Super Bowl ads 2014 – the Adboardingpass review! (part 2)



CLICK HERE if you missed part 1

OK…now that we’ve gotten the ugliness out of the way, and without further ado, the Adboardingpass TOP 10 of Superbowl 2014!

1. Duracell “Trust your power”

“But I’ve been deaf since I was 3, so I didn’t listen.” Wow. Fantastic. Extremely touching, a gripping story of the persevering human spirit, made even more powerful because it’s a true story, featuring one of the star players in the Super Bowl! Add to this good (enough) linkage of the brand and great production values, and what you’ve got here is the best ad in this year’s Super Bowl. One that hits all the right notes without faltering. First Class

2. Heinz “If you’re happy and you know it”

Very clever. It’s one of the holy grails in advertising… an ownable and unique ritual featuring the product, which triggers a moment or somehow makes the ad possible (eg: Oreo’s “twist, lick & dunk”.) It’s extremely hard to make this truly work with credibility, but I think they’ve done it here…and this is potentially something that could be extended indefinitely. Add to this a catchy jingle and mildly generic “Americana” imagery, and you’ve created a very branded, very solid Super Bowl ad! Business Class

3. Turbotax “Your day”

Absolutely fantastic. Amazing execution (the way the narrator taunts the name “Sean”, or the way Sean breaks out into his dance moves…) And most of all, driven by a great insight: original, truthful, and illuminating: that this “holiday” is actually not so for most football fans. The ad is further elevated by a credible and central role for the brand in addressing the pain of our protagonist…a compelling case to reach out and get your taxes done with Turbotax. Maybe the most unexpectedly funny ad of the day. Business Class

4. Honda”#hugfest”

I found this one very courageous. Safety is a territory that historically has been owned by others (eg. Volvo), and it would have been easier to accept it…but Honda decided to jump in and stake a claim. And they way they did it: major celebrity, speaking to you as if he were in your living room, asking you to hug someone by you…and then trying to link that to the brand’s feeling for you…wow. That’s ambitious. It’s a fine line, and they could have overplayed their hand…but the humor in the ad is what clinched it for me. Pitch perfect. Business Class

5. Coca-Cola “America the beautiful”

A sweet, loving ad in the come-together mold of the iconic “Hill top” from decades ago. Given the setting (a very American celebration), I thought it was expertly done, affecting, and (crucially) with a strong social point of view. A testament to Coke’s track record is that they’ve become one of the few companies with the cultural gravitas to pull off an ad like this. Business Class

6. Radio Shack “The Phone Call”

For such a tired brand, this one was oddly effective! Mercilessly self-effacing, but banking on the public’s ability to overlook past transgressions as long as there is a strong indication of change. If this is a re-invention for RadioShack, they’re off to a great start. A delightful ad full of 80s references that go by almost faster than you can remember them. I never expected this from them…which proves that ingrained perceptions can really start turning a corner with just a single ad! Business Class

7. U2 “Bank of America in support of RED”

Brilliant. These guys continue to push the envelope. So many things coming together here.: A beautifully shot video with a brand new song from a mass-appeal mega-band. Hard not to be drawn in if you’re a fan (and most people are, on some level.) And then…everything comes together beautifully at the end: an irresistible offer (free music!) for a great cause (even more irresistible) Everybody wins: You, U2, RED, Bank of America…which is truly rare. Much respect to finding a different wrinkle yet again. Business Class

8. TMobile “Breakup”

Excellent. It reminds me of old-school advertising: saying what needs to be said, using an approachable tone, a dash of humor, and then knowing when the hell to get out. Very crisp and void of distractions – letting the impact of the message do the talking. I’d bet this will be extremely effective. Business Class

9. Budweiser “A hero’s welcome”

This one is proof that shameless emotional manipulation, when done very, very well, can still end up working even on the most jaded hearts:) I mean, you fight it, but in the end….it gets to you. The message is right, the images are idyllic, the music is so bittersweet, and the brand is standing respectfully off to the side – always there but not ruining the moment. A balancing act, nicely pulled off by one of the few brands that can attempt a message like this successfully. I loved it. Business Class

10. Cheerios “Gracie”

Funny, true, and ambitious without being crass. A real winner. And a lesson to many of us: clueless marketers think that it’s all about product, and the emotional tension and human aspect is just a necessary diversion. Clueless agencies think it’s all about the drama and storyline, and the product is just a necessary diversion. The answer is somewhere in the middle, and this ad is a perfect example of credible product integration to drive a much bigger emotional story. Really well crafted. Business Class

And there you have it! It wasn’t the best of years, but there were certainly some gems in the mix. What did you think? Which one was your favorite? Which of your favorites did I leave out? Let me know in the comments area below. Until next year!


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


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


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!

Super Bowl ads 2013 – the Adboardingpass review! (part 3 of 3)


CaptureEvery one of the ads. If it was awesome, it’s here. If it sucked, it’s also here.

Click here for part 1 and here for part 2

We’ve come to part 3. Our hope is that some ads will reach the greatness levels of last year, because so far…we have fallen well short.

35. Gildan T Shirts – Getaway

I liked this one. It made me smile, it was visually interesting, it had a good buildup to the joke, and the t-shirt was the catalyst of the action, and the key prop in the punchline. Nicely done. Alas the key flaw here was branding, which came in too late and too weakly. In fairness I don’t know how they could have gotten it in early in a way that was credible, but it’s a problem. Imagine this ad from Fruit of the Loom and it would be a great Super Bowl ad. But since this ad comes from…what was the name again?? Exactly. – Coach Class Cabin

36. Wonderful Pistachios – PSY Get Crackin’

Uff. You see, when you try to ride the wave of pop-culture, timing is everything. Release this ad 4 months ago on some big-stage viewing event, and you’re the genius. Today…it’s starting to feel very tired, very sell-out. Yes, it’s entertaining, yes it’s pretty cool to see PSY humping the pistachio with wild abandon, yes it makes you smile. It’s tongue-in-cheek, unabashedly so, and that has its charm. Not enough to make it great, probably enough to make it ok in this context. I’m upgrading with much skepticism based on assured recall, but more than anything I do it because it looks like we’re over-booked on Coach. – Business Class Cabin

37. Lincoln – Once Upon a Tweet

No. I tell you what does work here – the car looks pretty cool. That actually means a lot, and catches my interest. The rest? Garbage. A whole ad made about some tweets, with the hope that you’ll go check out the back-story. It’s nonsense. Marketing people and agencies talking to each other in a circular hell of social media clichés. They and maybe their family members will be the only ones that will wish to “continue this conversation”, which is so completely uninteresting to real consumers, and completely unconnected to the product (this could have been done for literally any product). Really, really bad. And it’s a shame, because they have a cool looking car – Baggage Cargo Hold

38. Speedstick – Unattended Laundry

This ad is a monument to predictability, a love song to cliché, and a celebration of happy mediocrity. Really nothing there. I get it, the product benefit and all, but the mundane scenario and dialogue are just too much to overcome. And by the way, after underwhelming me so much with your non-entertainment, don’t even ask me for a tweet. Not going to happen. – Coach Class Cabin

39. Beck’s Sapphire – No Diggity

Context matters, and after so many bad ads in a row, I kind of like this one quite a bit! I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but the components were there. Cool looking bottle, respectable brand for a premium message, funky mood, funky tune, crazy fish…Call me crazy, but it was ok. Not Super Bowl topping ok, not I-will-remember-this-brand ok, but a decent enough 30 seconds. – Coach Class Cabin

40. RAM Trucks – Farmer

Ok, then, finally! This is a “statement” ad. They took a risk of going overboard (but they took the risk!), and with much more grace and distinctiveness than the Jeep ad, I think they nailed it, and delivered a beautiful, lasting statement that could really help re-define this brand if they choose to pursue it. Beautifully written, did you notice the cadence, the ebbs and flows of the words? During portions I didn’t even understand what was being said, as it was too fast and I’m not familiar with the terminology – but it didn’t matter. Beautifully shot. Solemn yet hopeful. Nostalgic yet forward-looking. Targeted yet universal (this is for the farmer in all of us). An ad with a point of view. An ad beautifully crafted. An ad that touches the emotions. And you know what – it wasn’t branded until the very end but it still works for Dodge, because the link is very credible and easy to accept, and also people repay their enjoyment by acknowledging the maker. Really, really good. Hats off. – First Class Cabin

41. KIA – Space Babies

It’s interesting that this follows the RAM truck ad. Here we’ve got a really interesting story, told in a pretty fantastic manner. The Babylandia segment is both interesting, somewhat funny, cute, and really well produced – it’s like a Hollywood movie. But alas, they don’t land the plane and link it to KIA! I know they tried it (by having the voice activated radio play the song on command..) but nobody is going to notice that after having such a vivid image in their head a few seconds ago. And because there is no credible link between the story of Babylandia and KIA, none is registered, and no one will remember who this ad was for – while they’ll remember the baby piglets just fine. They had a strong hand and played it really badly. – Coach Class Cabin

