“A toast to the Seahawks. I heard that they … ” lost. Just a one word edit from last year’s Super Bowl post. Ah, the power of words. I worked through the game, or at least most of it. So it goes. Some day I’ll sit in on a Super Bowl party, but evidently that’s at least a year away. I quit watching in 1982 when I realized I got incredibly emotional about the Steelers in a sport where, on average, every team loses half the time and wins half the time. The ads, however, intrigue me. Just like the parties, they’re insights into what people care about, or at least what people are told to care about. So, join me as I pour myself an after work cocktail, and sit and sip and watch this year’s ads. What issues, trends, and styles are winning and losing this year?
Consider this. If there were no ads, would there be a Super Bowl? I like to think that yes, there would be a Super Bowl and professional football, but there would be far less money involved. Let’s see where the money’s being spent.
(Thanks to YouTube for providing a channel for the ads that doesn’t require watching or recording the entire game plus the pre-halftime-post game shows.)
- Dig: Armageddon sells. Oops. Apocalypses are popular? Oh well, maybe that’s why I am not alone in Pretending Not To Panic.
- T-Mobile: Frugality fights wasted and expensive phone contracts, with a vulture. No wasting money sells, and the bad guys are vultures.
- American Family Insurance: Things will get brighter, because dreams are all some people have. Is it already this dismal after only three ads?
- Microsoft: Empower through technology. Courage in the face of reality, which suggests reality requires courage. Oh dear.
- Mercedes-Benz: Excellent production values. And the value isn’t in the quality of the car but in racing faster than the competition. And the tortoise gets the hare?
Come on people, let’s get a positive message that doesn’t start from a downer.
- Fifty Shades of Grey: Well, I certainly didn’t see that one coming. And now for some escapism.
- M&T Bank: Persistence and hard work can make you a football star. And how many people make the cut who also had persistence and hard work?
- Furious 7: And now for more escapism, but this time with exploding cars.
- Geico: Short, simple, and sorry I missed the gecko.
- Pepsi: Evidently the best way to sell colored sugar water is to not mention the colored sugar water – but show the logo.
At least we’ve gone from downers to irrelevant.
- Toyota: Great message, nice production, good to hear Ali. Don’t know what it has to do with a Camry, but, ok.
- Jurassic World: Don’t mess with Mother Nature. Wasn’t that the message from the first movie? Neat spherical cars though. Camry’s?
- Kia: Yes! 30mph and fireworks and breaking convention. Very refreshing.
- Loctite: Go ahead, make me laugh. Thanks, I needed that. And they actually showed the product doing something useful. Nerd on!
- Doritos: Snack food gets the girl, and her kid. Silly man; but, maybe he wants a ready made family (if she’s available.)
We’ve gone from irrelevant to at least one that was useful.
- Minions: They weren’t really trying to profile sports fans, were they? Keep your clothes on, people; unless you’re in Fifty Shades of Grey. (See above.)
- Toyota: The pendulum swings as “men’s messages” return. And have something to do with Camrys.
- Nomore: Did they knowingly place these two ads together? Tasteful, powerful, necessary.
- Nissan: Dad’s the message again.
- Northrup Grumman: Selling bombers and spy planes … to Congress via the voters?
Probably the most masculine set of five (arbitrary selection) which points out that advertisers may have caught on that women watch the show since so many ads aren’t macho.
- Odyssey: Who is chasing her? The drones? In which case, fear the machines. The government? In which case, fear the authorities. In any case, fear and persevere.
- Dodge: Actually listening to the wisdom of experience? Marvelous! Curious how many of them have their licenses. If they don’t Dodge should give them a car and a race track and let them have fun.
- McDonald’s: Brilliantly simple message and gimmick; paying with love. I’m interested to hear what the Sharing Economy will say. Now, about the food…
- Pitch Perfect 2: Sequels are in. So are musicals. Musicals?! Fun. Wasn’t the last time they were popular was during the Great Depression?
- Bud Light: Pac-Man for real. Fun game. Amazingly expensive. Now, about the beer…
Such an interesting mix that I’d like to year what the centenarians have to say about tech dangers, the power of live, musicals, and good food an good beer.
- T-Mobile: Reality. Being able to call from your crawlspace is handy. What stories she has from down under…
- Skittles: Arm wrestling for a lemon Skittle. Whatever.
- Sprint: Cost is more important than coverage. Fun video. Looks like someone intruded in the creative process for the last third without adding anything.
- Ted 2: And now for something totally frivolous.
- Terminator Genisys: Wow. A movie that’s a sequel. How uncommon. (Sarcasm, in case you couldn’t tell.)
