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My 2015 Super Bowl commercials report card

superbowl2I 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. I look at these ads not just as individual advertisements but also for qualities that I find important like how it fits into the brand strategy, how the ad features the product, of the ad gets your attention, and if it tells a story. So here are my best, worst, surprises and disappointments of the 2015 Super Bowl.

 


 

TOP 5 COMMERCIALS

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. Here are my favorites but sadly I don’t think any of these will be timeless classics.

 

1 – BMW “Newfangled Idea”

best1Getting people to accept new concepts is always a struggle. This commercial starts out with a clip from 20 years ago of Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel proving that point as they try to understand an email address. The then flashes forward to today with the pair driving a new electric BMW i3 picking up where they left off trying to understand this new car. It is a simple and cute way to try to explain the concept behind this new car. Watch the commercial here

2 – NOMORE.org “No More”

best3This has obviously been a rough year for the NFL with domestic abuse in the headlines for most of the year so the timing of this ad was perfect. I thought the concept and the way the commercial was shot was just brilliant because it drew you in to the story in a way you never saw coming. It shows a slow pan around the house while you hear a call that sounds like someone who has called 911 by mistake trying to order a pizza. It then becomes clear that it is a woman calling the police because she is being abused and is unable to let them know any other way. This change in the call is accompanied by seeing more of the house that is wrecked from the abuse.  The combination of the simple visuals that let you concentrate on the call and the twist make it an incredibly powerful commercial that was also perfectly placed in the show line up coming at half time when most people would not expect it. Watch the commercial here

3 – Esurance “Say My Name”

best2Assurance ran two spots during the Superbowl promoting the idea that having data on people only works if it is right and most insurance companies are rarely right. The first one stared Lindsey Lohan and it ran right before the game and I thought it was weak. Their second commercial was much stronger as woman goes infill a subscription only to find that Brian Cranston dressed as Walter White from Breaking Bad. It is a classic Superbowl formula of the unexpected twist with a popular character to get your attention.  It isn’t the world’s greatest advertising but it is what you want from a Superbowl commercial and makes assurance’s point. Watch the commercial here

4 – Fiat “The Fiat Blue Pill”

best4This commercial had been released online a while ago and had been a viral hit which made sense for them to release it for the Superbowl. It is a simple commercial but has a nice and funny story about an old man losing a Viagra pill that goes flying across an Italian village (once again tying into GIAT’s Italian heritage) ending up in the bigger, more powerful and ready for action new FIAT 500X. Watch the commercial here

5 – Always ” Like A Girl”

best5This is yet another ad that has been online for a while having run up 54 million views in the months leading up to the Superbowl. This the concept for the commercial from Always feels like the sibling of Dove’s “Campaign from real beauty” which has consistently delivered some of the best commercials over the past few years. It also looks at the perception of woman by asking boys and young men to demonstrate what it means to do something like a girl.  They then ask the same question of young girls to see that they are not effected by the image of being a ‘girl’ until they hit puberty. It is a strong message the only problem is that the tie in to the product is much weaker than what Dove was able to do with their campaign. Watch the commercial here

 


 

WORST 5 COMMERCIALS

Sadly my worst list was miles longer than my best list this year. I decided that there were a number of ads like Jublia medication, Sketchers with Pete Rose and more just didn’t even qualify as real ads so I just left them off my list instead of wasting the space commenting on the obvious horror shows.

 

1 – Nationwide “Make Safe Happen”

worst1

The commercial that clearly got the biggest reaction of the night was from Nationwide. Jaws were on the floor as a young boy says “I couldn’t grow up,” he intones, “because I died from an accident.” followed by a series of scenes of household accidents like an overflowing bathtub and a fallen and smashed giant TV. This commercial got a reaction and it got people’s attention but in ALL the wrong ways. In what world is associating your brand with dead children a good idea? In what world did they think that this wasn’t going to unleash a wave of backlash as parents needs to explain the commercial to upset children, people who have lost loved get gut punched with that pain and the rest of us who are just shocked by how morbid it was. There was just no up side to trying to get noticed with such a desperately bad idea. Watch the commercial here

2 – Toyota “How Great I Am”

worst2There is no argument that Amy Purdy is an extremely impressive actress, model, world-class snowboarder and 2014 Paralympic bronze medalist, co-founder of Adaptive Action Sports, professional motivational speaker, clothing designer and author. There is also no arguing that Mohammad Ali is one of the greatest athletes of all time. The problem is that this commercial completely fails to show how either one of them have anything to Toyota. The commercial just feels hollow is Toyota trades on the cache of those two people instead of actually building real cache into their own brand. Watch the commercial here