42. Tide – Miracle Stain

A mixed-bag effort here (successfully jumping over a hurdle, failing at another and not even attempting yet a third )that I nonetheless enjoyed. And enjoyment is that key and initial hurdle. Without it people won’t notice you, won’t remember you, and your ad will pass like a ship in the night. I thought the miracle Montana stain idea was kooky, yet also somewhat believable and definitely relevant. It worked for me, and I enjoyed how they drew it out into an over-the-top narrative. Alas I think they failed to connect it enough to Tide – the connective “joke” was too small for the buildup that preceded it, and it just didn’t stick. Thus, it’s probably best they didn’t even attempt to touch you emotionally, because it’s likely they would have failed. Could have been more, but it was a nice, solid effort. – Business Class Cabin

43. Sodastream – Effect

One must give credit here because this is a brand that seemingly out of nowhere arrives at the big advertising stage and tries to make a big statement with a well-produced ad and a decent enough idea behind it in “if you love the bubbles, set them free”. And yet, I fear they just don’t nail the landing. It’s interesting to watch, especially the part about the exploding bottles. But it’s difficult to connect the dots fully in your head – how do you liberate the bubbles if indeed what you are doing is making carbonated drinks at home? Isn’t it just a different way to do the same thing? And, as ingrained as Coke and co. are in our lives, do we really think their product is so easy to “manufacture” by alternative means? And…why should I bother? You get my drift. There’s something there, and it could even be revolutionary – but when it takes a 20 slide Powerpoint to sell you on it, it’s not simple enough. I’d say these guys had a solid 30 seconds, did an honest best, but didn’t surpass the extremely high benchmark they set for themselves. – Coach Class Cabin

44. Mercedes-Benz – Soul

Ah, yes. I love this ad. Exquisitely produced, and oozing opulence (superb casting, epic soundtrack…nothing came cheap, all of it worthwhile). But in the end, it only truly works because a)there’s a great product truth (value for money) conveyed through a clever twist, b)there’s a great looking product front and center throughout, and c)the story is entertaining to watch, once you start you can’t take your eyes off the screen. The money is justified by the idea…the idea is amplified with the money. That’s how you make a good Superbowl ad. A well deserved selection as our Ad of the Day back on February 1. – First Class Cabin.

45. Samsung – The Next Big Thing

This ad is almost cheating. I mean, you some of the top comedic film talent of today (plus a LeBron cameo!), and you just tell them to have fun and improvise. Probably shot hours of film and then edited it down to a long-form ad. If you had described this to me I would have predicted a disaster, or at best a funny 2 minutes with no benefit to the product itself. And I would have been wrong. Against big odds I think they just crushed it. Funny, engaging, and with the product and brand credibly woven into the narrative. It’s the kind of extravagant, over-the-top concept comes to life with money is no object (Samsung smells blood in the water and they want to redouble their efforts vs Apple), and talented creative people are allowed to do their thing while everyone else gets out of the way. It’s really quite simple to describe, but so hard to pull off: Something to catch your attention (celebrities), an interesting story (their passive-aggressive dialogue), and the product credibly integrated in a manner that is important to the story. Loved this, my hats off for the courage involved in bringing pulling it off successfully. – First Class Cabin

46. Pepsi Next – Party

Poor Pepsi. They’re that guy that tries so damn hard. You want them to do well, to reward the effort. But in the end, it’s just…ok. Take this ad for example. The idea (parents returning early during a party) has been done to death, but they try to execute it well, and even aim high with some nice touches (the guy pouring the gallon of milk over his head is out-there enough to be funny, as is the random “baaa” of a sheep when the music dies out). But it’s hard for this idea to escape the gravitational pull of a brand, and a product (60% less? is that supposed to be a lot when Coke promises the same benefit with 0 calories?) that is just…not…ready to win the big game. Nice enough, that’s about it. – Coach Class Cabin

And there you have it folks – All 46 ads, not counting movie trailers. Looks they saved the good stuff for the end of the game, I wonder if it was on purpose? Check back tomorrow for closing thoughts and our top 5!

Super Bowl ads 2013 – the Adboardingpass review! (part 2 of 3)

super_bowl_2013 lrEvery one of the ads. If it was awesome, it’s here. If it sucked, it’s also here.

If you missed part 1, click here

What will part 2 have in store? Hopefully some better ads, the Baggage Cargo hold is getting crowded, while there is plenty of room in First Class…

21. Subway – A Story 15 Years in the Making

This ad is about a celebration, but somehow there’s something here that’s oddly…a little sad. Perhaps it’s the mental image of this poor guy Jared as some sort of human guinea-pig in a 15-year experiment, forced to eat low-fat Subway sandwiches every day to see if he can become a “claim” in a TV campaign.  It’s all a little off-putting. Don’t tell me the lone quick shot of him blowing out some candles doesn’t seem mildly pathetic, like they took him out of his cage briefly to blow a candle placed on top of a…6 inch ham, lettuce and tomato, no mayo or mustard please. There has to be more to life than that. And, sorry but I think even fast food lovers quake at the thought at eating at the same joint for 15 years. Wrong strategy Subway, that’s why the rest of the ad (celebrities, movie trailer-like setup) is completely forgettable. – Baggage Cargo Hold

22. Budweiser – Brotherhood

Bud has been running these Clydesdale ads for forever, and it has been about that long since they were any good. So I was all set to go to hate on this ad! But, despite my best efforts, it kind of got to me. The clearest lesson here is the importance of music. At times it’s almost as easy as cheating. I’ve heard it said that it can be 80% of the effect, and that applies here. You could put a monster truck highlight reel to the tune of Stevie Nicks singing “Changes”, and I would find it emotional. So there’s that. But I give them full credit. The story was cheesy, but heartwarming. The strong hook (music), the storytelling, the branding (Clydesdale), the emotional touch (the reunion)…it makes for a solid one-time effort, suitable for this big stage Super Bowl screening. The only thing I found truly lame is the gratuitous social media nonsense shoe-horned into the end. Way to bring down the emotion and turn things really pedestrian, guys! (sigh). – Business Class Cabin

23. Taco Bell – Viva Young

It’s a little weird to see grannie doing all of these things, and the mind remembers it even worse than what was shown (were they doing lines of coke at one point or am I just remembering it that way?) But, this ad will be both noticed and remembered, and that’s a critical breakthrough on this big stage. And despite the shock factor of octogenarian tattoos, do you know what the true touch of genius in this ad is? The music. Having Fun perform “We are Young” is not just cool, it’s genius. It’s what elevates this ad two notches right from second 3. Kudos to those who tinker, and are not satisfied with a smash hit that fits just right, kudos to those who figure it should be sung (in a so-bad-it’s-brilliant performance) by the same band. That’s creativity. Alas, buried away deep somewhere among all this madness is Taco Bell and the food.  This brand hasn’t earned the right to make a “manifesto” film with barely a mention of product…so this is a demerit – but nonetheless a distinguished effort. – Business Class Cabin

24. Sketchers – Man vs Cheetah

Meh. Not bad, but not great, which means it’s entirely forgettable unless you happen to love nature documentaries about cheetahs. This is an idea that doesn’t feel fresh, I don’t know for sure but it feels like something that would have been done before 100 times. The special effects are pretty pedestrian, and the humor is not consistent. On the plus side, you have a credible product benefit showcased in an interesting manner. Not bad. But overall, this one will pass like a ship in the night, even more so than the bad ads that people will talk about for being so terrible. – Coach Class Cabin

25. Lincoln – Phoenix

The car category is really tough, especially if you want to make an ad about an actual car (and not some grander statement like Chrysler did last year, for example). So I have mucho respect for those who toil away at this under such tough odds. Basically, you either have a cool looking car, or you (most often) don’t. If you don’t, you can either make the windy road ad and be forgotten instantly, or do something really creative and take a gamble. Either way, tough gig. Now, if you have a cool-looking car, you can do whatever you want. Worst case scenario you’ll be mildly interesting, best case scenario you’ll awaken desire. Here Lincoln has a car that looks pretty decent, so I expect people took note for about 30 seconds. The jazz drummer and all the rest was background noise, but that big sun roof? That was pretty cool. Either way, halfway through the following commercial you will have forgotten about this one. – Coach Class Cabin

