The game is over. Finally, I can sit down and watch one of the two most interesting events from Super Bowl Weekend; the ads. (The second most interesting event to watch is the Puppy Bowl, but I’ll enjoy that some evening when I need a grin. Every year I try to watch the ads. Originally, I did it because I heard about some great stories. Now, I watch the ads for two reasons: 1) to see which goods and products are being pushed and whether they’d influence my investments, and 2) to see the general attitude in the country. Polls and politics may appeal to some who want insights into America, but the billions spent on advertising are equally strong influences. So, I’ve got my cup of tea, a candle is lit, and let’s see what notes and tones are revealed within this year’s ads.
Note: For me, the bar is set high. I remember the Apple Macintosh ad. Is anyone challenging major anachronistic authority figures with disruptive ideas? Or, is this all for fun and profit?
Go to Adblitz on YouTube. Start the countdown of 126 ads.
An hour and a half later. Let’s see what we got.
Advertising is more about feelings than logic, subjective rather than objective. After watching over a hundred ads, I get the feeling that companies are emphasizing diversity, people helping people, a bit more self-reliance, and a great willingness to poke fun at old conventions. There were a few America First! kinds of ads, but a lot less than in previous years. The luxury ads were gone. So much for Maserati. Sex wasn’t used to sell as much as before. There were probably more kids than babes. Indulgences didn’t get as much exposure as healthy eating, healthy activities, and hanging out with family at home rather than with folks at a bar.
They were only one sponsor, but they had lots of ads. Athletes are super heroes, which, if anyone is going to get the label of hero without being a parent or a member of emergency services (which sounds like parenting), then it might as well be “amateur” athletes. There’s an irony that Olympians may represent the country, but their ads are being played during a game only played in America and played by multi-millionaires for teams owned by billionaires. One non-Olympic ad for Hyundai accidentally highlighted the difference for me. A referee becomes the parents’ hero because he ruins a kids’ soccer match so the parents can go home to watch the professionals play.
Budweiser donates water, as does another beer company, Stella Artois. Ram Trucks help deliver the goods. Artistically done, though I understand (and am not surprised) that there’s a controversy using a true hero like Martin Luther King Jr. to sell trucks. Making it less about beer and drinking, or roaring around and driving through puddles. Sometimes, fundamentals are more important than fun.
Do It Yourself With A Bit Of Help
Whether it was building web sites, asking Alexa for help, cooking at home for family and friends, or even getting a loan, take control of your own life. Does that suggest you can’t count on others? Ironically, the Wix ad is about a web site that helps people build web sites easily – that people hire me to do for them on Wix because it isn’t always as easy as they say. Happy to help. Bertolli, PAM, Hunts, Avocados from Mexico, and Sun Basket (which should win for the most and the best and the worst puns) actually mentioned home cooking. Imagine that. Want some indulgence? Try MegaBowls, a name that doesn’t even try to hint at health. And, when all else fails, Reddi-wip everything; which would take a on a different connotation if not careful.
Doing It Yourself (Almost)
Cook, but cook something that’s already prepared and present it as something special. Hey, it can work. Frozen pizzas can be appreciated, as can TV dinners even if they’re called Healthy Choice, Marie Callenders, P. F. Chang, or Kid Cuisine.
Let Someone Else Do It
There were restaurant ads, but not many. Wendy’s trolled McDonald’s. Applebee’s, a sit-down restaurant where the customers do little, emphasized “Wild.” And then, for the least effort, try the ever-present chips brigade. At least Tostitos and Pringles had fun with the ads. Doritos and Mountain Dew did an amazing job combining fire and ice, but nothing that would convince me to consume either. Slim Jims creeped me out, even though I like beef jerky. At least Mucinex was smart enough to schedule their ad for after the over-indulgence, though maybe Pepto-Bismal merely missed an opportunity.
Movies And TV
Sorry folks, I skipped almost all of the ads for entertainment. If I want to watch the show, I don’t want to watch the spoilers. If I don’t want to watch the show, I don’t want to watch the ads. In the glimpses that snuck through, it looks like the world is a terrible place with nasty forces at work, except for Mama Mia.
