And here we are, folks, time to discuss my list of "ugly" Superbowl commercials for 2014. Once again, these commercials were not as awful as in years past – I wasn’t terribly offended by any of them, or sitting in disgust.  These were just my least favorite of the bunch, for various reasons (but generally because I was left thinking "what?!"). I’m bringing you a list of seven commercials today, because there were two extra that I disliked a little bit more than would be deserving of the "bad" list.

GoDaddy

Not surprisingly, if you’ve seen my lists before, GoDaddy’s commercial makes it onto my ugly list. Amazingly, it’s not because I was majorly offended by it (which is normally the case). 

//www.youtube.com/embed/WycoJMKzXZ4

From a strict marketing perspective, this ad isn’t terrible. Assuming you have some knowledge of GoDaddy’s product, you know already that they’re a website company, and this ad reinforces that they can help you get found by the right customers for your business. 

However, if you’re not familiar with GoDaddy, it’s not all that clear what they do – are they a web hosting company? An SEO company? Something else entirely? 

And sure, they use Danica Patrick in the ad (their spokeswoman), but it took me several moments to realize that it was her, by which time she was off-screen, and it was just a bit weird overall. This is one of those ads that’s not terrible, but it’s not particularly good either. So I’m giving it an "ugly" stamp. 

SodaStream

//www.youtube.com/embed/zxq4ziu-wrI

This is the version of the ad that got SodaStream in trouble (since Scarlett Johansson says "Sorry Coke and Pepsi") and not the one that was aired during the game itself. But other than the jab at their competitors, it’s the same. 

There are many, many reasons that I didn’t like this ad. First, there’s the claim that it’s healthier than regular soda. Why is that? Is there something not used in the syrup that IS used in regular sodas? Is there less sugar? Is there some difference because you’re using water? They make a claim that’s not remotely backed up within the ad, and rather than making me want to buy SodaStream, it makes me doubt them. 

And Scarlett Johansson as a doctor? That’s just strange. Everyone knows she’s an actress, and it’s not even that she’s played a doctor before. If she was in a well-known role of a doctor in a movie or tv show, then it would be clever (and there are plenty of tv shows to choose an actress or actor from – and if you want someone big, go with George Clooney). Instead, it just comes off as weird. 

I’m also not sure that SodaStream understands the concept of making something go viral either. How is ScarJo twirling around in a black dress going to make something viral? Short answer, it’s not. 

Although they do a good job of letting us know what their product is, they don’t answer a lot of questions – does it taste as good? WHY is it better for you? Is it less expensive? Why is ScarJo a good spokeswoman for this (spoiler: I don’t think she is). It’s a total miss for me. 

Hyundai’s Nice

Look at Hyundai, making it on my good and ugly lists! 

//www.youtube.com/embed/yWiPEe-RiCM

This ad is a mess. 

One, it makes no sense. Sure, I get that they’re trying to say that the car handles well and can play music, but are those really the best two features? And how about the undercurrent of "if you’re not a cool guy, this car WON’T help you get the girl"?

Plus, it starts out mean (which I don’t like) – sure, he’s a nerdy guy – he is on Big Bang Theory, after all – but he says one nice thing to her, and she’s a total jerk about it. Ladies, we’ve all been hit on by men we have no interest in, but are we being that rude to them? I would have just said "thanks" and driven off – though I get that that would make a fairly terrible commercial. 

And then, there are explosions, an unnecessary and strange celebrity cameo, and ramps and more explosions. What??

The only thing that remotely saves this ad is that they’re driving the car in question throughout the whole thing. But we don’t really learn anything good about this car, other than maybe that it can avoid explosions in the roadway – and how often is that happening to people? 

It’s just terribly handled, not funny, and overall very awkward. 

Butterfinger Cups

//www.youtube.com/embed/C2fe8iS6v6g

Where to begin?

First, is anyone else wondering why Butterfinger came out with this product? The reason they’re so good is that they’ve stuck with their existing candy. Sure, they have that other bar out or whatever, but I’ve never even tried it. Why mess with success? So are they really trying to fight Reeses Peanut Butter Cups here for their share of that market? Seems risky to me. 

The ad actually addresses that though, basically saying that peanut butter and chocolate together is boring, so let’s try something different (has Butterfinger forgotten that their chocolate bar is ALSO peanut butter and chocolate?). My question here is what the difference is – have they basically mashed up butterfinger and added it to the peanut butter in the chocolate cup? I mean, let’s be honest, I’m totally going to try this candy, but the commercial doesn’t give me enough of a reason why I should. 

Then, it just gets weird. Are they really saying that a threesome is the way to shake up a boring relationship? Wouldn’t it be better to market this as a family candy? Plus, continuing in that storyline, peanut butter is basically being forced out and almost ignored by butterfinger and chocolate, and is that a message that they want to send? 

It’s another awkward spot, and I think they could have found a much better way to communicate this. 

Time Warner’s Grandma’s House

//www.youtube.com/embed/Zk7U7MT9cxI

This ad made me feel like I was on drugs. Talk about a mess. 

