LOS ANGELES, February 04, 2013, A SHOOT Staff Report — As in years past, SHOOT sought feedback from creatives such as Day whose agencies did not have any commercials on the Super Bowl so as to get an unvarnished, apolitical assessment of the advertising. We asked them what resonated, what fell short, what trends–if any–they observed. Here’s a sampling of what they had to share:
Hugh McGoran, Chief Revenue Officer, Magnetic, NY
The Superbowl is a uniquely American event, having emerged over decades to take on an almost national holiday significance. It combines two American favorites: football and advertising (a proxy for capitalism). So it’s no wonder that the spots that really showcased “Americana”–our soldiers, farming and horses–were so well-received this year. In my opinion, Dodge, Jeep and Budweiser all pulled at our heartstrings by showing us our idealized America–making for truly successful spots.
[Regarding spots that missed the boat]…In my opinion, the “squirm factor” for the GoDaddy model/nerd spot was just too far-fetched for my taste. I understand that their “thing” is to be a little edgy, but that was just too hard to watch.
[As for trends] I actually think that there is a missed shared experience of seeing the ads at the same time with your friends–compared to watching them “leaked” days in advance. I have to admit that it felt a bit anti-climactic to see the ads a second (or third or fourth) time, by the time I saw them live at the Super Bowl. I missed the feeling that I had in years past, where I was afraid to leave the room for fear that I would miss the best ad of the Super Bowl. I am actually curious to see what the incremental list was as a result of the pre-viewing of the ads. Personally, I’d prefer to keep the embargo and be surprised on Super Bowl Sunday.
I didn’t feel that there were and huge standouts this year. I think that Apple’s landmark “1984″ ad, Coke’s Mean Joe Green “towel” ad or Chrysler’s Clint Eastwood’s “Halftime in America” spots were all fantastic. Perhaps last night’s spots need some time to gel, but I don’t think that there were many standouts like we’ve seen in years past.
Cameron Day, Creative Director, Barnhart, Denver
I spent the first half of the game feeling dread. Not just for the 49ers, but for my industry. All the same tired formulas took the field. The entire first half’s commercials seemed as lackluster as the game. I did go to the chasecoke.com URL out of curiosity just long enough to discover they dropped their meat in the same dirt that Jack-in-the Box did in a past Super Bowl spot by rewarding the visitors with a site that had crashed due to volumes. That was only the first blackout of the night. I also saw E*trade jump the shark with their once-hilarious talking baby campaign. Ouch. If there was anything worth noting, GoDaddy ran the least obnoxious spot in their storied history of Super Bowl schlock.
Then came halftime…I never dreamed I’d say so in public, but Bud has finally run a Clydesdale spot that was a perfect slice of Americana, albeit a lift from the movie Warhorse. Nonetheless, I thought it was well done. The very next spot was from the NFL promoting their telecast of the NFL Draft, starring Deion Sanders as “Leon Sandcastle. It was very well done, too. Then, just a few commercials later, the spot of the night played. It started with the words “Paul Harvey” over a still image. My TV screen flashed a series of de-saturated stills of America’s farmlands, animals, calloused hands, combines and dawn-lit mornings. It was startling, beautiful, reverential and poignant. Then it revealed itself to be a tribute to farmers from Dodge trucks. There was not a single stereotypical truck shot in the entire spot. It was my Clint Eastwood moment of the night, and the production, sound design and narrative all coalesced into the most compelling truck commercial I’ve seen in years. Samsung, Tide, Kia, Sodastream and Mercedes all followed with more spots that I found rather interesting. But since there can only be one winner of the Super Bowl, I give my props to Dodge. And to the Baltimore Ravens. The only difference being that Baltimore almost got beaten. Dodge won by a mile.