Ads Making Fun Of Ads
Ads that make fun of ads were fun, but they’re also a sign of the consumers’ awareness of marketing. People know the tricks that are played, the endorsements that are paid for, the implicit message behind the explicit facade. Tide did a good job, maybe even a better one than showing fake stains in a fake laundry room with an actress (usually) faking wonder at Tide’s power.
Ads That Made Too Little Sense
Evidently, to understand many of the ads, I’d have to spend less time living my life and more time watching others on TV. My friends may not believe that I don’t know Steven Tyler and why he should be driving a Kia. Skittle’s series of ads only seemed that they would make sense if I paid attention to the entire ad campaign. The talking sandwich was just weird. H-E-B – Huh? Beats – Sounds like I need more of the back story. Is that the headphone folks? Michelob’s mix of beer and exercise didn’t click. My healthy athletic friends are drinking micro-brews, that have flavor and maybe even some vitamins. (Hey, Guinness isn’t a micro-brew, but the posters say it’s good for you, or at least they did.) Is Optimum a ROKU competitor?
Want fear? They got that. TurboTax used ghosts and monsters. E*Trade made fun of people who hadn’t saved enough for retirement, as if that wasn’t real pain for millions. Credit Karma made fun of epic fails.
Some ads seemed to be made purposely short, as if they know that having an ad, any ad, is more important than its length. M&Ms and Hillshire Farms went for short ads that showed either chocolate, sausage, or bacon. I think they missed an opportunity to mix all three, but that’s just me dreaming of chocolate covered bacon wrapped around a sausage. I don’t want to eat it. I just want to know it exists. Jeeps drive through puddles. Enough said, or shown.
Several ads recognized a new world and new lifestyles. YouTube acknowledged YouTube stars. Jack-in-the-Box wants to start a Twitter war. Wendy’s trolling of McDonalds couldn’t happen with their respective web sites. Metromile recognized drivers who are less likely to have standard Monday through Friday morning and evening commutes. They even used real data. Three decades ago, there were barely computers. Two decades ago, the Internet was getting busy, and kicking off some awesome dotcom ads that many didn’t understand. One decade ago, web sites were prominently displayed. Now, all of that is assumed and only the hashtags are being emphasized. TD Ameritrade recognized the fact that the world doesn’t just invest on east coast time, but only goes to 24/5 instead of 24/7. How long will it take to add the other two days? Sprint’s AI ad was spooky for those who ponder the Digital Singularity, but that’s a longer topic.
Diversity And Individuality
There was some nationalist rah rah in the usual places like truck ads; but the stronger message had two paradoxical components: embrace diversity and be yourself. Squarespace; there’s no one just like you. Coca-Cola is for diversity and a Coke for me. (No thanks. I’ll have water or tea, please.) Pepsi emphasized the appreciation of generations, the fact that no one of got here alone and that others will follow. Toyota is about celebrating diversity, and movement for everyone by overcoming disabilities.
It is that last category that was implicit in so many ads. The choice of characters, settings, situations, and vocabulary left behind the previous mono-culture. Stereotypes are archaic. Enough of them are used to provide a common cultural reference, but even if the diversity was orchestrated and fictional, it reflects the kind of attitude that is becoming prevalent enough to influence almost all of the advertisers. It is witnessing such pervasive influences that encourage me to watch so many ads, but only once a year. Get real. That’s a lot of 30-90 second messages that necessarily over-simplify issues. Advertisers are professionals. Their work is art more than science, and I appreciate the creativity displayed, but they are also effective. This year’s collection impressed me with its optimism that is flavored with a realism of the work that must be done. As the T-Mobile ad said; Change starts now. Are you with us?
(As for who “us” is, well, that just muddies the message.)
PS For fans of MVIS, not only weren’t there ads for anything with MicroVision inside, there were hardly any ads for electronics. Pondering that one.