Super Bowl Ads: Mostly Meh with a Few Bright Spots and a Coke Controversy
It's hard to even remember the best brand moments of the Super Bowl this year, even immediately after the game. With most of the best spots already having been released, leaked or "leaked," entertaining surprises were at a minimum. Add to that brands trying way too hard to stand out on social media while the game itself floundered, and you have one fairly tedious Brand Bowl with very few watercooler moments.
This is how bad it was: One of the trending spots of the evening went to the Church of Scientology for a commercial that only played in the New York region.
On Twitter, brand reps tried hard to make their corporate version of "fetch" happen, to mostly lackluster results. J.C. Penney confused followers and attracted brand interaction with what looked like drunk tweeting, only to later reveal they were mitten-tweeting. Um, okay.
— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 3, 2014
Overall, brands talked with each other about each other's commercials a lot, so that might have been fun for the ad agencies and PR firms sitting in war rooms waiting for their Oreo moment, and they'll count each other's retweets as impressions so they had that going for themselves and each other. I guess.
Of the bright spots, the themes of diversity and nostalgia rang loudest.
One of the Coke ads featured a gorgeous multilingual ad illustrating "America the Beautiful." Salon gathered some of the racist Tweets the spot attracted, and that sort of pushback baffles me, angers me and makes me want to blare the ad again and again.
I don't even want to know if the Cheerios #AndAPuppy ad received pushback. I love the way that General Mills is continuing this campaign showing a multi-race family in the face of the hate the Cheerios brand saw after their first ad. The ad is quiet, sweet, and very connected to the way families are built centered in love. Gracie is a star!
Every car brand seemed to represent with ads in the Brand Bowl. My favorites included a Maserati ad featuring Quvenzhané Wallis. I'm certainly not their demographic, but it's kind of cool.
I also really loved the VW "angels get their wings" ad, for the concept and the groovy soundtrack.
Nostalgia was also a major theme, with ads playing to key demographics by celebrating the '80s and '90s. Radio Shack's attempt at reinvention featuring old celebrities and icons played well. The Full House cast painfully pitched yogurt, Jerry Seinfeld and George looked old in a diner for Acura, the Muppets sang for Toyota, and Morpheus sang opera louder for Kia, hitting us right in our pop culture sweet spots.
Humor was in short supply this year. Hearts were tugged in 30-second intervals into overtime, though. My favorite of the tear-jerkers was the Budweiser Puppy and a lyrical Microsoft ad celebrating the human impact of technology. Budweiser also received a lot of attention on Twitter with their "Salute" ad.
Two cause marketing campaigns earned high praise. Chevy's lineup included a beautiful commercial for their #PurpleRoads stand-against-cancer campaign. (Chevy was a big winner overall, and I really liked their funny Silverado "Eligible Bachelor" commercial narrated by John Cusack, too.)
Bank of America sponsored a campaign to fight AIDS featuring U2. Download their new song, "Invisible," free on iTunes within 24 hours of the Super Bowl, and Bank of America will make a donation to (RED).
The worst? There were more duds than you'd want to count. As far as big fails, I'd vote for Scarlett Johansson's misogynous SodaStream ad, which was flat and in bad taste.
Truthfully, the big winner was a brand that didn't spend the money on a Super Bowl ad: Esurance. They bought the first ad after the Super Bowl, saving a brick of cash and passing $1.5 million on to a winner through an outstanding Twitter interaction. The "meh" year, the overthought brand tweets and this big win might prove that the old Super Bowl ad paradigm might be FUBAR.
Did you have any reactions to the ads in the Brand Bowl? Do you even remember any of them?