26. Jeep – Whole Again

Wow. For starters I’ll say that in these big “cultural manifesto” type ads, timing is key. Last year the Chrysler ad blew everyone away (myself included) because the US was in the midst of a painful-yet-hopeful sense of having hit rock bottom. It was a message superbly calibrated to its time. This year, GM goes back to that same patriotic/emotional well, but I feel the country moved on. Things have continued to slowly improve, there is a little more optimism, a little more room for a lighter message. And…yet…goddammit this ad broke me. I tried to resist the overt and flagrant attempt to manipulate my emotions! They threw the kitchen sink at me: the concentrated Americana imagery, the emotive Oprah narration, the soaring Hans-Zimmer styled score, the always-powerful “family-reunion-after-long-separation” theme, the naked patriotism, etc. Everything but puppies. And…in the end…they got me! First 30 seconds I was in full hipster-cynic mode. By second 60 my defenses were down. By 1:20 I felt a lump. By 1:40 I felt a tear. No expense was spared here, and it worked…I guess. Attention-grabbing, statement-making, tastefully-branded, emotionally-filled. So there’s that. Powerful, and ultimately somewhat effective…but I do feel quite used and manhandled by this ad, to be honest. (and I predict the non-US readers at Adboardingpass will kind of hate this ad). – Business Class Cabin

27. Century 21 – Wedding

I had to watch this twice because I couldn’t believe how awful this ad was, how utterly void of any redeeming quality it is. I’m not going to waste too many words on this one, because there’s nothing to say. But I am genuinely mystified about how an ad this bad gets made, especially for such a big showcase. I mean, I work in advertising, I understand the process, and I fail to see how something this bad can make it from start to finish. I’ve seen so many great ideas fall along the way, which consumers will never see. Yet this sophomoric mediocrity is a Super Bowl ad? I can’t believe a proper agency and marketing team were involved, I’ve got to assume that Century 21 is owned by a reclusive and eccentric billionaire that wrote and directed this on their own.Baggage Cargo Hold

28. Blackberry 10 – Can’t Do

Ummm, no, wrong. If you think about it a bit, sure, it makes sense. But in the fast flow of the commercial break, this is a comprehension mess. The whole time you’re trying to figure out how the action matches up with a feature of the phone…so it’s a wasted opportunity to figure out at the end that none of this has anything to do with the phone. Poor strategy, poor creative idea, decent enough execution, semi-decent visual entertainment of no lasting benefit to the brand that sponsored it. It all amounts to a completely mediocre (and thus forgettable) mess. – Coach Class Cabin

29. E-Trade – Save it

Wow. This campaign idea was once cute, different and interesting. That time has long, long since passed. What a mess this is. Atrocious (10th-grader-on-a-Mac) execution, a muddled message, painfully unfunny story. A mess. I haven’t read the reviews, but if this ends up being a popular ad, it will speak poorly for the American viewing public. – Baggage Cargo Hold

30. Subway – FebruANY

See, advertising doesn’t have to be a technically sophisticated thing. This is a completely lame ad that ends up actually working, despite itself. The spontaneous blooper-style clips humanize the celebrities and make them relatable. And the concept of Februany is kind of ridiculous, but the tongue-twister IS the joke here, and it relates well to the product and the offer. Not Super Bowl caliber in terms of ambition (this could run any week, any day, any time), but an honest effort, at least. – Coach Class Cabin

31. Bud Light – Lucky Chair

I hated the previous ad in this series (No. 15). This one is a bit of a jumbled mess, but it had enough elements to make it a passable experience. Why jumbled? Stevie Wonder appearing at the end seemed to come out of nowhere, and the whole lucky-chair-actually-cursed thing forced you to retroactively remember the whole commercial. Way too complicated for a Bud Light ad. Here’s where I thought they were going: a humorous, beautifully shot narrative about the extent guys will go to take their lucky chair with them to a game. Warm, real, relatable, simple. That would have been enough, and then it got all crazy with Stevie, the hot girl, voodoo, etc (this is one case where they would have been better served by having 1/5 the budget. Their need to make this “big” made them lose focus).  – Coach Class Cabin

32. Axe Apollo – Bodyguard

This ad wants to be great: great brand strategy, funny premise, sexy shots, tongue-in-cheek, surprise twist, etc. So let me tell you why it doesn’t work: it has such an aching desire to be “social”, to be bigger than just an ad, to “continue the conversation”…that in the end it doesn’t seal the narrative deal. It doesn’t really deliver the joke! And that is a crime. Memo to the industry, it’s ok to save the last 5% of an ad to lead elsewhere, as long as we’re happy by the ad and the next place sounds interesting. But if you reserve the last 30%, leave us completely hanging, and expect us to go find the closer elsewhere…it’s too much. Nobody cares enough to go to the web and read up on your super clever Astronaut scheme, even if you’re Axe. We wanted to see the hot girl do something with the guy on the beach, forget your astronaut! Wasted potential. Sigh.Coach Class Cabin

33. MiO Fit – Change

I’m starting to despair. This ad is entirely mediocre, relying almost exclusively on your love (or not) for Tracy Morgan and his style of rambling. I happen to like it, but much like the Best Buy ad with Amy Poehler (No. 7) it is 95% Tracy Morgan, not-enough-percent product. The linkage comes too late, and without a compelling, persuasive reason (Sports drinks are too boring? Says who? Since when? If that’s your whole strategy, oh boy…). I enjoyed your Tracy so thank you for the entertainment. Because of it, I’m going to be a bit generous and give you an upgrade, because as an ad for an actual product, this is a fail.Coach Class Cabin

34. Kia Forte – Hotbots

An ad with nice enough execution can keep your attention. Here the set design, the crisp sci-fi lighting, and the hotbot are all first-rate, and make you lean forward. Sadly there was no real idea behind it, no story, the ad wasn’t sufficiently branded, it didn’t touch you in any meaningful way (it wasn’t even funny) it was just…ok. Empty calories, basically. Made for an amusing 30 seconds or so, a good background as you dipped into the salsa and grabbed another beer. But will you remember that it was for Kia Forte, or even for Kia? No you won’t. Maybe you’ll remember that it was for a blue car. Not enough. As I said earlier, those in the automotive industry have it real hard when it comes to advertisingCoach Class Cabin


Click here for part 3!

Super Bowl ads 2013 – the Adboardingpass review! (part 1 of 3)


Every one of the ads. If it was awesome, it’s here. If it sucked, it’s also here.

We’re back for year two of our Super Bowl review! No anemic top 5 list here, we’re looking at all of them, in the order they appeared. See for yourself what all the fuss was about! The review will come out in 3 parts, be sure to check out part 3 for a wrap-up including the Adboardingpass favorites.

Ground rules for our review:

    1. I did not watch any of them live, and I have not seen any of them until right now. I will only view them once, as it would be in the game. I have also not read any of the reviews or “top 5 lists” articles from around the web. So the opinions are completely fresh and spontaneous.
    2. We’re looking at ALL of them, in the order in which they appeared during the game. We celebrate the good ones…and we heap a little bit of disdain on the bad ones! (exception: I’m not going to include movie trailers, it’s a whole different genre of advertising)
    3. The criteria used is mostly based on my “crapy…good…or sublime advertising” post.
    4. As a rating, we will be assigning the following types of boarding passes, from best to worst: First Class Cabin, Business Class Cabin, Coach Class Cabin, Baggage Cargo Hold.

1. Budweiser Black Crown – Coronation

Baggage Cargo Hold – Wtf? Weak opener, Bud! I swear I thought this was some kind of SNL skit (Sprockets, anyone?), everyone dressed in black and trying so painfully hard to seem uber-cool. And the product at the center of it all (including the label) is just so uninspired, which doesn’t help. (this is Budweiser, people – don’t try to be so premium). Anyway, I could have left with just a minor distaste…but then came that toast at the end. Seriously? When people think your ultra-cool ad for your ultra-hip beer is a…comedy sketch – not good.

2. M&M’s – Love Ballad

Coach Class Cabin – Meh. I find this campaign so tired, so uninspiring, so unappetizing, so overly-reliant on a good comedic hook…that I was ready to hate this ad. (the lack of appetite appeal/persuasion is a real killer!) But I’ve got to admit the comedic hook made me smile, and the song was great because it built anticipation. Nice entertainment, but not much more than that.

3. Audi: Prom

Coach Class Cabin – I liked it, it  told an interesting story, and it was beautifully shot (loved the reaction shot on the girl after being kissed). But I don’t think the message “Bravery. It’s what defines us” fully closes the loop in my brain. What exactly does bravery have to do with cars? Bravery in design? Bravery in technology? Bravery in driving 100 miles an hour after a party when you’re 16 years old and just kissed a girl and got your ass kicked? It almost makes sense…but not really.

