Once, while trying to solicit some business, a Copywriter/Creative Director looked at my portfolio and said, "You're not a poet." While I understood his meaning, I've always tried to emphasize performance over poetry in my work. (Plus, you rarely see Maya Angelou schlepping Hefty Trash Bags.) Thus, "You're not a poet" became both a badge of honor and a rallying cry.
So, what follows are random thoughts on advertising, alarming alliteration, a plethora of punditry, and absolutely no poetry!
Welcome to the 2016 Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non-Poetic! Super Bowl 50 is done, the Denver Broncos are this season's Super Bowl champions, Peyton Manning managed to survive to endorse even more products and it's now time to reveal our judging panel's (me and Office Dog) favorites from this year's crop of Super Bowl ads.
Note that, while everyone has their opinions of the best and worst, funniest and failures, award winners and money wasters, noteworthy and not worthy, our honors may stray wildly from the standard Super Bowl advertising award fare. Our goal is to recognize the ads that stuck, the ads that sucked, and the ads resonated with the guy or gal who watched the game first, the commercials second, and had a beer or two while actually enjoying the entire show (from the viewpoint of an advertising guy who worked Super Bowl promotions in bars for 15 years). So, without further non-poetry…
The Office Dog Honors Award
This award honors the best use of animals (preferably monkeys) in a Super Bowl ad. Monkeys seem to be passé in Super Bowl advertising these days, so Office Dog, being a yellow Lab, really liked the new Subaru ads featuring the Barkleys, which ran during the Puppy Bowl. The Super Bowl also gave us some more dogs this year, including the Doritos spot featuring dogs going to great lengths to get Doritos and the weird Honda spot featuring singing sheep and a singing dog. But the best use of dogs this year was the Heinz Wiener Stampede spot featuring dachsunds in hot dog costumes charging toward people in Heinz condiment costumes. I thought it was one of the more humorous and original ads of the night, even though it was only a :30 spot. The ad also scored extra points for the nice touch of little kid dressed as a Heinz ketchup packet.
The A For Execution But...Award
Apartments.com gave us Jeff Goldblum and a gospel chorus singing the theme from The Jeffersons as Goldblum and his piano were hoisted by crane to the top of an apartment building to be greeted by… George Washington and Lil' Wayne (nicknamed Weezy, get it?) grilling on the roof? A teaser was released on the 'net that would have added context, but even that wouldn't have saved this one. Wacky incongruity doesn't always lead to buzz and, even if it does, buzz doesn't always lead to brand awareness. This was superfluous, silly and another in a long line of B-list websites that have laid an egg on Super Bowl Sunday.
Best Schizophrenic Super Bowl Advertiser Award
Jeep made two nice spots. "Portraits," which ran during halftime, was a retrospective of the the company's 75-year history interspersed with portraits of Jeep owners and celebrities with various affiliations to Jeep that ended with a powerful tagline. The second spot, "4X4ever" ran in the fourth quarter and was also a nice spot (though a bit clichéd), that promoted the qualities that have made Jeep synonymous with off-roading. While both spots emphasized the 75th anniversary of the Jeep brand, the tone and tagline of the two spots was almost diametrically opposed. This was primarily because they were created by two different agencies. That's not a bad thing but, in my mind, the schizophrenia of the two spots lessened their impact a bit.
The WTF Award
This one was easy! AstroZeneca's Envy spot showing us some poor guy dealing with constipation while everyone around him is noticeably regular pretty much made an entire nation lose its appetite. The takeaway is that there is help for opiod-induced constipation, but everyone will remember (and make fun of) that guy who can't poop, not the product or brand.
The GoDaddy.com Please, For The Love Of God, Go Away Award
Thankfully, GoDaddy didn't advertise in the Super Bowl this year. Instead, the winner for perhaps the most tawdry and lame, yet brazen attempt to create a Super Bowl buzzed spot was Mountain Dew KickStart, which gave us PuppyMonkeyBaby. It was, in a word, stupid. It was contrived and it was just sad. Yes, people will talk about PuppyMonkeyBaby on Monday morning, but primarily to discuss how weird and stupid it was. Will anyone remember the brand? Will it sell one can of Mountain Dew Kickstart (you know, the actual point of brand advertising)? No!
Best Pointless Use Of A Pointless Celebrity Award
This one goes to pretty much every brand that used a celebrity this year (Amazon, Skittles, Snickers, Buick, et al). Out of that sea of celebrities in mostly instantly forgettable spots, the Kia spot with Christopher Walken was stood out as the most brazen attempt to generate Super Bowl ad buzz with superfluous use of an "edgy" actor.
The Water Cooler Winner
For the third straight year Budweiser nails it (in my opinion) with its quiet #GiveADamn spot featuring Helen Mirren, some actual wit and a serious message. A quiet ad will make people stop and listen on Super Bowl Sunday, and this one also had the well-written copy to keep viewers engaged for the length of the spot. Throw in that it was stylistically opposite of Bud's other SB50 spots, and that it came in the fourth quarter after an entire game's worth of generally loud, trying-too-hard-to-make-a-buzz spots, and it was all the more memorable in my eyes. It's just too bad that it won't do a damn thing to sell beer and help get the Budweiser brand off life support.
So, there ya' go...my take on the the ads from Super Bowl 50. Some good, some bad, some creative, some cliché. Feel free to leave your thoughts, picks, pans, favorites and failures in the comments. And, until then, when does the 2016 football season start?