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My 2014 Super Bowl commercials report card

Superbowl

I know that the last thing the world needs is another Super Bowl commercials top 5 list but since my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t playing in the big game again this year I had nothing better to do.

TOP 5

I struggled to find even 5 ads that I thought stood out since I was really disappointed once again by this years crop of Superbowl ads.  The first place finisher on my list was the only ad I truly liked but found four others I thought had some merit since I wanted to do a top 5.

1 – Audi “Doberhuahua”

good1I thought that over the past few years Audi had come close to creating a great Super Bowl commercial but never was able to get everything right but this year I thought all that changed. A couple at a pet store want to get a Doberman or a Chihuahua and the clerk suggests that they compromise and breed them together. They then imagine the possibilities of this union as a giant-headed Doberhuahua hybrid. My favorite part by far was the hilarious cameo by animal-rights activist Sarah McLachlan who is attacked by one of the dogs while doing a mock infomercial. From there the whole town is running scared from the terrifying new breed ending with the tagline “Compromise scares us, too”. It was fun, funny and the only commercial I will be able to remember next year. Watch the commercial here

2 – E-surance #EsuranceSave30

good2Even though it was the first commercial after the Super Bowl I thought the e-surance ‘Save 30’ ad was strong enough to jump up into my top 5 list. The ad promoted the fact that it ran right after the Super Bowl so they could save 30% but they were going to give that money away to someone who tweeted ‘#EsuranceSave30’. It was really simple but I liked it because it directly supported the brand value proposition and had an incredibly successful viral hook. Watch the commercial here

3 – Cheerios “Gracie”

good3Sassy kids are always a crowd pleaser and this year Cheerios put them to work in their commercial. A young girl is told that her parents will be having another child through Cheerios as the father gives her the news and adds another Cheerio to her pile. She thinks about it before a second before responding by adding yet another Cheerio to the pile while saying “And… a puppy.” It won’t be remembered as a great ad but it did a nice job of focusing on the product and had a simple but adorable message. Watch the commercial here

4 – Volkswagon “Wings”

good4Volkwagon continues to try to recapture the magic of their mini Darth Vader commercial from two years ago. I thought they really stumbled last year when they tried to milk that success for another year without any real idea.  This year they recovered pretty well with a funny new commercial about how every time one of their cars hits 100k miles a VW engineer gets his wings. It did a nice job of supporting VW’s value proposition and brought back the humor to their ads. Watch the commercial here

5 – Beats “The Right Music”

good5Beats by Dr. Dre used the Super Bowl to announced their new streaming music service with AT&T through a new commercial starring Ellen Degeneres as a modernized  Little Red Riding Hood doing some of her signature dance moves. She walks around a modern apartment going through the family members smartphones with each having different music and Beats headphones should could dance to. I liked this commercial because it made the products of both companies the hero and it was fun to watch in a sea of commercials that were either pointless mantra statements or overuse of patriotism and family values. Watch the commercial here

 

WORST 5

1 – Chevy “Romance”

bad1Chevy seems to think that their brand is too high brow and looked to fix that with their new commercial “Romance” about a man taking his prize bull off to breed. I have absolutely no idea why Chevy thought this change in the tone of their advertising was a good idea. I know people watching the Super Bowl love America and they trucks but what in the world made them think that would then translate into them wanting to buy a brand that wants to align itself with animals sex? I thought it looked like the team that used to work on the dick and fart based commercials for Budweiser switched accounts to go work on Chevy. For me the ad fell completely flat as the wanna be silly commercial just came off as gross. Watch the commercial here

2 – Honda “Hugfest”

bad2Honda’s “Hugfest”” made my worst list because it was a pretty decent idea that was expressed through a horrible commercial and a digital component that no one knew about. The commercial featured Bruce Willis talking about safety and how you should hug those who matter most to you as the camera slowly pulls back to reveal that is being hugged by SNL alumni Fred Armisen. The thought is nice but Willis hardly seemed like the right guy to deliver it so the whole thing rang hollow for me.  It was only when I started to write this article did I then discover that Honda was taking a page from Old Spice’s playbook and was having Bruce post real time reaction videos the events during the game. The end of the commercial shows the hashtag #hugfest but I’m not sure how people were supposed to know that there was more content online since the hashtag seemed as meaningless as the ad it was trying to support. Watch the commercial here

