Super Bowl Ads Sigh In 2016

Oh, advertisers. For one day each of the last fifty years you’ve publicly exercised your power during the Super Bowl, the event that seems to be the ultimate in sports competitions but that really only makes sense within 5% of the world’s population: Americans. It wasn’t always that way, but thank Apple in 1984 for shattering the image of PCs and shattering the image of ads as predictable. As I mentioned in my previous post, about thirty years ago I quit watching professional sports. I realized that hiking, skiing, bicycling, or reading were better uses of my time. It wasn’t until I began writing this post that I noticed the coincidence of my distancing from sports happening as advertisers became much more prominent. Evidently, sometimes writing teaches the writer regardless of what others get from the effort.

Once a year, however, I step back into the world of ads and watch the ultimate ads that are affixed and that help pay for the supposedly ultimate game. (Soccer, rugby, cricket, and Olympics fans can argue their cases on their blogs.) While it is highly unlikely that I’ll buy anything that the ads are offering, I watch them to see what corporations are hoping everyone else will buy. Thank you YouTube, for making it easier to skip the game and just watch what happens between the plays. After the game, and after millions had seen the ads, I watched the ads I could readily find on AdBlitz, made a few notes, and waited a day to let thoughts and feelings percolate. Besides, if I couldn’t remember the ad 24 hours later, and if notes didn’t help, that tells me they missed me. Conversely, I can remember the ad about the car with the singing sheep – ah, it was a truck, a Honda Ridgeline – so, evidently that one worked. Well, it worked as well as any, which is to say that none of them convinced to me buy anything; though a few convinced me I didn’t want to do anything associated with their companies.

Where would America and capitalism be without ads?

So it doesn’t get lost in the list.
NFL
The Baby Boom ads were a nice touch. I particularly liked the choir. I was a bit surprised by the reference to NFL is family, as if making babies was part of being a fan; but then, I was raised Catholic and have heard it before.

Food

  • Butterfinger
    Be bold, and use an bold ad, because sneaking a candy bar into your day is a radical concept for some people. How dull are peoples’ lives, or how dull do the executives think everyone else’s life is?
  • Bud Light
    Beer will bring us together. Free beer might bring us together, at least until the keg runs dry. Even free Bud Light wouldn’t work for me. My simplest criterion for a beer is, if I can’t see through it, there must be flavor in there, somewhere. Oh wait, they dissed those beers.
  • Coke
    About the only way I drink Coke-Cola is with rum, and I haven’t had one of those in years. At least the ad was entertaining, well done, and true enough to character. Bubbly sugar-water pays for a lot of video production. It reminds me flying over Las Vegas and realizing the city grew because so many people gambled away so much money.
  • Budweiser
    Excess is the only way. Not really, but go enjoy that.
  • Pepsi
    Hey, I like to dance. Seeing a bit of dancing from the 50s, the 80s, and the 10s was fun. What does that have to do with colored and bubbly sugar water? At least Coke has rum as a (rare) personal enticement.
  • Mountain Dew
    While I don’t drink bubbly sugar drinks anymore, I must admit to enjoying Mountain Dew for a long time. That ad creeped me out, though. Are hallucinations part of the experience, now?
  • Doritos
    Having a baby birth itself to chase a Dorito was certainly entertaining and creative. I felt sorry for the mother. Ouch. Of course, maybe raising the kid on chips and soda will make a lot of their life easier – except for the dentist bills.
  • Doritos
    Creative again.
  • Skittles
    Art! It doesn’t convince me to buy Skittles, but I’m glad they made art about art starring an artist.
  • Taco Bell
    All I can remember is that George Takei got a gig. Good.
  • Avocados
    Wow. An ad that talked about the product, had fun with the sales pitch, and may have nudged me to buying their product, er, produce. How about ads for oranges, tomatoes, carrots – you know, more real food.
  • Michelob
    Exercise equals heavy breathing – and beer. That’s more appealing than the other beer ads. Got Guinness?
  • Heinz
    Wiener dogs! People in costume. Sure, why not? It was fun. I think the dogs should’ve jumped into big pools of ketchup and mustard instead.
  • Jack in the Box
    Jack in the Box is giving away burgers I can’t eat. Free food is a good idea.
  • KFC
    I’m old enough to remember the real colonel. The fake colonel distracted me enough that I missed the message.
  • Snickers
    What would Marilyn think? I can appreciate mood crashes, though. Whatever gets you through them. Of course, some would rather be Denis Leary instead of Marilyn Monroe.
  • Shock Top
    There was something about beer.