They won’t leave a mark. (But now that I’ve written that I’ll think about them more, so maybe it is effective.)
- Wix: May be one of the few that actually addresses what the product does. Making a good web site and making a successful business are two different things.
- Blacklist: A TV show where things blow up.
- Snickers: Now, that’s a version of the Brady Bunch that would be fun to watch; making sugar crashes are more interesting than car crashes.
- Fiat: The fun a little blue pill can do in Italy. Did Pfizer pay for half the ad?
- Lexus: Be seen. Be heard. Make some noise. Well, I’ll grant you the car can do that. But what does an SUV have to do with a parking garage and very urban people?
At least some of them are entertaining. But, how many more are there? The game didn’t last this long, did it?
- Victoria’s Secret: Who was this ad for? Not that I’m complaining. At least they showed their product.
- The Voice: That must be a reality show that probably doesn’t look a thing like the ad, and definitely doesn’t give me a reason to watch.
- Redfin: Hey. Be careful. You also showed something about what your company does. That’s not usual.
- Tomorrowland: Disney does an ad right. That’s one of the few that actually made me interested in what they had to sell.
- Doritos: When pigs fly – do they get parachutes?
I’m getting weary, but a few bright moments are taking me through.
- GoDaddy: I may not like their product or service, but I like their ad. Keep in mind that I worked through the Super Bowl.
- Budweiser: A beer ad about beer? Is this a trend? Congratulations. I’ll stick my beers that are so dark you can’t see through them.
- Budweiser: A beer ad that barely mentions beer? Well, thanks for the entertainment.
- Game of War: I like games, and I greatly suspect the game doesn’t look a thing like whoever that woman was.
- Avocados: A fruit, or is it a vegetable, – hey, real food gets an ad! That’s a first, and sad that it’s so alone.
Those five, er four, could make a set: an entrepreneur working late eating nachos with guacamole and a beer then taking a break to play a game. It could happen.
- T-Mobile: I know Kim Kardasian is famous, but I don’t even know how to spell her name.
- Coca-Cola: Another message that we need more love in the world. I wonder how many IT people shrieked at the thought of colored sugar water pouring into their servers and routers.
- Dove: Care makes a man stronger, and I’m pretty sure the cleanliness of a person’s skin has little to do with what’s in their heart and mind.
- TurboTax: What does the Tea Party think?
- Carl’s Jr.: Interesting product, but really, a model biting into a burger that’s probably a week’s worth of calories?
Best five for displaying a disconnection with reality, regardless of their products and services.
- Weight Watchers: Courageous to stand out amidst the fast food ads.
- Always: Changing the definition of “Like a girl”. Another message ad.
- BMW: An ad for people perpetually behind the curve?
- Newcastle Brown Beer: Not about the beer, but unabashedly bashing branding.
- Jeep: Play responsibly, and look beyond borders.
Messages, messages, and challenge convention – evidently.
I’m getting tired.
- GrubHub: Ordering food without having to deal with people. And that’s good?
- Microsoft: Courage in the face of reality. And use software to manage it.
- M&T Bank: Somehow landscaping for cemeteries is tied to banks.
- Clash of Clans: Live the game, in your local coffeeshop, because where else can you succeed?
- Carnival Cruises: JFK sells the sea, and makes me think a sailboat is a better idea.
Disconnect. And I’m about ready to. There must be an end to this commercialization.
Hallelujah! I made it back around to the beginning.
Here’s what I’m left with.
Microsoft says it best, Courage In The Face Of Reality. There’s a pervading sense that where we are is something that demands perseverance. Life needs fixing. That’s not just a Microsoft message, and it may be inherent in every sales pitch; otherwise, why buy anything? The most positive message was from the centenarians. Live in the moment. Appreciate what you have.
The majority of the rest of the ads sell the idea that we should ignore reality through escapism and fantasy.
Rarely does an ad sell the goods or services the company sells. It must be tough selling cars because they so rarely describe something they do that the others don’t. Many products only distinguish themselves by their branding, not because they are obviously better than their competitors. The loudest defense of a brand is that everyone else buys it so you should too.
I just watched 60 ads. That’s possibly as many as I’ll see for the rest of the year since I disconnected my television. Maybe the YouTube ads will make up the difference, but it will take months. Stepping away from the hourly onslaught makes most ads look sad and silly. As television is replaced by streaming media, and as awareness grows of our reality, many brands that rely on old media and old habits will be replaced as well. The celebrity couple in the electric BMW will probably be even further behind because change is accelerating. Microsoft seems to understand that, as do the companies with various progressive messages; but I feel as if I just devoted more than an hour to witnessing the birth of dozens of anachronisms. l wonder what the ads will be like next year.