4. Hyundai: Team

Coach Class Cabin – Ah, music. Such a critical, powerful tool (and all-too-often ignored). This ad had me from second 5 when the Quiet Riot song came on (yes, I’m old enough to know that it was Quiet Riot!). Marry this with some really funny vignettes and you get the sense that we’re really building towards some great, climactic finale. Pity then when it totally fizzles away into nothing. Can you tell me what this had to do with the car? (hint: they do say it, but it’s waaay too subtle, I had to watch it twice.) Can you tell me what car it was for? I didn’t think so. A shame then, all that interest piqued for nothing. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t mean anything for Hyundai. Which I suppose was their intent.

5. – Perfect Match

Business Class Cabin – Wow! I’m kind of stunned, because I actually love this ad! I was prepared to hate it, given Godaddy’s customary, sleazy mediocrity. But…from a technical standpoint this ad was really good. Totally grabs your attention (Bar Rafaeli? Hello!) and delivers the advertising cliche of “the best of both worlds” in a manner that is strikingly clear, and oddly mesmerizing. Gratuitous, yes. Slightly off-putting, ok. But also mind-searing, ballsy in its ambition, sufficiently branded (through use of Danica Patrick), and very clear in its message. Honestly, not bad. Best one so far. Crazy times.

6. Doritos – Goat Sale

Baggage Cargo Hold – I don’t get this at all. I don’t mean that I don’t get the ad…I just don’t get why they would make this and put it on during the Super Bowl. It’s funny in a quirky way, yes. And it has some humorous peaks (the “aieee” upon discovering the empty cupboard). But, really? It seems like something the high school advertising club would come up with, no better. No idea, beyond the idea – no real branding (even though the bags are everywhere), no message, no…nothing. I don’t know. For all the consumption that happened on-screen, this one left me strangely empty. Missed opportunity.

7. Best Buy: Asking Amy

Coach Class Cabin – Who doesn’t love Amy Poehler these days? She’s fantastic, and this ad is 99% her and her zany charisma. Such a shame that there’s only 1% left for Best Buy, then. It’s a bit of a desperate move, and sadly it’s much too common when celebrities are featured. Like the drowning castaway, you latch yourself on to someone else’s appeal and hope to ride out the storm. But in this case it’s much too late. What can you say about Best Buy after viewing this? That it still exists, that it has things, the color blue, helpful people…that’s about it. Not enough! Best Buy needs more from an ad than this, and they weren’t able to get it. Thank you for the Amy mini-comedy clip, though, I enjoyed it.

8. Budweiser Black Crown – Celebration

Baggage Cargo Hold – When you have the privilege of multiple buys in the Super Bowl you get a cumulative, building effect, which can be great. The problem of course if that if your first ad is a clunker (see no.1) then you’re already starting the second with 1 strike against you. And the second one didn’t disappoint. What a bunch of garbage: faked hipster “fun” is so painful to watch and this is no exception. And that guy that says “our kind of beer” at the end once again takes this into SNL parody territory. Really? Is this really your kind of beer? A whole warehouse of uber-cool, multi-racial, urban twenty/thirty somethings, all rocking it out table-top-style to some premium Budweiser? Sorry, but no. People like the ones in this ad haven’t touched a Bud in years. You know it. They know it.

9. Coca-Cola – Security Cameras

Business Class Cabin – This one is not new at all, it was a winner from Argentina at Cannes last year (where it got a strong round of applause when screened in front of hundreds of jaded creatives, so that says a lot). But  most people in the US will not have seen it, so good move by Coke to play it, as I think it’s a borderline classic. Inspiring message,  superb execution (and simply sublime song choice! by the time Roger Hudson sings “see the man with the lonely eyes” I’ve got goosebumps), aptly branded, with emotional impact and a praiseworthy point of view…just a great “manifesto” ad. “First Class Cabin” for sure for any first-time viewers. I did not give it the upgrade only because I had seen it many times before.

10. Oreo – Whisper Fight

Business Class Cabin – A fresh, delightfully quirky take on a brand whose TV advertising is normally quite safe. Not only different and entertaining, but with the product at the very core (a staple of Oreo advertising). I selected it as the Adboardingpass Ad of the Day for February 5, because I think it’s an example of raising the stakes and continuous tinkering that leads to breakthrough ideas. Click on the link for wild speculation on what the creative process for this may have looked like.

11. Toyota RAV4 – Wish Granted

Coach Class Cabin – Thoroughly lean-forward-in-your-seat enjoyable. Funny and imaginative. Yet, much like the Hyundai ad (No.4), it felt unconnected to the car in any meaningful way. What car was it for? And what is special about it? In the Super Bowl, being entertaining gets you far, farther than many actually. But it’s just not enough – you’ve got to persuade me at least a little bit, you’ve got to sell to me, whether it be rationally or emotionally. This ad was a decent attempt, but ultimately a misfire: my one wish would have been a little persuasion thrown into the mix.

12. Doritos – Fashionista Daddy

Baggage Cargo Hold – Like the Bud ads, this one is building on awful…and it did not disappoint the second time around. Amateurish, predictable, poorly executed, poor link to the product…I mean, seriously. I have to check and see if these were user submitted because they look like they were made by stoned college kids, but even if they were, someone had to approve their airing – I don’t get it. When there is nothing left, all that is left is the joke. The first joke (dad) is stupid, the second joke (friends) is stupid, the third joke (wedding dress) is mildly amusing. Not nearly enough.

13. Calvin Klein – Concept

Coach Class Cabin – Calvin Klein has been doing basically the same ad since the 90s: black-and-white, sculpted bodies, sharp angles, etc. And you know what? It worked back then and it still works now, so kudos to them for realizing that “what ain’t broke don’t need fixin'”. I liked this more than the David Beckham ad for H&M last year, because this one sells what it sells (underwear, sex, brand, aesthetics, youth) and does it reasonably well. The H&M ad managed to sell…David Beckham.

14. – Wolf

Coach Class Cabin – Nice. Nothing too fancy…a core product benefit (no-drama sales) wrapped around a joke. Well-executed, it makes you chuckle, register the point, and then you move on. In baseball terms this would be a solid hit to get on base. Nothing too dramatic, no swinging for the fences, and no strike-outs either. Just minding the basics. This is an ad that you just know was focus-group researched to death. Lacking in ambition, but no brand manager or agency will get fired over this. etc. It stands out thanks to the general mediocrity of the other ads so far.

15. Bud Light – Journey

Baggage Cargo Hold – I’m a little stunned by how bad the Budweiser ads have been so far, considering they were some of my favorites last year. It’s hard for me to not get too snarky here, but when I see probably 1 million dollars in production and many more in media spent on…nothing…well it’s just kind of a downer. What is the story? What is the point?Journey to what? What does Bud Light have to do with this? And…Stevie Wonder, seriously? He stopped being cool in the early 80s, which is a really long time ago – who is Bud Light trying to appeal to here, exactly? I’m genuinely mystified at how ads like these don’t get killed along the way, when so many good ideas do.

16. –

Business Class Cabin – Love it! A fresh, creative idea, with the product offering/promise right at the core of the action, and a delightful execution full of those little touches that make the funny into funnier: from the accents, to the over-the-top set design, to the zany dialogue at the end. Just great. For those not familiar with Godaddy, they’ve been making some pretty awful Super Bowl ads in the past years, so it’s a shock to the system to see such a solid effort, not to mention two in a row. It fills one with hope – the very next ad you do could be “the one”!

17. Milk PEP – Morning Run

Baggage Cargo Hold – Not to get too highbrow, but a line from Shakespeare popped into my head as this ad concluded: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player…That struts and frets his hour upon the stage…And then is heard no more: it is a tale…Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,…Signifying nothing. I’m all for mindless entertainment, especially during the Super Bowl. But I also feel like when you throw so many millions at it (celebrity, CGI, 1 min duration, soundtrack, media, etc.), there’s got to be a little more than that. After this ad has passed, what remains for Milk PEP is…nothing.

18. Hyundai Sonata – Stuck

Business Class Cabin – Fab. The Adboardingpass Ad of the Day for Feb 4, before we knew it was going to be in the Super Bowl. A lovely and entertaining display of creativity that succeeds on all the right fronts: first and foremost by standing out from all the automotive clichés through the use of humor. The product benefit (acceleration) is then illustrated in a way that is completely clear and easy to relate to: no RPM counts and performance demos here…just the everyday unhappy feeling of being stuck behind something. It all ads up to an ad that has a good chance to be remembered, to inform, and to persuade. Easier said than done, believe me!

