Superbowl Advertising 2017: Who threw a touchdown?
Here’s comes another one of those Superbowl ad reviews. But you’re here now, so you might as well stay. Grab some popcorn, and we can have a little review of all the ads in that four hour “sporting” event called the Superbowl. To be honest with you I haven’t watched one since the Chicago Bears (with the Fridge) flattened the Patriots in 1985 but I do tend to spend the following morning watching all the adverts. So here’s my twopenneth.
I’ve stuck them into four quarters (did you see what I did there?):
1st Quarter – Meh
To be honest, it wasn’t a vintage year off the field with the ads. The majority of the work fits into this bucket. The disappointing & predictably forgettable bucket. I’m being paid to care and to pay attention and I genuinely can’t remember 80% of the ads I watched only a few hours ago. They weren’t dreadful or creatively offensive they were just ads. A lot of screamed self-consciously “HERE’S MY SUPERBOWL COMMERCIAL” and a lot more were just, well, commercials. I won’t call anything specifically out here. Mostly because I can’t remember any of them.
2nd Quarter – Blimey
This is the kind of work that gives advertising a bad name. Millions of Americans tuned in to watch the ads – I know, I can’t believe it either – so as an industry we were duty-bound to serve up the best we could do. If this is the best a lot of these advertisers could do, then we should genuinely pack up. I was always taught that if I couldn’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. But I owe it to you, me, Bill Bernbach and William Perry to call out Buick, Michelob and every T-Mobile execution here. Shut out!
I nearly lumped Mercedes in here for Worst Use of the Coen Brothers but they just slipped back into the first bucket because I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything apart from the music.
3rd Quarter – Trump
So, quite a few advertisers tried to hit the socially relevant zeitgeist buttons. Budweiser and their immigrant founder, 84 Lumber and the wall, Audi and the glass ceiling, and airbnb and diversity in general. I applaud every single one of them for the sentiment, but I don’t think any of them nailed it in execution for a variety of reasons. Bud lost their bottle, 84 Lumber were blocked by Fox, Audi just felt a little forced and airbnb felt rushed and a little ill-thought through. But all four of them should be applauded for attempts at social relevance, I just think they threw the Hail Mary and the pass was incomplete.
4th Quarter - Touchdown
OK, amidst the missed passes and third downs, there were some genuine hits. So here is my top five if you can’t be bothered to do the whole reel:
Bud Light – Funny, well written, spot on with beer target audience. Shareable, talkable, just what a good SB spot should be
SquareSpace – Good casting, good writing, good use of celebrity (where Kia and a few others – Bieber and T-Mobile? - got it hopelessly wrong). To be honest, how could you mess up with Malkovich?
Skittles: A Superbowl staple who once again hit the mark. I thought it was funny and I think they hit the top 5 alone for the use of the line “Romance the Rainbow”
National Geographic: Simple, well produced, and a touch of elegance amidst all the shouty desperation of trying to nail a Superbowl spot
Avocados of Mexico: The best of the crop. I think they missed a trick in not having a go at everyone’s favourite Villain-in-Chief but it was great writing, great casting, well acted and genuinely LOL funny in a couple of moments.
Bai’s spot with Christopher Walken & Wendys nearly made the list but I think it’s fair to say that this year didn’t feature any top notch equivalent of a Chrysler “Born of Fire” or VW “The Force”. It was all a little underwhelming to be frank.
For once the game was better than the ads. And for a game that takes 4 hours to do what rugby can do in 80 minutes without the pads that’s quite a surprise.