Here we go, folks, it’s the post you’ve all been waiting for. What are the truly ugly commercials from this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads?

Before we dive into this year’s, I wanted to take a look back at some of the ugly commercials from previous years. Which made me realize that we’ve been doing this annual round up for seven years. WOW. Looking back shows me that we really have improved in the “ugly” category. In this year’s group, we have two, where we used to have 5 or more! If you’d like to enjoy a trip down advertising memory lane, here you go:

Some other interesting observations strike me from looking back:

  • It’s been a few years since we’ve seen a Go Daddy Super Bowl commercial. Historically they haven’t been overly well-received, and that’s probably why they’re not investing in the Super Bowl anymore. But they certainly got a lot of name recognition from it. Does that mean the adage “there’s no such thing as bad press” doesn’t hold true here? Have you even thought about Go Daddy recently?
  • Where has Snickers gone? They’re another disappearing brand from the Super Bowl radar. I don’t think Snickers are in any danger of disappearing any time soon, but give some thought to the idea of what might happen if you’re not regularly reaching out to your clients, and especially not reaching out to them in the big moments. Looking back, I realized that Snickers is missing. But otherwise, I wouldn’t have thought about it. Would your clients even notice you were missing if they didn’t hear from you?
  • Historically, I’ve apparently really disliked Coca Cola commercials. But this year, they really came around. That shows that you CAN turn around someone’s opinion on your message, and that messaging is an important factor. Although, interestingly, I had to look back to remember feeling that way about Coca-Cola. So also worth considering is the idea that when your BRAND is incredibly strong (is it?), you can withstand some messaging mishaps. Doritos has also improved, but I was WELL aware that I usually don’t like their commercials when their ad started. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed their commercial so much. It shouldn’t be a surprise to a client to have a good interaction with your messaging, even if they generally like working with you.

All right, now let’s jump into this year’s spots.

TurboTax | The Thing Under the Bed

Sorry TurboTax, that’s two “ugly” commercials in a row for you! And sorry to my Zen readers for this thumbnail image – it really does sum up why this spot makes it into the ugly list. Let’s back up for a moment. If you’ve seen TurboTax’s other spot in this campaign, you can (almost) understand where this one is coming from. They’re taking scary things (like you’re taxes – get it?) and telling you that TurboTax makes them less scary. Okay, A for effort, but a failing mark for execution. While the ghost ad is cute and gets the message across effectively, their main Super Bowl ad is just creepy and gross. As I said to a friend after watching the spot, “Now I’m afraid to do my taxes AND go to bed!”

What are the lessons for lawyers and law firms?

  • This is a theme for us in the “ugly” spots, but I’ll say it again – don’t be icky. What seems clever in discussions may not work in execution. While you might think this doesn’t apply to you because you’re not producing commercials, let’s consider the number of times someone has written a “clever” tweet that’s come back to bite them, or some other type of “funny” message that sounded good in their head, but the execution of which leaves much to be desired. Some things are best left unsaid, and in the rush to be funny, clever, or to jump on a trendy bandwagon, you might forget to be thoughtful about your audience.
  • Which brings me to my next point – consider your audience. This spot was shown early enough that kids were still watching. I really hope no one had difficulty getting their kids to sleep because they were picturing THIS under their beds. Kids may not understand taxes, but they understand monsters. The idea is a good one – help your clients feel like you’re taming the monster under their bed that keeps them up at night. But really think about the execution of that messaging in terms of your clients. Are you considering whether the message you’re sending out is being delivered in the way your clients want to receive it? Does it make you look better than your competitors? Does it give your clients and potential clients comfort? Or are they now associating YOU with the monster under their bed?

Cure Auto Insurance | Cheaters

I have so many feelings about this commercial. And none of them are good.

This commercial was only shown to a select audience, so much of the country did not see it. Cure Auto Insurance services only New Jersey and Pennsylvania, so it was a local ad, shown only to local fans. Unsurprisingly, the brand were supporting the Eagles fans. Disappointingly, they did it without class. I’m sure people who aren’t NE Patriots fans may find this commercial funny, but I think it reflects poorly on the brand, is an incredibly low-brow attempt at humor, and has absolutely nothing to do with car insurance. While I’ve found all of their commercials to be terrible from the beginning, this one particularly rankled.

What are the lessons for lawyers and law firms?

  • Don’t be a jerk. The legal industry is a tough one, and we’re often called on to be tough, argumentative, aggressive, passionate, and strong-willed. But there are ways of doing all of that without being a jerk. As Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Why does this matter? In this case, when I’m looking for an insurance company that I want to take care of me in what might be an anxious or terrible moment, I don’t want someone that is focused on mean-spirited jokes or classless humor. I want a caring, thoughtful company. Similarly, while you may want a divorce lawyer who is going to go after your soon to be former spouse with vitriol, the majority of your clients want to feel that their problems are in good hands – yes, they want a tough advocate, especially in a litigator, but smart doesn’t mean nasty.
  • Be classy. We looked at this idea in a different way in our previous posts, but the strongest lawyers and firms don’t have to point out their competitors’ faults. They are the strongest by virtue of their own assets, and not by virtue of their competitors’ deficits. Being a sore winner leaves just as bad a taste in peoples’ mouths as being a sore loser does. That can apply to your accolades as well – none of us get to where we are alone. When you win an award, yes, it’s due to your hard work. But you work with a team, and the work comes from your clients. Referencing that team atmosphere and spirit can help to engender loyalty with your colleagues as well as your clients…and that makes people excited to work with you again and again. It’s not just about solving problems. It’s about solving problems together in a way that adds value.

With only two “ugly” commercials on the list, are there any that you think I missed? Are there any other commercials that you would have liked to have seen spotlighted that weren’t mentioned this year? Let me know in the comments!

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the goals of a global professional services network. She manages all major aspects of the Network, including recruitment, member retention, and providing exceptional client service to an international membership base.

In her role as Executive Director, Griffiths manages a mix of international programs, engages a diverse global community, and develops an international membership base. She leads the development and successful implementation of major organizational initiatives, manages interpersonal relationships, and possesses executive presence with audiences of internal and external stakeholders. Griffiths excels at project management, organization, and planning, writes and speaks with influence and authority, and works independently while demonstrating flexibility in thinking, especially in challenging situations. She also adapts to diverse and dynamic environments with constant assessment and recalibration.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

In 2021, the ILN was honored as Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer European Awards, and in 2016, 2017, and 2022, they were shortlisted as Global Law Firm Network of the Year. Since 2011, the Network has been listed as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network, recently increasing this ranking to be included in the top two percent of law firm networks globally, as well as adding two regional rankings. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry and was included in Clio’s list of “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful, and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was chosen as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February 2009.