19. VW – Get Happy

Coach Class Cabin – Get happy? Umm no. I’m not happy about this ad. VW has a superb pedigree in the last years when it comes to advertising, including the “big Super Bowl ad”. But last year, and this one, I think they just missed the mark. Kudos for the courage to throw an “attention grenade” with the whole white-guy-talking-Jamaican thing, but alas I’d guess 50% were offended, 30% felt somewhat strange about it for the first 30 seconds, and 20% liked it and went with it. Not good enough payoff for the attention you generate. Congrats on the  lovely red happy car, but alas I think it arrives too late into the proceedings. Congrats on the catchy and pop-culture infused song, but alas it also was too little, too late. As you can see, I give them credit, and give them the benefit of the doubt. But it wasn’t their best effort, not anywhere close to it. Too bad, because they’ve led us to expect more.

20. Coca-Cola: Chase

Baggage Cargo Hold – Oh boy. [shakes his head slowly] I have to honestly say that I didn’t much care for this ad (full disclosure: I wasn’t involved with this nor know anyone that was – but I do work on Coca-Cola company brands). There are a few brands and agencies (eg: Coca-Cola, VW, W+K, Ogilvy, BBH, Fred&Farid) that have earned a benefit of the doubt with me. As such, I guess we should wait and see how this adventure turns out, since this minute long ad is clearly just a set-up for a conclusion dictated via social media. But it’s going to have to be something epic to make up for a “wasted” minute. Looks very cinematic…but boy is it boring, despite their best efforts with the glitter cannon(!) And the social media “you vote and decide the end” would be so interesting and breakthrough…if it were 2008. I want to like it as a consumer, especially after the grand “Security Cam” ad (No.9). But they’re not making it easy for me.

**We’ve come to the end of part 1. Kind of odd, with Bestdaddy standing out in a good way, Budweiser sinking, and no First Class boarding passes being issued.**

Click here for part 2 of 3!

Superbowl ads 2012 – the full Adboardingpass review – and overall thoughts (part 3 of 3)


Every one of the ads. If it was awesome, it’s here. If it sucked, it’s also here.

If you missed part 1, click here

For part 2, click here

Scroll to the bottom for the Adboardingpass 2012 TOP 5, as well as our closing thoughts. 

A reminder of the ground rules for this review:

    1. I did not watch any of them live, and I have not seen any of them until right now. I will only view them once, as it would be in the game. I have also not read any of the reviews or “top 5 lists” articles from around the web. So the opinions are completely fresh and spontaneous. Kind of like a consumer at home:)
    2. We’re looking at ALL of them. If you make a good one it can be a career maker, and we should celebrate it. But if you make a bad one, we shouldn’t sweep it under the rug – let’s learn from it. (exception: I’m not going to include movie trailers or TV promos, as that’s a different ballgame altogether)
    3. The criteria used is based on my “crapy…good…or sublime advertising” post.
    4. As a rating, we will be assigning the following types of boarding passes, from best to worst: First Class Cabin, Business Class Cabin, Coach Class Cabin, Baggage Cargo Hold.

39. Budweiser – Eternal optimism

First Class Cabin – Fan-fucking-tastic. This is high stakes, high concept, high production values, high entertainment, high relevance advertising for the target audience. In the previous spot Bud staked its rightful claim as part of the fabric of American history. In this one, they leverage that to the hilt, within a message of optimism, happy nostalgia, and easygoing patriotism. Not every brand can get away with this, but for those that can, it’s a crime when they don’t even try. Compare this to the iconic-yet-retarded horse ads they’ve been laying on us all these years. This, I think, is virtuoso advertising given the high stakes environment of the Superbowl. It even makes me want to go and have Bud, dammit, which I haven’t done for a while! This is how it should be done. Hats off to Bud and Anomaly. Man I love it when the work is so good!

40. Honda – Matthew’s Day Off

First Class Cabin – If “Bueller?…Bueller?…Bueller?” means anything to you, you will love this ad. If it doesn’t, you will find it mildly amusing, but not really get what all the fuss is about. I’m in the former camp, so I enjoyed every second of this ad, savoring it for all the little movie references scattered within. It felt modern and it showed off the car nicely enough…but at the same time it was like a warm, cuddly nostalgia trip that left a smile on my face. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it’s the type of ad that will get passed around and talked about. Unlike the Seinfeld ad which was a collection of silly meaningless gags, I think this one rang an emotional note…it resonated for those in the 35+ age bracket. Was the emotion connected to the car? Not really – but sometimes when you create a good enough vibe, the product benefits by osmosis, so I think Honda got their money’s worth. I leave this ad with good feelings for Honda, and with a desire to find a time machine so I can go back to being  15…

41. Bridgestone – Performance Basketball

Coach Class Cabin – This one was not memorable enough to fly business class, but it was MUCH better than the first in the series (#10). Why? For starters because this was the second ad, so there was some familiarity and lots less confusion as to what this product was about. But primarily, because I think they delivered the product benefit quite clearly, and in an interesting manner. From the moment that Tim Duncan bounces the “quiet” ball, you just get it. The touch with Steve Nash and the baby was a nice bonus. Despite all the distractions (and there were many), the benefit came across, and it was a benefit that was compelling. Quite simple, yet so hard.

42. Met Life – Everyone

Coach Class Cabin – There was a lot going on here (talk about a trip down memory lane…thank you Hanna & Barbera!), but even so, I liked this ad for its interesting simplicity. Crisp and appealing visually, the narrated copy was very simple and said just enough for this type of broad stage. I’m not sure it breaks through the Superbowl clutter, but I think it’s a solid effort which I enjoyed.

43. Hyunday – Think fast

Coach Class Cabin – At this stage of the game, when you’ve seen so many ads, things start getting compared on an overall scale. This is an ad that has solid roots: It has a funny gag tied directly to the product benefit. But it just doesn’t feel big enough, does it? You might enjoy this during a break from American Idol, but on this stage I feel you have to aim a little higher. Solid but unimpressive. And unimpressive means forgettable.

44. Bud light – Rescue dog

Coach Class Cabin – Hmmm…I don’t know. Call me harsh, but this would have been a better ad in 30 seconds rather than in 60. It started well – the black guy’s reaction to getting the beer in second 21 is great…but then it just kind of went nowhere, like a joke that keeps going past its expiration date and just gets less funny, until it whimpers away to a lonely end. And call me harsh, but the blatant attempt to buy appeal through the use of pets is a little desperate, isn’t it? I don’t know, compared to the Bud Light Platinum and the Budweiser ads, this one felt pretty pedestrian. Although I admit that it would be cool to have a dog that did that:)

45. Kia Optima – A dream car, for real life

First Class Cabin – Excellent. Interesting premise from the start…but when the fairy trips and dumps the heap of magic dust, it unexpectedly goes to a new level. Motley Crue, Adriana Lima (properly used this time), the fans, the music, the desperation of the fairy…it’s all just a great parody of the male dreamscape, on steroids (actually, is it a parody?). And what’s best is that the car has a real role here – it’s photographed nicely and with ample time, and the roar of the engine and going around the track fits in perfectly as part of that perfect dream. And the ending ties it up nicely, making it appealing for everyone. This one pleasantly surprised me – it’s an example of “throwing everything at it” creative that actually works, because the core idea was strong enough, and enabled by the product to boot. Well done.

46. – Chimps

Coach Class Cabin – I’m split on this one. god help me but I can’t resist the chimps, they’re just…funny! It seems like a cop-out to use animals like this, but I’m going to allow it. A smile on my face the entire time, that’s why. So the entertainment factor is definitely there, it’s almost more of a short skit than a commercial. And for the Superbowl, you could definitely do worse than that (and many have). Is there a good brand linkage? So-so. And it’s so farcical that it’s only mildly persuasive. Campaignable? I guess. Emotional? No. So there you have it, it’s good enough for the Superbowl, for sure, but will it be forgotten by the next commercial break? (if I told you right now that the ad was for, would you believe me? Case closed).

47. Samsung Tab – Thing Called Love

Coach Class Cabin – In a previous post I had brought up the first of these series of ads by Samsung, and I was impressed. I enjoyed the ribbing of the Apple-bots, and I thought the ad could make an impression among those deciding whether to go the iPhone/IOs route or the Android route. Here it feels less fresh, less edgy, less of a thorn in Apple’s side. High marks for the pyrotechnics and spectacle, which is fitting I guess…but i the previous post I mentioned they needed to transition quickly to giving people a reason to buy, because you can’t sell a product on what it isn’t. Well, if the reason to buy is that you can write on it with a stylus, like a Palm Pilot in 1999, that’s a FAIL. And if the reason is that it’s “something big”, as in the size of a friggin’ kindle that you’ll barely be able to fit in your pocket, that’s another FAIL. I’m sticking to my iPhone. It just goes to show that you need to deliver with the product, or the flashiest advertising in the world won’t save you.