Finances

  • M&T Bank
    A bank that is selling its contribution to community is noble, possibly correct, but has to work through almost a decade of negative press to swing sentiment. Therefore, a Super Bowl ad makes sense. It seemed to be missing a smile on some of the too serious faces. Good luck folks.
  • PayPal
    Wow! Someone actually talking about a real and positive change in the world? Digital currency is the new money, is happening regardless of convention, and was nice to see amidst the rest of the messages for consumption and selfishness.
  • SoFi
    They make loans to great people. Great. The message was necessarily judgmental, and unfavorably so for the necessarily more than 50% who aren’t even average. Well, they’re targeting a specific audience. The rest of us get to watch them celebrate what the rest don’t have.
  • Quicken Loans
    Let’s reinvigorate the economy with things bought on credit because that’s worked so well in the past! Oops.
  • Intuit Quickbooks
    I liked the celebration of one of their clients: Death Wish Coffee. That would be an interesting trend to see expand. Who buys Kias? Who eats KFC? Who drinks Bud Light?
  • TurboTax
    Oh, Anthony Hopkins, I’ve seen you in so many better venues. It is a gig, but did you realize that the reason anything is free is because they can make money from the teaser? I use TurboTax every year, and always know that it will cost me about $100.
  • Apartments.com
    A grey haired guy (yeah, I recognized him) trying to sell renters (who tend to be young) on the idea that the right apartment will change the world. Well, true within a self-centered view – I guess.

Technology & Digital Entertainment

  • LG
    The future is TVs that are bigger, flatter, brighter, and fancier. That’s a good message for folks that would appreciate helmet cameras. I wonder how many people watched the game on their mobile phones and computers. The future may be the small screen (or pico-projectors – but that’s another story.)
  • Xfinity
    In an attack on frugality, less is dull and more is amazing. It isn’t a surprise that they’re advocating consumption, they’re certainly willing to alienate minimalists, and they’re appealing to people who want more, more, more because that’s where the profit is. Have so few watched Bogart movies like Key Largo or Treasure of the Sierra Madre?
  • FitBit
    Get fit. Good. I want to get back in shape, too. If a watch helps you do, that; great! Of course, if you did all those things without a watch you’d save money and not stress out over the data, updates, and protecting the watch.
  • WIX.com
    Creating web sites could be dull. They made it more entertaining with Pandas. I’ll stick with WordPress and html.
  • SquareSpace
    Creating web sites are necessary for success, and for dreams to come true. Sure. Those are things I help people with: web sites, dreams, hopefully success. Let’s keep it in perspective.
  • Amazon Echo
    Alexis, I need you. Hey, there’s an ad. Nah, only history buffs would like Alexander Graham Bell calling out for help. At least they showed the product in (staged) action.
  • T-Mobile
    Another cryptic one word note, “apologize.” Who is apologizing to whom?
  • GoPro
    GoPro actually delivers what they show. One of the most entertaining and honest ads.
  • Showtime
    Showtime showed a quick montage of their attractions, which made me concentrate on what I wasn’t getting from Netflix. Looks like neither of them is streaming Babylon 5.
  • Mobile Strike
    Arnie with dark hair, and a game. Whatever.
  • Pokemon
    At least I like the message; “I can do that.”

Movies

  • Disney Jungle Book
    Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book probably never imagined getting such a thrilling treatment. I don’t expect to watch the movie because I’ve read the book. Some of the original concepts from Imperial England will be left aside, I guess. I might, however be interested in seeing the comparison with the first Disney version, the animated version. Technology, social sensibilities, and the movie industry have changed so much that the movie is more appealing as a cultural study – though they seemed to emphasize the fancy computer graphics.
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane
    Ick! I don’t watch horror movies. The news is bad enough. Skip.
  • TMNT2
    Spoilers about a sequel where I missed the first movie = skip.
  • Jason Bourne
    Spoilers about a sequel/prequel that I want to see = skip as quickly as possible.

