Superbowl Commercials - The Bad & The Ugly 2012

So yesterday, we had the chance to take a look at some of the higlights from the Superbowl commercials of 2012.  Now, it's time to see which spots failed, why, and what lessons law firms can take from them. 

We'll start with my pick for the worst commercial of the night...Go Daddy's Body Painting Commercial (which is pretty much tied with their Cloud commercial for worst in my book).

If you know me personally, you know that I loathe GoDaddy commercials. Loathe them. To the point where I've lost respect for both Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels for becoming their spokeswomen.

And here's why this one was a failure in my book - I know we're talking about a commercial run during a sporting event, arguably to a male audience...but there are a LOT of women who watch and like football. I should know, I'm one of them, and come from a family of female football fans. So in running a commercial that is so patently male-oriented, GoDaddy is alienating their female customer base. 

If this were a male-targeted product, like razors or cologne, I'd say, fine, it's tasteless, but at least they're targeting it to a certain audience. But there are thousands, if not millions, of women out there who blog and create websites, and as such, could potentially be GoDaddy customers.  I don't think this commercial is endearing GoDaddy to them. Plus, the message that it's sending is that the brand is cheap and crass - not exactly what you want to say to savvy internet users. 

All in all? A fail in my book. 

So what can lawyers take away from this? Know your audience - if you're targeting your service at one sector of your audience, while simultaneously alienating another, that's going to hurt, more than help, you. Also, stay classy - being crass might get you press, but is it going to get you the clients that you really want to work with? 

Next up, the Coca-Cola commercials...

I'll just share this one with you, but there were a few spots, and they were all disappointments (and this isn't just because I'm a Pepsi fan, I'm an equal opportunity Cola drinker). The commecials just...missed the boat. The group I was watching the game with were confused by them - they often seemed to be trying to develop some kind of plot (were the polar bears supposed to be watching the Superbowl too?), but you weren't sure what that was. It was definitely a case of Coke trying to overdo a good thing, and taking what had been a sweet, memorable set of ads just one step too far. 

The lessons for law firms is this - know when to move on from a "bit." Coke would have done much better if they had shelved the polar bears and come up with a new set of ads - it's an awful lot of money to spend on advertising spots for them to fall flat.  Their one saving grace for these ads is the brand recognition - we all associate these polar bears with Coke. Unfortunately, now people might associate them with disappointment instead of the warm fuzzy feeling that Coke was going for. 

Another lesson here is that your ads should make some sense in terms of the product or service you're offering - sometimes the idea of a polar bear drinking a soda can work, but other times, it leaves you wondering "how does that connect to me and make me want to drink a coke?" As someone who is addicted to Pepsi, I can say that seeing someone else drink a Pepsi and focusing on the idea of the taste and fizziness of it will make me crave one every time - think about what will make your customers crave your service (odd to say in terms of the legal industry, but let's go with it) and show them that. 

Are your potential clients those with high risk litigation? They crave peace of mind.  Think about how you can show them that you provide that. Are they corporate clients with an M&A deal going through? They crave attention and updates. Think about how you can show them that you listen and respond. 

Our next bad and ugly ad is Cars.com...

Gosh, I wanted to like this ad so much, but it ended up being...well, creepy. I loved the idea of his "confidence" coming out because of his use of Cars.com, but his "confidence" had an ickiness that couldn't be shaken.  It would have been better if they'd used a tiny version of him who poofed out of thin air, or the like. 

The lesson here is obvious - don't be creepy. If you're trying to give your customers the idea that purchasing your service will give them confidence, this is not the way to get there. 

Next up...Budweiser.

I'll admit it, I was disappointed in these commercials.  I'm not a beer drinker, but I look forward to beer commercials every Superbowl, because they're traditionally some of the best (and funniest).  There's nothing technically wrong with the spots; I just felt that they were forgettable. While they were on, everyone in the room used that opportunity to talk, or get more food, or just generally ignore the tv - not a great attention-grabber.

The lesson here is that when your customers expect something from you as a brand, you need to deliver or you risk alienating them.  It's difficult for me to say if Bud drinkers were put off by these commercials, since I'm not one, but I was disappointed that they didn't go for something more humorous and memorable. So keep consistent with your branding (they do this with the Clydesdales of course, but it still missed the boat). 

And finally, the Prudential spot.

You may be wondering "what the heck can she find wrong with this one?" It's consistent with their branding, it tells customers what they're about, and it's not trashy. 

All true, but you have to consider the spot in context - we're talking about the most watched television broadcast of all time.  And this spot is up against ones like the Doritos sling shot baby and naked M&Ms.  It's simply not memorable.

The lesson for law firms? You're one voice out of many. Now, in the commercial above, they're not competing directly for clients with M&M or Doritos because it's an insurance product - but they are competing for viewers attention.  And in the case of the law firm, there are many firms out there with lawyers that are equally as talented and equally as smart as you.  So when all of them are yelling at the top of their voices (metaphorically, of course) about why general counsel should hire them, what is going to make you stand out? 

Give it some thought. I'll wait...

 

The differentiator that just popped into your mind? THAT is what you should be communicating to your clients and potential clients.  

 

Finally for some dis-honorable mentions: 

  • Teleflora: Really? Again, I know this commercial is aimed at men (and in this case, it's really selling to men, because they're focused on flowers for Valentine's day), but as a woman, I just found it a bit base and offensive. And when I'm annoyed by a commercial, I make it a point to not purchase that product or service. 
     
  • Time Warner Cable: It starts out promising, with Ricky Gervais declining a friend request and a grenade landing on his cafe table, but it degenerates into being a bit of a strange ad, without clear branding.  Until I saw the replay, I actually thought it was a smart phone ad. The idea is a good one, but the execution needs just a bit of help. 
     
  • Hulubratory: Unfortunately, I've never been a fan of these Hulu commercials. I was an early Hulu adopter, so I want to like them, but the idea that Hulu is an alien-driven, brain sucking company is both disturbing and gives me the feeling of "don't tell me what to do!" I don't think it's effective marketing to tell your customers "we'll force you to like us, whether you want to or not!"

So what would you rate as your hits and misses this year? 

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