Super Bowl ads 2014 – the Adboardingpass review! (part 1)

How was the advertising in this year’s Super Bowl?

Just…ok.

Examined ad-by-ad (as we’ve done in the last two years) the average was decent enough, with the customary sparkle of big budgets and/or big celebrities, and a strong sense of cheery, celebratory, largesse. But what ends up defining the year, what leaves a mark…are the height of the peaks, and the depths of the valleys.

Were there truly great ads? (or at least some truly awful disasters?)

Coming off fairly grand achievements of years past like “It’s Halftime in America”, or “Imported from Detroit”, or “Farmer”, or even Bud’s “Eternal Optimism”, this year felt decidedly subdued.

But it wasn’t for lack of trying! There were many ads that had the ambition and the ingredients for greatness. Soaring anthemic themes, grand cinematography, emotional depth, beautiful writing and more: ads such as Chevy “Life”, Microsoft “Empowering”, Chrysler “America’s Import”, Coca-Cola “Going all the way”, Maserati “Strike”, Axe “Make Love not War”, and Jeep “Restless”, among others. And yet…they just didn’t come fully live up to their potential. The leap from script to consumer’s soul didn’t happen. That magic of advertising can giveth, but it also sometimes taketh away, no matter how well you mix the ingredients.

So which were the ads that managed to stand out, even if they didn’t reach the rarified air of the all-time greats? This year we will focus on the top 10, with only one solitary ad (!) earning passage into the hallowed “First Class” status.

But first…because I know we all love to see a good train wreck too…the list of the very worst of Super Bowl 2014. They didn’t make it to first, or business, or coach…these go straight to the Baggage Cargo Hold: (click on name to view the commercial…if you insist.)

1. Toyota Highlander “Muppets”
Muppets are one of those things that most Americans remember as being waaay funnier, interesting and endearing than they actually are. They can live happily in memory-land, but when brought to the stark light of today, it’s a disaster. This ad is almost impossible to get through, a real waste of talent and money. Awful. Baggage Cargo Hold

2. Labbatt Blue “Undomesticated”
Seriously? Who is responsible for this? What does it even mean? Useless, pointless, and worst of all – boring. Baggage Cargo Hold

3. American Family Insurance “Dreams”
The ingredients are there, but it feels oddly flat. Perhaps a requirement for an anthemic ad should be for it to come from a brand that has earned the credibility and gravitas to make one. Baggage Cargo Hold

4. Doritos “Cowboy”
Oh dear. If this is the very best that comes from a consumer-generated effort, then it’s much easier to understand why you should hire an actual ad agency for your next super bowl ad. It looks like it was made by bored middle schoolers on a summer afternoon…simply not ready for prime time. Worthless. Baggage Cargo Hold

5. M&Ms “Delivery”
The “wait, what?” uttered at the end is exactly my reaction, but not in a good way. Storytelling, humor, cinematics, etc – are all there…but really what’s the point? I expect this would test ok in a focus group, but that misses the point. This is a tired campaign running on fumes, and now threatening to turn M&M’s into a tired brand. Shame. Baggage Cargo Hold

Whew. That’s was rough, but it had to be done! And now that we’ve gotten the ugliness out-of-the-way, and without further ado, CLICK HERE for the Adboardingpass top 10 of Superbowl 2014!

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