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

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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!

Martin

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

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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!