48. Cadillac – Green Hell

Coach Class Cabin – Meh. This is a nice ad for the Nurburgring Tourism Bureau. For the car, I’m not as convinced. There’s really nothing new that’s said here (all cars are developed and tested in circuits), except for the whole thing leading up to the “green hell” tell-off. Pretty weak. Two things stood out in the ad, which saved it from the baggage cargo: a)they mentioned specifically that they built this to go up against BMW 3 series. This is a pretty specific claim, and it gets the attention of car lovers. b)the car actually looks pretty cool, if you’re into the harsh angular lines. This matters, because the product has to back up the language. Either way, it’s a fairly typical (ie boring) car ad. Next.

49. – The cloud

Baggage Cargo Hold – Maybe I’m getting too old, because I feel like I should be enjoying this on some level, but I’m so not. I think it’s the cheapest form of advertising, relying on all sizzle and no-content. And not even that much sizzle, because apart from the celebrity cameo it looks like it was made on a home video cam. It seems like a slightly fancier version of a public access television commercial for your local dealership. Let’s see: desperate grab at attention, good branding, very poor persuasion (what is this service and why choose it? Will it get you laid? Because that’s the takeaway for me, and I don’t buy it), and not much else. Oh, and there’s a very amateurish attempt to create “engagement” through the QR code, or the call to action to go to the site to see more, etc. I just don’t think it will work, because you’re just not offering up anything of value. Not even the girls (you can see more for less effort on the web, trust me). What agency works on this account? I hope this is an in-house job.

50. Jack in the Box – Marry it

Business Class Cabin – Not knowing this was a Superbowl ad, I picked this as the Ad of the Day earlier this week. My thoughts, repeated: “Hell yeah! I love the approach here – take the addictive awesomeness of BACON, and go balls-to-the-wall with a creative idea that brings it to life in the strongest possible way. I think this is going to attract major attention from viewers, how could it not? Much more so than the tired “assembly-of-the-burger” type ads. Sometimes when the category is so tired, you’ve got to have the guts to step out and redefine the game, while still linking strongly and credibly back to your product benefit. This really caught my eye, and made my cholesterol go up by 14 points just by watching it.”

So, having seen all 50 ads “fresh”, what did I learn?(apart from the fact that it’s a lot of work to watch and write about 50 ads!)

First Class Cabin ads (with the Adboardingpass 2012 top 5, in order):

1. Chrysler – It’s Halftime in America (Wieden + Kennedy) – a lasting masterpiece

2. Budweiser – Eternal Optimism (Anomaly) – an ode to America

3. Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt (Poptent) – Elegant slapstick

4. Honda – Matthew’s Day Off (RPA) – Borrowed Interest in its highest form

5. Fiat 500 Arbath – Seduction (The Richards Group) – Inspired branding

  1. What worked: Having balls. Emotional appeal. Humor. Crisp, singular core idea. Tight, believable and relevant linkage to the brand/product. Animals.
  2. What didn’t work: Lack of ambition. Crass humor. Sex appeal. Too much information. Celebrities without a reason. Lack of connection between the ad and the brand/product. Pets. Animals.
  3. This is indeed a grand showcase of American TV advertising. Everything about it feels big – from the ambition, to the length of the spots, to the production money spent, to the celebrities, to the heights reached by some, and the depths plunged by others. If you love advertising, you owe it to yourself to have a look.
  4. Assuming you have a good core idea, and it links to your product credibly – humor is still the best shortcut to get noticed and liked. But the giants dare to aim higher and place their bet on emotional impact – It’s hard, but when it works the result can be transcendent.
  5. Long-form commercials bring back the magic. Back in the 50s and 60s ads were regularly 60 seconds. That’s since come down to 30, and in many overseas markets the standard unit is 20s and – gasp -15s. With less time, you get what you pay for, which is frequency, and if you’re lucky you may also still get greatness (Actually, I believe this is possible in 30 seconds, at less time you have to lower your ambition to something more functional). Among the very best spots this year we had those that went to a minute and even beyond. Sometimes, you just need the time to weave the story, to bring out the magic. This is expensive and you have to earn it. But I guarantee you that the Chrysler spot or the Budweiser spots, cut down to 30 seconds, are impossible to pull off. Much better to run them fewer times and run them well – quality bubbles up to the top, and in this age of sharing-via-internet, the consumers will do the rest of the work for you.
  6. I was surprised by the lack of attempts at multi-media crossover, like asking you to go to the site and do this or that, or putting a QR code, etc. I think I read that only a third of the ads had urls on them! This merits a different post, but in short people are starting to become more informed and sophisticated about integrated efforts. TV is not all, and multi-pronged efforts are crucial in our world of fragmented media attention. But, a hodge podge is often not the answer (see example), and TV is still king in events such as these.

I’d love to hear your comments, agreements and disagreements. For you non-ad industry readers, does it give you a different perspective on ads? You can post in the comments section below.

I hope you enjoyed this exhaustive recap:) As always, thank you for reading.


Superbowl ads 2012 – the full Adboardingpass review (part 2 of 3)

Every one of the ads. If it was awesome, it’s here. If it sucked, it’s also here.

If you missed part 1, click here

Part 3, along with final thoughts, is coming tomorrow.

A reminder of the ground rules for this review:

    1. I did not watch any of them live, and I have not seen any of them until right now. I will only view them once, as it would be in the game. I have also not read any of the reviews or “top 5 lists” articles from around the web. So the opinions are completely fresh and spontaneous. Kind of like a consumer at home:)
    2. We’re looking at ALL of them. If you make a good one it can be a career maker, and we should celebrate it. But if you make a bad one, we shouldn’t sweep it under the rug – let’s learn from it. (exception: I’m not going to include movie trailers or TV promos, as that’s a different ballgame altogether)
    3. The criteria used is based on my “crapy…good…or sublime advertising” post.
    4. As a rating, we will be assigning the following types of boarding passes, from best to worst: First Class Cabin, Business Class Cabin, Coach Class Cabin, Baggage Cargo Hold.

21. Chevy Sonic – Stunt Anthem

First Class Cabin – This one aims higher. It doesn’t stick to the car ad clichés, and it’s actually a little low on the “car” content. But Chevy does run deep, and in the Superbowl, they can afford the luxury of going for a brand “manifesto” type of ad. And I think they totally pull it off. Reaching out to a younger target and celebrating craziness and improvisation, backed by a great music track, they’re having fun, the audience is having fun…it’s a total win. Let’s use our criteria: It’s certainly interesting, it’s well branded (the shot of the Chevy logo underneath the flipping car is magic), it’s not really meant to be persuasive per so, but it’s tremendously campaignable (each of those stunts are full length promos/communication programs, I’m sure), and finally, it touches an emotional chord as an ode to wild, youthful fun. A slam dunk. And remember, the cumulative effect does count – Chevy is racking them up, and this predisposes the audience positively to each new Chevy ad that comes up.

22. Sketchers – Go run Mr. Quiggly

Coach Class Cabin – Advertising-by-the-numbers. A zany premise, a dog, a little humorous touch at the end. It’s typical Superbowl ad fodder, so it wasn’t bad, it’s just that it was…typical. Didn’t tell me much about the shoes, at best it generated some recall among dog lovers. But this ad could have been for nearly any product. For this big showcase, one expects better. PS – Really, Mark Cuban? Really?

23. Teleflora – Give (with Adriana Lima)

Baggage Cargo Hold – Oh puuhleeease. With so much potential to make something sexy, or sensual, or at least interesting, this ad is so pedestrian. And it has absolutely zero brand recall/linkage, which is a crime given that this brand is totally unknown (I bet you a million bucks you remember this as the Adriana Lima ad, and no clue about who it’s for). This is the type of ad that surprises me – because with all the effort and attention that goes into this, someone should be able to tell that it’s just not up to par. On the other hand, sexyness is a magical thing that sometimes only happens (or does not) when you’re on the set…you can hope but you can’t guarantee. Anyway, moving on.

24. – Confident you

Coach Class Cabin – This one made me chuckle, because they stuck with the “crazy” until the end, they weren’t afraid to follow through with it. I can see how this unfolded: they came up with an interesting consumer insight of “confidence comes out of you” after browsing through, and the creatives took it to a wild place, and everybody bought into it. I think this one is fairly solid, it just lacked a certain sprinkle of magic for me (but you can tell they tried and they were disciplined about it, so I’m tempted to rate them a bit higher.)

25. Doritos – Sling Baby

Business Class Cabin – Perhaps I’m being over-generous, but this one made me smile, and it worked for me. I thought the little baby was cute. The premise was somewhat unexpected and well executed (although the effect were a little amateurish), and there was some taste appeal involved as well. So, pretty good. This was the other user-generated idea, and I think it was better than the one about the murderous dog, what do you think?