Why would the "new world of Time Warner Cable" be at Grandma’s house? I don’t know about you, but my grandma certainly was not the first one adopting new technology. Sure, she asked me "what’s that Twitter thing all about" a few months before she passed away, but she wasn’t out there typing her 140-character messages or anything! 

But taking that out of the picture for the moment, since they don’t actually mention grandma in the ad itself, the rest of the ad just seems like a mish-mash of celebrities, brought together for no other reason than to sell something. It’s a bunch of self-serving cameos, which totally turns me off. The only thing that saves this for me is when Liev Schreiber asks who P. Diddy is – that’s hilarious. 

The ad just seems loud and brash and crazy to me, with P. Diddy yelling at us the whole time (he has to, since it’s so loud and crazy in there). But I’m not seeing that they’ve brought together the "best" entertainment, as they claim, or that it’s easy to watch it anywhere, just because they hold up a tablet briefly. It’s just too much (which to me, has the subtext of TWC trying to do too much). 

Bud Light’s Cool Twist

//www.youtube.com/embed/eMhYhbxH3jw

This is one of those ads that I saw and thought "really? They spent all that money to advertise their product, and this is what they came up with?" 

All right, I get it, they came out with a new twist-off cap. But was this the best way to showcase that? They added a "twist" to their product, and there are many, many, MANY other ways that they could have illustrated that more interestingly than this ad. 

I know that they’re also using an Afrojack song (which they say you can Shazam during the commercial to get the full version), but it gives me the feel of being in a club in the ’90s. The commercial is boring and not-memorable. 

Audi’s Doberhuaha

//www.youtube.com/embed/zl0zw1YVZd4

I wanted to like this ad, I really did. But there were two glaring problems for me: the first, is that the entire purpose of the ad is to underscore the idea that compromise is scary. So you shouldn’t compromise in buying a car (and therefore should buy Audi). Okay, solid message.

However.

Don’t they end up adopting a puppy that is a compromise for the two dogs they initially wanted? 

To me, the message becomes "don’t take two great things and mix them together. Get a totally separate third thing." And that just doesn’t make sense with what they’re trying to say here.

Secondly, I really don’t like that the dog turns out to be violent and scary. Sure, he looks funny, but aren’t they just perpetuating the stereotype that dobermans are violent dogs? (I’d be inclined to say that the fight in this dog comes from the chihuahua, but because it’s a doberman face, that seems to be the message). 

Audi could have gotten their message across simply because the dog looks weird (and maybe the challenges he runs into, such as the cone incident). But instead, they make him nasty, and even Sarah McLachlan doesn’t like him (effective cameo, by the way). 

So, for me, the messaging is confused and I’m not a fan of the angry mixed breed here. Another miss. 

Lessons for Lawyers

What is it that lawyers can learn from these "ugly" ads?

  • Don’t try too hard: The majority of these ads faltered because they were trying too hard to be funny or clever, and ended up losing sight of their true messaging. Lawyers should beware not to end up doing the same thing (this counts for conversations too – I’ve seen many lawyers awkwardly try to focus the conversation on themselves and what they do, to the detriment of the potential sales process). 

    To combat this, first understand what your message really is. We talked about this in yesterday’s post – using clients, friends, family and colleagues to help you identify what really represents you and/or your firm. Then, figure out how that translates, and again, discuss that messaging with others to make sure that you are in line with what people think of you. Sending out a confusing or misleading message can do more damage than sending out no message at all. 
     

  • Don’t throw money at it: Another reason these ads failed was because they focused more on the cool stars they’d paid to include, rather than on who they really are. They built their ads around who they had to work with, and not what their message really was. So take care that when you’re marketing, you don’t use the "cool new thing" just for the sake of using it. 

    I had this conversation with a fellow marketer recently – she said that her boss is great about being cutting edge, and when QR codes came out, he wanted to put them on everything. Nice idea, but you have to ask yourself the question – why are we doing this? Does it make sense for our audience? Does it fit in with the type of firm/lawyer we are? Does it have longevity? Is it really right for us? 

    I know what you’re saying – the majority of lawyers and law firms are in no danger of using the newest tools out there preemptively. That’s true. But there is the danger of just throwing money at an issue without knowing what you’re really getting for it. Look at the latest iteration of your firm’s website – did you go with the best web designers out there for you? The ones who understand your firm, what you want to offer, and how your audience uses your website? Or did you go with the designers that won the award last year? The ones your top competitors used? The "fancy" designers? I’m not saying there isn’t benefit to doing that, or even that those designers wouldn’t be the right ones for your firm. But when making a decision about what you’re saying about your firm, the most expensive answer isn’t necessarily the right one. Take the time to do the due diligence and make sure that the people you’re working with on any project understand what your needs are, what you’re saying, and who you want to say it to. 

What other lessons do you see in these ads? 

I do have a list of a couple of honorable mentions that I’ll bring to you tomorrow as we wrap up our Superbowl commercials week here at Zen!