3 – Coca-Cola “#MakeItHappy”

worst3I am still conflicted about this years commercial from Coke because their imaginative and fun ‘happiness factory’ themed commercial were replaced with a commercial that was dark and confusing on many levels. The commercial starts by taking on the serious social issue of online negativity and cyber bullying. The issue is that by showing this societal problem they are saying that the majority of their customers are assholes and the world is a really hostile place right now. The commercial then continues as an employee working in a server farm spills a Coke into one of the computers sending the soda out through the Internet.  The problem for me is that the commercial starts by trying to take on a real world issue then it transitions to a fantasy scenario of Coke making everyone happy. It completely undermines any attempt to have a real conversation about this social issue as they LITERALLY try to sugar coat the problem. It was a strange and dark detour for Coke and their brand strategy so I can’t see where they will take the campaign from here. Watch the commercial here

4 – Loctite Glue “Positive Feelings”

worst4Leading up to the Superbowl there was a lot of attention on Loctite because they put their i entire marketing budget into running only this Superbowl commercial. There was nothing about this commercial I liked. It was that genre of advertising that thinks that strange and offbeat is a good thing.  I think that it makes for commercials that are mildly memorable but they never seem to effect sales or do anything for the company. Watch the commercial here

5 – Nissan “With Dad”

worst5Yet another dark and strange installment in the parade of dark and strange ads from the Superbowl this year. The commercial shows a father who is never at home or with his son because he is a professional race car driver. It makes for a strange combination of yet another example of showing a dark state of the world that then has Nissan’s product show horned into the concept. The family portion is just strange because no one can relate to the superstar race driver father who is never home while the racing section doesn’t show Nissan’s cars in the best light at the father has little success in their cars. The whole thing is just dark, strange and something you can’t relate to. Watch the commercial here

 


 

BIGGEST SURPRISES

 

1 – McDonald’s

suprise2I can’t remember the last time I can think of a McDonald’s commercial I actually liked. They have been generic fluff with food shots, cheesy family moments and no real concept for a really long time. But that seems to have taken a strong turn for the better lately. I think that their recent ‘Signs’ ad featuring nothing but messages on the signs outside of McDonald’s all over the country is simple but incredibly strong. McDonald’s commercial for the Superbowl isn’t as strong as that ad but it was notable for the fact that it stayed above their generic advertising tone to do something really nice. I liked how this ad brought in real emotion, was a concept that will drive people into the stores and focused on real family emotions which is something that has been missing for a long time.

Watch the commercial here

2 – Clash of Clans “Revenge”

suprise3For the first half of this commercial it seemed like it was going to be yet another animated commercial for the iPad game Clash of Clans which have all seen a million times before.  But the twist at the end when you pull out of the game to see Liam Neeson playing the game was the twist that took it from a commercial we have seen before to a Superbowl ad. Neeson’s monologue is even funny as it makes fun of the myriad of one note roles he seems to be playing in all of his movies anymore. I also really like that it started with something we have all seen before but they were then smart enough to put in that twist so it built on their existing campaign instead of just throwing it out to do something new for the big game.

Watch the commercial here

3 – T-MOBILE

suprise1There wasn’t anything mind-blowing in the two mobile ads that ran during the Superbowl this year but it was impressive that their ads were memorable at all. They were even able to make two of my least favorite celebrities in Kim Kardashian and Chelsea Handler sort of funny and engaging. The Kardashian ad was the better of the two

Watch “#KimsDataStash” here and watch “Sarah Silverman & Chelsea Handler” here

 


 

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS

1 – Advertising’s mass mid-life crisis

I was shocked at the number of commercial and even promotions from NBC that used nostalgic or historical voiceovers, references, music, personalities and shows. It seems like every marketing execution had a mid-life crisis all at once. It was the historic voiceovers of Mohammad Ali for Toyota and JFK for Carnival Cruise Lines. It was the retro concepts of Pac-Man for Bud Light, or Mad Max for NBC’s show The Voice. It was the throw back personalities with Pierce Brosnan as pseudo James Bond for Kia and multiple retro personalities for Adidas. It was a combination of personalities and a retro show with Snickers remaking a Brady Bunch episode with Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi. I found this last one for Snickers funny since their main target is millennial yet they referred a show that none of them would have seen or understood.

2 – Portraying customers as mean, lazy or even dead

This Superbowl had the darkest and most depressing advertising I can ever remember.  Wether it was the dead child from Nationwide or the cyberbullying and hatred from Coke this year had a really darkness that was surprising and disappointing.

3 – Thinking digital is just a hashtag

I made the decision to leave the advertising agency world over 8 years ago because I sincerely felt that major agencies just did not understand digital and every year they prove to me I was right.  Once again there was a shocking lack of digital integration in this years commercials and most agencies seem to think that having a hashtag is the same as a real digital strategy. The only exception came from SquareSpace with their DreamingWithJeff.com campaign that drove people online but the ad was strange and the I don’t see how the comparing is going to pay off in people switching their hosting. I will be fair in saying that I know this is just as much the responsibility of clients as it is for the agencies that concept the ads but it continues to mystify me as it why neither side makes digital more a part of these expensive, broadly seen campaigns.

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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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