2010 Superbowl Ad Breakdown

Reading the Superbowl Logo is the only time I get to use my years of Latin.

Admit it,  plenty of you watch the Superbowl solely for the commercials and not for the football. If that’s true then you must have been disappointed last night because the football game was great for a change while most of the broadcast ads were boring at best and atrocious at worst.

For me, and for everyone I watched the game with last night, the Google Paris ad was by far the most elegant standing out amidst the clutter of the endless beer, Dorito, talking baby and people wearing underwear ads. I’ve read that some pundits are claiming that Google’s ad didn’t do anything to advance their brand or image because Google is already known for search – yet those same people seem to think the usual lame beer joke commercials are simply brilliant and very well done.

Maybe it’s because Google didn’t spend millions producing the commercial, unlike the agency who built a house out of Bud Light cans. Don’t get me wrong, building a house with full Bud Light cans is a much better use of the product than actually drinking Bud Light. My guess is that the pundits in the advertising business aren’t too happy with the slow and steady migration of dollars from high-cost broadcast television ads to much lower-cost and equally effective online ads (or possibly even more effective). I could be wrong, but I wouldn’t expect Advertising Age to feature any paeans to Google anytime soon.

I’d say Google’s in-house creative team did very well in their first Superbowl ad and can be proud of their work. Here’s the Google Paris ad so you can see for yourself  how simple story telling using the actual product – search – can be very powerful.

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The Bud/Budlight/Michelob/Select 55 campaigns merely recycled previously reycled ideas. And like endlessly recycled conference room air – they are becoming staler by the minute. Those ads don’t even rise to the level of sophomoric. The Clydesdales may be iconic, but the whole friendship with a Longhorn cow idea? Really? Was this a lame attempt to belatedly engage the female audience? Was this really the best that a team of very, well-paid advertising agency people could come up with? A bunch of guys talking to each other on cell-phones again? Oh this time let’s alter their voices with Auto-tune, not with the elongated wassup. How completely unoriginal. But I guess that’s all you’ve got when you are flogging a watery tasteless brew. You can’t exactly talk about the actual product.  

Moving on to the Dorito’s ads. What’s interesting is that the ads created by crowd-sourcing weren’t any worse than ads created by paid professionals. If I was working on Madison Ave right now I’d consider starting to look for a new line of work if random people can come up with ads that blend right into the game – in fact the Dorito no-barking collar ad was much funnier than any of the beer ads. But back to the content of one of the Dorito’s ads – I’m not sure what a commercial is trying to say when a snack food can be both a food product and a ninja-like throwing star that can kill you. I think I’ll pass.

I guess companies think that if doubling down is good then quadrupling must be better. Why make one really good ad about your product when you can make four or five really mediocre ones. The original E*Trade talking baby was cute and kinda funny – “so easy a baby could do it”. But now the E*Trade commercials are just boring because I realize that I’ve already seen them before, but the voice of the baby was Bruce Willis and the movie was titled “Look Who’s Talking”.

To quote Gertrude Stein – “There’s no there there”. What was astonishing to me has been the fawning about the ads in the media afterwards. It was like attending a meeting of the mutual admiration society or growing up in Lake Wobegon – where everyone is above average. All the pundits seem to want to declare a winner – and being a winner this year is like being the valedictorian of remedial summer school. Sure you are the best, but you might not want to pack your bags for college any time soon. Luckily this year the game was interesting and compelling (if you are a football fan) because most of the ads just phoned it in.

Apparently the Boxers or Briefs question has been answered.

The whole CareerBuilder ads on the theme of it’s time to find a new place to work – just aren’t interesting any more. I really don’t need to watch a bunch of people in tighty-whities. Ever. I haven’t seen that many tighty-whities since my Navy physical in bootcamp – when we were required to wear tighty-whities, whether we wanted to or not. And to have two different companies decide to feature tighty-whities back to back was a bit much. Definitely put all of us off of our feed for a few minutes. And then Coke hit us with a 3rd commercial to complete the tighty-whitie trifecta. Please advertisers – Just Say No to the Tighty-Whities. Back to the ad message – instead of making us think that it’s time to find a new job why don’t you tell us why we should use CareerBuilder to find that new job? Just a thought.

The GoDaddy ads are the definition of puerile, boring and unoriginal – we’ve seen them all before and I can’t believe Danica Patrick is still doing them. I’d think she’d start becoming somewhat choosier in her endorsement opportunities. Sure sex sells, but the whole faux controversy idea of “too sexy” for TV has been done. If people want to see R-Rated or X-Rated content they don’t need to be reminded to go to the Internet to see it.

Of course the most enjoyable commercials might have been the ones we weren’t forced to watch. I admit it was a pleasure watching a sporting event without seeing 15 commercials about Erectile Dysfunction or Enlarged Prostates. Now if only GoDaddy would decide to come up with an original gimmick.

It wasn’t a completely dismal night for fans of commercials. There were some mildly interesting ads – the Audi Eco-Police ad was slightly funny but I might have just been enjoying the Cheap Trick music. The Homeaway ad bringing back the Griswolds was a better in concept than in execution . The Snickers ad with Betty White and Abe Vigoda – made us chuckle but we won’t be reaching for Snickers anytime soon. The Simpson’s Coke ad designed to elicit sympathy for Monty Burns going bankrupt was mildly funny at first but in this economy its hard to feel a lot of sympathy for Burns – for one he’s a cartoon and two he’s a cartoon. Not quite a Mean Joe Greene caliber ad.

I could keep going but I’ll stop here. You can view all of the ads yourself if you missed any of the spots or just want to see them again  at: http://creativity-online.com/superbowl2010/thespots/ 

Whether you agree with my assessment, or not, what did you think of the Superbowl ads this year? -t

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  1. #1 by Random Guy on 2010/02/09 - 11:14

    I liked the Kia Sock Monkey (and other toys) ad the best. Looks like I’m the only one.

  2. #2 by Raj on 2010/02/09 - 20:11

    Nice post, and do think Google had the best ad during the Superbowl (The McD’s ad with Lebron, Dwight Howard was my personal fav of the night)…But, not sure agree with your premise that the ad needs discus the actual product.

    Outside of Apple, what other consumer company really highlights their product/innovation in commercials? Isn’t the advertisement for an established brand really just a way for the company to raise its hand and say “Hey – remember me!!”?

    • #3 by Thom on 2010/02/09 - 23:09

      Good point and your are right you don’t have to discuss the product per se. Maybe I should have been clearer. I think CareerBuilder’s ad suceeded at the goal of being memborable, but failed at task of helping people know why they should use CareerBuilder over one of their competitors. Are they better, faster, do they have more jobs, better engine, etc? I don’t want to single out CareerBuilder but the ads on Sunday are a long way away from the days of Miller Lite’s heyday – which gave viewers two reasons to buy their product – Taste’s Great and it’s less filling.

      If a company is spending $2.5 million to air an ad plus another $500,000 to produce it – you’d think they’d want more bang for their buck. Sure a lot of people got to see it – the largest TV audience ever as it turns out – but how many of them did it convince to use their product? I also liked the McD ad but you couldn’t call it original. Thanks for reading.

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