26. E*Trade – Fatherhood

Coach Class Cabin – I think this campaign has run its course. The novelty has faded away (even though it still catches the eye) so it’s just not as cut-through as it was a few years back. But most importantly, in these tough economic times I think there is a general distrust of financial institutions, and I don’t know if you get over that with these cute-humorous approaches. It felt a little shallow, and there is nothing shallow about feelings towards the economy in the US these days. It felt slightly off-tone to me this year, and because of that I think it will be quickly forgotten.

27. Hulu Plus – Extra Mush & Huluboratory

Coach Class Cabin – Hmmm, these were almost too much. Love Will Arnett, and love the “Men in Black” style. But can there be too much of a good thing? So many references and little jokes, so many visual devices… I’ll give this one credit for telling a somewhat complex product story fairly well – I got that Hulu was launching a service to watch your TV shows on mobile devices. Not bad. Beyond that, maybe they were stretching it. But I’d bet that this approach has “legs”, and there are follow-ups to come.

28. Toyota Camry – Connections

Business Class Cabin – A nice example of a brand transcending into the emotional space, with believability. I found it touching, I found it real, and (here’s the nice part) it communicates something very functional at the core of this product (reliability: these things last forever). This is a hard, hard trick to pull off, so…very well done! I’m tempted however to withhold the peanuts for the last part about “everyone has a story, what’s yours” – I’m highly skeptical of marketers wanting to collect stories from users. I can see the marketing director in their board room selling the notion of “engagement”, and starting conversations with our audience, blah, blah. But why would these users want to go through the trouble? What’s in it for them? It felt cheap and mechanical compared to what preceded it.

29. Chrysler – It’s Halftime in America

First Class Cabin – Fucking hell. Wow. Now that is why I’m proud to be in this business. This is advertising that transcends marketing. I just watched it for the first time 30 seconds ago and I don’t even know what to say. I’m not even originally from the US, but if I were watching that in a room full of Americans, at halftime of the Superbowl, I would have stood up and clapped or yelled or something. When he growls that line about “…they’re going to hear us roar…” are you friggin’ kidding me? That’s powerful stuff! I want to go out and bite the ass out of a bear! Or better yet, I want to go out and buy a Chrysler for myself, and a Dodge for my wife! (well, maybe not a Dodge, I can’t go that far…but perhaps a Jeep?). I’m going to have to write more about this ad, and I’m quite sure the whole web and beyond is going to explode about this one as well. It’s got it all – it’s interesting, it’s branded, persuasive, somewhat campaignable, and extremely, extremely emotional. For the second year in a row, Chrysler just completely blows it out of the park. I am in complete awe. Best in show. Blew me away. We are not worthy. Thank you, W+K, thank you. Awards to follow. Wow.

30. Chase Quickpay – Football

Coach Class Cabin – This ad had a nice visual style (the b/w is a nice contrast to all the glitzy full color productions that have preceded it), and it explained the product benefit quite simply. But this ad felt disjointed to me, as if patched together somehow. The mix of comedy and suburban ultra-realism, the music that speeds up and then slows down. The high-tech demo that didn’t feel entirely credible (if people simply don’t believe that the technology you’re selling them is going to work like you say it is, this is a problem). Overall, a little bit of a mix of elements that didn’t come together. Pity, because some of the elements were nice.

31. Fiat 500 Arbath – Seduction

First Class Cabin – Oh yes, this one is an old friend, which I selected as the Ad of the Day back in November 22. Click on the link to see what I said back then, but basically this ad has it all: humor, sex, high performance engine roar and tire squeak, and a strong link to the Italian heritage of Fiat 500 which is very ownable. Back then it was a viral ad, and Fiat was wondering if it was (or wasn’t) too risqué for regular broadcast. I’m glad they came to their senses and give this ad the true mass audience exposure it deserved. Whoever approved the J Lo campaign for the same car is likely updating their resume.

32. Pepsi Max – Regis

Business Class Cabin – I’ll admit, I’m a Pepsi hater and a Coke lover. So I’m not the target here, and I’m biased because I don’t for one second believe the premise. But…this ad is very well done, and the humor totally got me. They raised the stakes to a ridiculous level, and pulled it off. This ad doesn’t work if you’ve seen it before or if you know the outcome, but the first time, it’s just right. I still think this is entertainment and not much more because the persuasion is just not there. But good entertainment is good for the Superbowl, and it gets people talking. The Regis appearance was completely unnecessary, didn’t you think? It could have been anyone, but they just stuck in a celebrity as “insurance” (as in “hey, we tried everything!”)

33. Toyota Camry – Reinvented

Coach Class Cabin – They threw everything AND the kitchen sink at this one. A full minute of funny visual puns, linking it back to Toyota at the end. But the link up is so tenuous that to me it felt just barely there. I give the humor very high marks (the Lionel Ritchie blender? I want one), and in this specific context sometimes being entertaining and memorable is enough…but I expect just a little more, like the emotional impact of the previous Toyota spot (#28), for example.

34. Coca Cola – Argh

Business Class Cabin – Okay, fine! The Coke bears had me cold at first, started to gain traction in the second, and finally won me over in the third ad:) It felt very human – both in the desperation of the groan, and in the realization that after a tough sports loss…life goes on. Open Happiness was a happy bookmark for a really well executed little series of ads. The cumulative effect does count, and the overall memory is a good one. Well done Coke for sticking with it against my cynicism!

35. Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt

First Class Cabin – Hell yes! Loved, loved, loved this. I totally felt for it. I was so irritated with the retarded, clichéd seduction of the first 15 seconds, I wanted to punch Stamos in the face and mess up his cheek dimples. When she grabbed his wrist I was surprised and got my release, it was not great, but better than expected. Then she headbutts him and that was just great – never, ever saw it coming. The flying shoe, awesome. This is advertising when it’s ballsy. More, please!

36. Century 21 – Smarter, Bolder, Faster

Baggage Cargo Hold – I don’t want to be mean, but this is what happens when a company with an unsophisticated marketing team gets taken for a ride by their own desire to play in the “big leagues”. All well-meaning, and I’m sure the agency was doing their best (while blinded by the $ no doubt), but the result is a complete disaster. What’s the approach? throw a ton of money at the production, cram the ad with celebrities, and hope something happens. Just an awful waste. What was this ad even about? The title seems like it could be fodder for something inspiring, but you’re completely distracted by everything else going on. Me, I spent the whole ad trying to figure out if the actress was the secretary from MadMen! . Fail.

37. Acura – Transactions

Baggage Cargo Hold – Much like the previous ad, this one is wasteful and self-indulgent. Celebrities, super production, overly long. The only difference is that at least I understood this ad was about a car, and it’s a pretty cool looking car. And the story was simple and linear, so it was easy to understand. These are meaningful differences. And they will help get the ad talked about. But this doesn’t shake the feeling of desperation that surrounds this ad. Jay, Jerry…really? REALLY???

…Part 3, along with final thoughts, is coming tomorrow.

Superbowl ads 2012 – the full Adboardingpass review (part 1 of 3)

Every one of the ads. If it was awesome, it’s here. If it sucked, it’s also here.

So what did you think? About the advertising, I mean! Below you will find the review you’ve been waiting for, and we’re looking at ALL the ads, not just the best or the worst. At Adboardingpass it’s no nonsense, no compromise!

In the US advertising world, the Superbowl is the ultimate extravagant showcase. It’s the only time throughout the year when you’re guaranteed the most massive audience, and (more importantly) a captive audience. Far from being the time when people go to the bathroom, during these 3 hours ads are waited for, looked at, discussed and critiqued by absolutely everyone. So we felt it was sort of a must for us to have a look and see what all the fuss it about!

Ground rules for this review:

    1. I did not watch any of them live, and I have not seen any of them until right now. I will only view them once, as it would be in the game. I have also not read any of the reviews or “top 5 lists” articles from around the web. So the opinions are completely fresh and spontaneous. Kind of like a consumer at home:)
    2. We’re looking at ALL of them. If you make a good one it can be a career maker, and we should celebrate it. But if you make a bad one, we shouldn’t sweep it under the rug – let’s learn from it. (exception: I’m not going to include movie trailers, as that’s a different ballgame altogether)
    3. The criteria used is based on my “crapy…good…or sublime advertising” post.
    4. As a rating, we will be assigning the following types of boarding passes, from best to worst: First Class Cabin, Business Class Cabin, Coach Class Cabin, Baggage Cargo Hold.

1. Bud Light Platinum – Work

Business Class Cabin – Music can be such a difference maker. This one had me from the first note of the Kanye West tune. The whole thing was atmospheric, techy, and sophisticated. Seemed like a car commercial, so a real break from the Bud Light expectation. This caught my eye as a product, so really well done. Off to a good start.

