Confession time… I hate writing this annual feature for our blog. The Super Bowl used to run the legendary, big ideas that we creatives spend a lifetime chasing and sometimes, when fortune smiles on us, we catch. But over the last decade or so, Super Bowl commercials, by and large, have just become… meh. Many of them are just movie trailers. Others are not particularly inspired or inspiring. Lots of them have flash and sizzle with little else. And almost none of them are remotely derived from any strategic brand platform. Before writing this blog, I sat down and watched all of this year’s spots back-to-back on YouTube for nearly a full hour. All I could do was grow sadder and sadder about the state of my business.
That is until I got to the one campaign that had all the magic that I used to expect from advertising’s biggest stage. More about that later.
So who was the worst? Without question, not even close, the Kia Stinger spot starring former Aerosmith front man and game show judge Steven Tyler accomplished what very few ads have ever done for me. It made me feel worse about the brand than I had one minute earlier. First off, I think I’m not alone in saying that it’s hard to look at this plastic surgery case gone afoul from the get-go, but also a terribly fake, CGI, younger version of Tyler stepping out of that car? I don’t get it. Why not cast a younger lookalike? Why go to the trouble and expense of creating a creepy fake person with dead eyes when central casting could’ve delivered a real actor for a fraction of the cost. But the kicker of the spot was the payoff line “Feel something again.” Seriously? The creatives behind the spot and Kia as a company believe people of a certain age are no longer capable of feeling alive, or feeling anything at all, for that matter, unless they drive a Stinger? Not buying it. It’s offensive at best. Ageist at worst.
Before I get to the brilliant work that took my top spot, I wanted to give hat tips to a few honorable mentions.
The Febreeze “Bleep Don’t Stink” commercial was funny, boiled-down to simplicity and spot-on with a message that hit home, specifically right into the bathrooms of viewers of the game itself. It was written, cast, acted and produced beautifully as a mockumentary.
The Hyundai “Hope Detector” spot is tremendous on so many levels. Among all the corporate citizenship spots, and there were several, this one hit the right note of authenticity and still managed to tie back to Hyundai’s brand and products. Portraying hope and survival as standard, albeit unknown, features of every Hyundai is a brilliant stroke on its own. But then, when I consider that this spot was shot, edited and delivered to the broadcast network in just a few hours on game day in order to air in its reserved time slot, my head blows right off my shoulders. A very bold move by Hyundai and its agency, and it paid off huge. So good.
Strategically speaking, Beats’ “Above the Noise” spot featuring Tom Brady, is a master stroke. It weaves together the products’ noise-cancelling feature, the brand’s long-running campaign and Tom Brady’s career seamlessly. Its biggest failure is on the creative front. It’s just not very engaging, visually appealing or entertaining. Just Brady throwing a football.
Finally, the spot of all spots. The one commercial (or four commercials actually) that gave me hope that great Super Bowl commercials do, indeed, still exist. And it should come as no surprise when I tell you I’m not alone, as these ads already won what’s called the Super Clio, the award for best Super Bowl ad campaign from the industry’s prestigious Clio Awards. That campaign, of course, was “It’s a Tide Ad.”
Its brilliance resides on so many levels. First, the campaign makes fun of stereotypical Super Bowl commercials, many of which feature much sexier products than laundry detergent. Each spot is fast-paced and funny, keeping viewers on their toes, almost existentially questioning not just whether something is a Tide ad but whether reality as we perceive it is actually real. It even incorporates faux ads for real products, a sly move, casting fellow Proctor & Gamble brands Mr. Clean and Old Spice. I see what you did there, Tide. Nice way to bring more authenticity and create misdirection before revealing time and time again that, yes, it’s a Tide ad. Perhaps the smartest aspect of the campaign is that Tide essentially took over every commercial during the Super Bowl by forcing viewers to think about Tide even when Tide hadn’t paid for those other spots. “Wait, is this a Tide ad?” “What about this one?” And in doing so, Tide created this Pavlovian thought process that clean clothes must equate to Tide laundry detergent.
Tide, I salute you. Saatchi & Saatchi, you are now worthy of at least a third Saatchi. You have redeemed my faith in Super Bowl commercials.