit it!

3. E-Trade: Babies
If you love Family Guy, you’ve got to love this kid! Even though we knew what was coming (sort of), this is the latest in a series of memorable pieces to this campaign, with our wide-eyed star picking up a partner. Clever banter, nice smartass wit. My kinda kid!

2. Doritos: Office Ball
The inside story about this takes it from good to great. The Doritos ad breaking into a vending machine was the work of someone who submitted the idea for the ad in an online contest. Started out a little slow—and the actor was too over-the-top—but a globe to the balls is ALWAYS funny.

1. Pepsi Max: I’m Good
Ah…slapstick at it’s finest! This one made me laugh out loud and, with the exception of the brunette in the Doritos spot losing her dress, is the only spot I WANTED to watch again and show to friends and family. That’s exactly how guys would react, which makes me feel that this product knows me. Funny, with a hint of truth to it. My favorite.

…And the worst?

Pepsi: Magruber
Schlocky, not funny and slow. Hated it. There.

GoDaddy: Danica
Even for guys who like looking at…ahem, enhancements, these were just painful to watch. And sooo expected. The first go-around was fun (in a manly sort of way), but now it’s just embarrassing to watch. It’s Time
The annoying repetition of sounds in this spot made me wish that they had just run their collective fingernails against the chalkboard! If I never see this spot again, I will be very happy.

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