2. Audi: Vampire Party

Coach Class Cabin – Meh. I’m unimpressed. A whole minute spent to payoff the headlights on such a fine car? And is the demographic for this car really into that whole vampire thing? Don’t think so. Funny gag, but not worth the 7 million.

3. Pepsi: King’s Court

Coach Class Cabin – On the positive side, Elton John probably provided his own wardrobe for this shoot so they saved money on that! On the negative side, this seemed like a typical super bowl over-extravaganza. Through enough money and sparkle at it and see if the magic happens. I think this ad was ok, but the notion of pepsi=music was not conveyed to me.

4. Hyundai: Cheetah

Business Class Cabin – Thank you for breaking away from the expected. These car commercials can be so formulaic at times. And I love that the cheetah actually catches the guy. Nice:) Best of all, I get the message about the performance, and the beauty shot of the car stuck with me. Nicely done in a very challenging category to pull off.

5. Bud Light Platinum: Factory

Business Class Cabin – It felt hip, trendy and fun. Nice bottle design, nice lighting, great music, good writing, good casting. Far from the usual frat boy antics of the category. Two out of two for bud light, I’m impressed (and the cumulative effect definitely does count.)

6. M&Ms – It’s that kind of party

Coach Class Cabin – I couldn’t get behind this one, although it almost reeled me back in during the “wiggle wiggle wiggle” part. I don’t know if the product news wasn’t interesting enough, or if the animated candy is too childish, or what. But this was one where you can get up to fetch another beer.

7. Best Buy: Mobile phone game changer

Coach Class Cabin – I wrote before about balance. It’s a tricky thing, but this is an example of an ad where the payoff just does not live up to the buildup. I really loved the first 20 seconds or so, with the visionaries behind the daily tools we take for granted. This should have been an ad for something major. But…Best Buy selling mobile phones?  Nah, I don’t buy it. The link is just not evident or credible. This must have sounded like a great idea and I commend them on the ambition. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

8. Coca Cola – Superstition

Coach Class Cabin – This is nicely done, but for a Superbowl ad from Coke, I expect more. This would be a decent ad while you’re watching American Idol…but among the competition here I fear it will pass like a ship in the night – it’s mildly entertaining, but doesn’t build on a big idea.

9. Chevy Silverado – 2012

Business Class Cabin – Loved this. Here’s an example of throwing millions at the production of an ad and having it come out nicely. And even the dig at Ford was done with humor, a “dig” more than a “slam”. The product benefit of toughness and reliability was delivered in an unusual fashion, so it sticks better. And despite the mega production, what sticks to my mind the most are the “real” moments, such as the offer of the Twinkie at the end – which was just awesome (how happy were the Twinkie folks for the free ad time?). Well done!

10. Bridgestone – Performance football

Coach Class Cabin – The ad was visually interesting, but I found it confusing. Between tires, the football, the celebrities…I swear for a second I thought the ball was an actual real product. Too much going on. This is an example of an idea that is somewhat tied into a not, and you hope the consumer will be able to untie it (because at the agency, after having seen the script 15 times it’s totally obvious to you). You even throw in a couple of celebrities to pump up the recall factor. Then it comes to game time…and the audience does not untie it during the 30 seconds…and it is promptly forgotten. Shame.

11. – Body paint

Baggage Cargo Hold – Huh? Trust me, I’m a target audience when it comes to using hot women to sell a product, but…wtf? Complete waste of time, and an insult to the intelligence. And sure, not everyone is going to look at this through an intellectual lens…but put yourself in the shoes of the average joe…can you really say that you would remember the message about the “.co”, instead of “.com”? Just terrible.

12. Lexus – Beast

Coach Class Cabin – I’m giving this a coach class boarding pass because the ad is fairly forgettable, and that’s not what you’re hoping for. But I actually liked this ad. Cool atmospherics, a build up of tension…and then what’s absolutely critical here is that the car has to look cool…and it did! So I liked it. And then forgot about it.

13. Budweiser – Return of the King

Business Class Cabin – Thank you, Bud, for ending this ridiculous focus on the Clydesdale horses, and telling a story about people, at last! I was prepared to hate it, and I loved it. It felt true, it was emotional without being exploitative, it was interesting, it carved out a place for Bud in the history of the US, etc. Overall, one of the better ones for Bud I’ve seen in a looong time. Thank you for ending the horse madness!

14. Dorito’s – Man’s best friend

Coach Class Cabin – This brought a smile to my face, and I guess that’s as much as you can ask from Dorito’s here. A little dark, edgy humor, and good casting and execution. This was a user-generated commercial, and I think Dorito’s picked well. Plus, it’s an old rule that you can’t go wrong with having a dog in your ad (although this one is a little more menacing than a puppy…)

15. Chevy Camaro – Happy grad

Business Class Cabin – I actually saw this one before the Superbowl, and I love it. The idea is not original…but the execution is just inspired. For a user submission, supposedly shot on the cheap, I think they got their money’s worth. Mind you: this says nothing about the car, you could substitute it with any car…so this is normally a bad thing. But in the context of the Superbowl I’m going to allow it just this once, since I think Chevy will get good buzz and “virality” from this ad.

16. General Electric – Louisville, KY

First Class Cabin – Anyone who is from the US or is following the economic story that has played out the last few years can see why this ad is a total winner. I’m sure it will play extremely well. It humanizes the company, and it connects it to the viewer no matter where they are. It’s a great corporate message at a time when corporations are in the crosshairs, and it touches very gently on the patriotic instinct for great effect.  What more can you ask for from 30 seconds? Very inspired work, loved it.

17. TaxACT – Free to Pee

Baggage Cargo Hold – Wow, the ad was pretty good, pretty relatable…but what the hell was the product? No idea whatsoever. A governmental program? A tax preparation service? Honestly, no idea. And for 30 seconds with a massive audience watching you, that’s inexcusable.

18. VW – The dog strikes back

Coach Class Cabin – How boy…I wanted so much to like this ad…it had so much positive equity in the bank from last year’s masterful “The Force” ad…but this one is a total letdown. Where to begin. There’s almost no car in it. And it’s a pretty sweet car, so to make the whole cute dog story and then have the weak link up at the end is inexcusable. They tried nicely with the music and the montage, and I guess dog lovers will like it, but for me the nicest part of the whole ad was the 2 seconds when the dog overlapped with the car – that was a masterful shot…but alas all to brief. And the Tatooine Cantina part at the end? Meh. Good Superbowl entertainment factor, and I guess it helps connect it with that positive equity I mentioned before, but to me it smacked of last-minute desperation. Once you reach the top, it’s hard to stay up there, indeed. From VW, I expected more.

19. H&M – Beckham bodywear

Coach Class Cabin – Wow, so underwhelming! I was actually prepared to love this ad…I like black and white, fashion-y, celebrity ads. But this was just so…ordinary, much like Beckham’s football playing these days:) A better ad for a tattoo parlor than for bodywear (which was almost not shown at all). Again, I am the target here, and I was ready to like it, but it ended up just being eye candy, and not even that good candy (Calvin Klein does this type of ad 1,000 times better – as far back as the “Marky Mark” days. Nothing comes between me and my Calvins!)

20. Coca Cola: Catch

Business Class Cabin – Better than the first by far (#8) above. This one had a very clear connection with the game of football (fummblleeeeee!), had some humor, and due to the execution and editing you could not help but being drawn in. Something inside tells me we should expect more from Coke (emotional uplift perhaps?), but as a short entertaining snippet, I think this one will be recalled and well liked.

Check in tomorrow for part 2 of 2, along with our conclusions!

The elements of a good TV ad? Don’t forget about balance (updated)


UPDATED, Feb 24, 2012, scroll to the bottom. Let’s pretend I was an art director, and was getting ready to produce a TV ad, what are some of the variables that would be running through my mind? Let’s see: director, casting, location, wardrobe, lighting, cinematography, special effects, camera angles, acting, props, shooting board, editing, pack shot…what else?

It occurs to me that an important element, not usually discussed in most of the of the pre-production meetings I’ve been around, is the notion of narrative balance. I just totally made this term up, by the way. But I would define narrative balance as:

“the relative weighting that each element of the commercial needs to have within the whole to make sure the ad communicates with the biggest possible impact and recall.” Continue reading

It’s about the creative ideas, stupid!


Hey agencies, here’s my recipe for your success.

Be very clear on what your role is, and do it very, very, very well.

That’s it.

A good friend is attending a digital conference and he posted on Facebook one of the “clever” points made by a speaker:

“If a product isn’t that good we shouldn’t fix it with a great ad. We should be able to help the client make it a greater product”

Typical starry-eyed, faux-inspirational, conference-speaker nonsense. Continue reading