Greg Smith, Chief Creative Officer, The VIA Agency, Portland, ME
Tide’s “Miracle Stain” was hands down my favorite. Not only did it repeat P&G’s seemingly real-time execution from the Summer Olympics, it was also just incredibly well done, from the writing to the casting to the pacing. I thought Go Daddy finally made a good ad driven off a key insight about how we all think we have these unique ideas, but actually they tend to be more universal, so it’s best not to procrastinate. The Samsung ad was entertaining, if for no other reason than the fact that Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen are both so likable. And surprisingly, I liked the ad with Kaley Cuoco, who I didn’t think would come across as well as she did. While it was nothing groundbreaking, it was just a really good ad. Well crafted in every way. Speed Stick’s ad was so obvious it was offensive, right down to the interruption of “branding” halfway through the narrative. Cars.com, after that ridiculously fake teaser focus group retread, gave us a spot that was weak and so forced it made you wince. Finally, to whoever made the Pepsi ad, we’ve all seen it. Twice. And better rendered. It’s called Cocoonand Cocoon 2.
[As for creative trends] beyond all the integration of social media and replayed themes like crowdsourcing and user gen, I think two things struck me. One is that we are getting closer and closer to “live” ads on the Super Bowl. We live in a real-time culture where people wanna comment while they watch. I think not only the comments will be in real time in the future, so will some of the ads. Second, there were more examples of guys acting like complete morons than ever. I mean, there’s always a lot but this year was off the chart.
On the whole I’d say it [the 2013 crop of Big Game ads] was about the same [as recent past years]. I don’t think there was anything really game-changing this year like “1984″ or Monster’s “When I Grow Up” or “Halftime in America.” That said, there were some great ads, some good ads and some terrible ads. So I’d say it was just another Super Bowl.
Bill Winchester, Creative Director, Lindsay, Stone & Briggs, Madison, Wis.
First let me say creating a great Super Bowl spot is a miracle. The clients are nervous, the creative director is nervous, the producers are nervous. It’s a recipe for disaster and overall, this year there were very few disasters. Kudos to everyone who endured the pressure cooker of making a Super Bowl spot.
One of the things that makes for a great commercial is tension. Spots that have people asking what’s going on? Who is this for? This makes them want to watch the spot for the whole 30 seconds. In other words, you can only create attention when you create tension. With spots costing 4 million dollars wouldn’t you want to hold people’s attention for 30 seconds? But ironically, this is one of the hardest things for an advertiser to pull off. “Whaddya mean? We’re NOT going to show the product until the last five seconds? Are you crazy? It’s 4 freakin’ million dollars!”
All this pressure has created a few huge temptations. The first temptation is to borrow from movies and even past commercials. The Pepsi Next commercial is a perfect example. This commercial is so predictable. Did the guys who made the movie Project X sue Pepsi for this rip-off? Or the Got Milk commercial with the Rock. Very reminiscent of the Nike Y2K commercial of a few years back. So, when exactly does the statute of limitations expire on this stuff?
The second is to resort to a formula. Like the “something goes horribly wrong” formula. The Toyota wish commercial is an example. Or the Doritos goat commercial, which by the way, made me laugh. The Samsung Seth Rogan spot did a great job of reprising almost every formula for Super Bowl commercials. And because of the “inside advertising” nature of it, was funny. This points out a problem. Humor requires a somewhat formulaic structure. But there are so many extremely entertaining commercials online that have been produced within these formulas that it has created an almost impossible bar to get over.
The overall result is a mélange of sameness. Same formulas. Same results. Sure, a few stand out. Like the Oreo ad or the Audi Prom Night ad. The overall takeaway is yes, lots of pretty good commercials, but I feel like I’ve seen it before. Except for the advertisers that are willing to go another way. Produce a commercial that isn’t funny, but heartfelt. That isn’t formulaic humor but relies on the tension of filmic emotion. That uses the craft of film in a different way.
Like the Budweiser “Brotherhood” commercial which is totally linked to the brand and beautifully crafted. Or the Jeep “Whole Again” commercial. Or the Dodge “Farmer” commercial. No, they’re not funny, so at the end of the day, they won’t win the “funniest commercial of the Super Bowl” award. But they’re different and memorable. To some of us in advertising, we’d call it cloying, but then we tend to be a little more cynical than the rest of the world.
Maybe the best thing about the Super Bowl commercials is that there are a lot of pretty good or even great commercials in the span of about three hours. Isn’t this the way television should be ALL the time?
Originally published by Shoot on 1/04/2013