Cars

  • Hyundai
    The idea of an overly protective celebrity father watching over his daughter’s first date must resonate, but the reality of what the technology allows is creepy. If we found out that the NSA, FBI, or local police were doing the same thing we’d ask for Congressional hearings – unless we’ve realized that’s happened and feel helpless to do anything about it, which is probably mirrored in his daughter’s reaction.
  • Jeep
    Be in nature. Be yourself. But, it’s okay to turf the dunes in the process. As a Jeep owner from 1987 until 2014, I’ll celebrate the slow and steady climb up rutted logging roads, crossing flooded stream crossings, and driving through snow deep enough to stop a Subaru – none of which makes good television, but which made me a fan. That is, until they quit making the basic Cherokee in favor of the bigger, more luxurious models.
  • Honda
    Without a doubt, the most memorable and favorable ad for me. The majority of the time they showed singing sheep (and made me wish Gary Larson was asked to help). They even included some shots of practical features that I’d like to know more about. I won’t be buying a Ridgeline unless I win the lottery jackpot or am handed a lot of cash; but their ad worked far better than most because they showed a sense of humor and pointed out something useful.
  • Kia
    I’m glad to see Christopher Walken get a gig. My personal style is to purposely dress in beige, and to applaud my friends who play with the entire color spectrum. Even after the ad, though, I continue to think of sedans as the automobile version of beige.
  • Mini
    Defy labels. Cool. Interesting that they did that by working from stereotypes. Neat car. It’s somewhat of an icon, a visual label; isn’t it? Maybe folks should buy that Kia, then.
  • Hyundai
    Let our car drive you because you have to pay more attention to your distractions. Perhaps I’ll give Hyundais more room on the road.
  • Audi
    I think more highly of astronauts, especially those that walked on the Moon, to think that a car on a road can thrill them as much as they’ve experienced.
  • Toyota
    So, crime is good as long as you’re in a Prius?
  • Jeep
    I liked the history, the personal touch, the B&W graphics. It seems out of joint with their current products, and accidentally seemed to emphasize that.
  • Buick
    I missed something in there. Maybe I am too old for a Buick.
  • Acura
    Burn fuel. Make noise. That’s what a car is for. Huh?
  • Hyundai
    Bears are armed, and clawed, and hungry. Congratulations on a car that starts by talking at it. Does it work when your voice is squeaky with adrenaline?
  • Weathertech
    They make floor mats in America. Thanks. Don’t overplay it, but do celebrate it.

Health & Beauty

  • Pantene
    Dads may not be the target audience for hair products (though that is changing) but at least they found a way to braid macho with girlie stuff and emotions. It is just shampoo, though. Right?
  • Schick
    How far can we go in selling slivers of steel? A shave must be dramatic, confrontational, victorious! So much for soothing and comforting.
  • OIC is Different
    Constipation = mute = skip. Interesting juxtapositioning with all the food and drink ads.
  • Advil
    Ignore pain. Because hurting yourself is good for you. Personally, I use Advil, but as a therapeutic, not as something that helps me go out there and damage myself so more. So, they’re in the health industry…
  • AXE
    AXE confuses me; but then, I’m past puberty.
  • Dollar shave
    How oddly practical. Thank you. That left a much more favorable impression than the Schick ad.
  • Marmot
    Love the outside. Hey! I use the company’s stuff, and I’ve seen marmots (sometimes while they tried to eat my food.) Favorite factoid: marmots sleep or hibernate more than any other mammal. Nice lifestyle.
  • Persil
    Detergent. Go retro. No impression other than that.

No More

  • No More
    The only note I have is “assault”. Today, I can’t remember a thing about the ad or the product. Oops.

Was it really that bad? Previous years have had powerful, uplifting statements; grander entertainments; more creativity. At least this year didn’t try to sell sex as much, was usually dealing with real products and services instead of vaporware, and was more diverse. And yet, I’m an aging white man and was surprised to see how many aging white men were the figureheads for things directed at younger people.

Except for the nod to digital currency, GoPro, and maybe Amazon Echo most of the ads were for echoes pitched to the people who are in a select group, who are focused on themselves instead of others. Did we just miss an opportunity for an ad where someone just says, “Let them eat cake”?

I watch these ads to notice trends. Some years those powerful, uplifting statements define the set and excuse the majority. This year seemed to back off from those strong statements. Maybe it was to avoid any overlap with the various political rhetoric. I wonder if the ads from four years ago had the same tone. The ads reinforced my understanding that I am not in the mainstream, and reinforced my decision to follow a path I choose and define. In the past, I’ve also used the ads to influence my investing. The ads that are old echoes encourage me to invest in the positively disruptive companies that aren’t just about consumption, that are about improving life while using fewer resources. We won’t move ahead by reprising the past. That may work for movies, but it won’t work for moving society – and it won’t work for improving my portfolio. One thing I just realized; the ad that made the Super Bowl ads special was Apple’s 1984 ad in 1984. This year, I didn’t see a single ad from Apple. Maybe the ads aren’t as important as they were. That may be worth celebrating.

About Tom Trimbath

consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: https://trimbathcreative.wordpress.com/about/ and at my amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0035XVXAA
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