3 – Chrysler “America’s Import”

bad32011 brought us the powerful and surprising “Imported from Detroit” campaign from Chrysler that used Eminem as the focus and anthem to launch their strong new tagline. This year they looked to recapture that magic with the question “What’s more American than America?” and Bob Dylan trying to answer it for us. I thought this commercial failed on a lot of levels. First was that it just felt cheap and sad to see an iconic counter culture figure like Bob Dylan paraded around during the Super Bowl for a car company. From there it was a schizophrenic production technique mess that was part vintage footage rip-o-magic and part documentary shot with so many different ways and techniques that none of it held together. It showed how difficult it is to create a commercial like this because 2011 and 2014 shared the same concept but with different stars and different production approaches leads to very different results. Watch the commercial here

4 – RadioShack “The Phone Call”

bad4I saw this commercial top a lot of best of lists but not for me. The commercial shows a 1980’s Radio Shack that gets a call saying it is “stuck in the 80’s” and the store is then ripped apart by pretty much every iconic 80’s character you can think of. It passes the Super Bowl formula test of cramming as many celebrities as you can into one commercial but it does NOTHING to change perceptions of Radio Shack. It focused 95% of the time on the nostalgia of the 80’s iconic characters that have no association with the brand and then showed one shot of an incredibly generic looking new store design. People may have liked the commercial but guarantee you that none of them are going to shop there any time soon. Watch the commercial here

5 – Maserati “Strike”

bad5When I started to watch this commercial I never thought that the generic underdog montage starring Quvenzhané Wallis who is best known for her Oscar-nominated role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” was trying to set up Maserati as an underdog brand. Trying to position Ferrari’s sister brand as the underdog ready to strike just rings false on every level since we are talking about a car that is the cheapest one they make and it will start around $70k. This wasn’t the right way for Maserati to make this announcement and it didn’t do their brand any favors. Watch the commercial here

 

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS

M&M’s “Delivery”

mmsTwo years ago M&M’s won my Super Bowl report card and they have been one of my favorite ongoing ad campaigns for years. This year I was intrigued by their teaser video that showed the yellow M&M being drugged and abducted. The payoff to that teaser was a huge disappointment as a generic It focuses on a generic Russian mobster played by the quintessential generic Russian mobster Rade Serbedzija who open the trunk of a car delivering a speech about what is going to do to his victim. It predictably turns out to be the Yellow M&M who predictably seems confused by the whole situation. It’s clear that these commercials need to be a buddy comedy because without the Red M&M their trademark humor is gone and the whole thing falls flat. Watch the commercial here

Overall horrible use of digital

Finally I could’t help but be disappointed at the almost complete failure for all these brands to drive to digital to help build their brands and engage consumers beyond a 30 second experience.  It is clear that another year has passed and most brands and ad agencies are no closer to understanding the power of digital for building a brand and consumer loyalty.

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Creative Director, Designer, Brand Builder, Speaker, Podcaster, Crazy One. As a designer, I have 20+ years experience creating the strategy, concepts, and designs for award-winning integrated global advertising campaigns, building multiple global Fortune 500 brands and creating innovative digital experiences. As a leader, I have 15+ years transforming agency and client-side teams using a mix of creativity, business strategy, process and political skill to create innovative, world-class work and cultures that change industries and companies. My clients have included American Airlines, W Hotels, Disney, Citi, ExxonMobil, Acura, Old Navy, Nationwide Insurance, Verizon, Subaru and many others. My work has received over 150 international awards, my app designs have been named as one of the World’s 100 Greatest Apps, Apple has featured my work in 9 keynotes, 4 TV commercials and more.

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